Wyoming Trip: Getting The Feel

As a result of our late night discussion Monday, all of us were tired and slept in until about 9:00am.

After breakfast, I harnessed up Rogue and Robin and I set off for a walk around the neighbourhood. Robin wanted to work on helping me to feel the sutler movements of Rogue. She had me walk around her block several times, telling her when I felt Rogue beginning to turn and then stopping when I felt her straighten out. We had no streets to cross, we were just walking around in a rectangle pattern. robin used her cane to avoid confusion and Bill walked nearby to let us know when I had mastered it.

At the first turn, I felt rogue begin to turn too late and then over-stepped her straightening out by 5 steps. Robin had me take her arm and redo the turn, I did better that time. On the second turn, I was spot on with the turn, but missed the straightening out by a couple of steps. The second and third turns went well. On my next go-around, I did a lot better, catching each turn and straightening out perfectly. On our third go-around, I missed one turn because Rogue began walking slower, so Bill said we did the turn so gradually that I probably didn’t even feel it. Robin had me take her arm again and then redo the turn. We finished off and decided to do the other direction tomorrow.

after a bit of a rest, we set off for Walmart. Robin wanted to pick up some fruit and I wanted to get some souvenirs for Huib, Dad, Brandi and Mark (my brother-in-law). At Walmart, I had a bit of trouble hearing bill’s directions once we entered the first door, so I got a bit disoriented until Bill came back and re-explained the layout. In the store, we did a lot of zigging and zagging, so the dogs had a good opportunity to practice their ‘follow’ cue. Rogue has gotten really good at the ‘follow’ cue, so we only lost Robin and bill twice. Once because someone walked in front of Rogue, blocking her view of them, and then once because she saw a “shiny butterfly”, which is my way of saying she got distracted.

Walmart had several Duck Dynasty t-shirts on sale, so all of us got some. I got one for each Dad, Uncle Daryl and Mark. I also bought myself a Kermit the Frog t-shirt to wear as pyjamas.

After Walmart we headed to the State Museum because Robin thought they would have more souvenirs. She was right, they had some pretty neat stuff. I bought Dad a coaster that is made of some sort of rock and has some pretty neat colours in it. I bought Brandi a pair of really neat blue glass earrings that were made by an artist in Casper. I bought Mark a really cool whistle that is made out of a deer antler and can be worn as a necklace. i thought he’d like wearing it when he went hunting, just in case he got lost or something. I bought myself a fun Wyoming keychain and little stuffed Jackalope, which is an animal that is part rabbit and antelope, lol! I guess it’s a Wyoming thing. I bought Huib a couple of really cool things, but I can’t write it here in case he reads the blog 😉

In the evening, Robin’s son and daughter-in-law took us all out for dinner at a local restaurant. I ordered rosemary chicken and dumplings, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was good though. It was biscuits and chicken covered in a gravy. dinner was pretty funny. We talked about the different foods they eat in the southern states and Robin and fun asking if I had heard of this or that – of course, I hadn’t.

As an aside, it’s quite sad to know that they have never had a poutine – they are awesome! They had also never heard of Nanaimo bars. I know they originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, but I totally fought everyone knew about them. Thankfully for them, I brought two large packages, so they are no longer missing out on something delicious!

After we got home from dinner, we all chilled. The dogs played chase and tug, while I went on my computer and Robin relaxed.

It’s hard to believe that we will be going home in less than 72 hours. Even though I have loved the trip, i really miss home. Huib has also said that Cessna seems to be slightly depressed, which makes me sad. he is going to bring her to the airport to meet us, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Rogue Is Freedom

This is my submission for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

According to the free online dictionary, freedom is:
“1. the state of being free, or
2. exemption from external control.”

Therefore, Rogue is FREEDOM.

Rogue joined our family on June 10th, 2011 but even before her arrival she had begun to set me free.

Five months before picking up Rogue I lost most of my usable vision, and in the process, lost myself. I had always been a confident person. Even after being with Huib for over a decade, I still found it difficult to ask for help…I never wanted him to see me as dependent. When my vision changed and I no longer saw the same way, my world fell apart. I was scared. I didn’t know how I would ever learn to get around on my own again. It was easier to just go places with Huib or other people.

When we learned that Cessna was developing cataracts I knew I was going to need to seriously think about a successor. I had tossed around the idea of owner-training, but it wasn’t until this diagnosis that I really thought about it. I had less vision now than when I got Cessna, so I thought it would be better to return to Dog Guides for a successor, but Huib said he was confident in my abilities, so he convinced me to take the plunge.

This decision marked the beginning of rogue’s journey with me towards freedom.

Huib and I had raised two puppies for Autism dog Services, so knew we needed to expose our new puppy to as many people and experiences as possible from the start. We knew some of the more basic commands we needed to teach, and had an idea of the guiding skills our trainee would need to learn. We had no clue how we were going to accomplish this though. We knew lots of people who were blind and had a guide dog, but we didn’t know anyone who had raised and trained their dog themselves. So I got on the computer and started to look for service dog blogs and service dog handlers who had owner-trained. I found several people in the United States and began asking them questions.

if it weren’t for Rogue, I’m not sure I would have ever had the desire or courage to reach out to so many strangers, many of whom have now become very good friends.

Through my research and discussions, I was able to develop a preliminary training plan. I say preliminary because over the past three years I have had to make changes in order to fit our needs.

Rogue and I have had our ups and our downs. owner-training is like an addiction, even when are hitting rock-bottom, you keep pressing on because you remember the high you got when things were at their best. Unlike an addiction though, owner-training often ends on a positive note.

Rogue turned three on the 13th and is working pretty much full-time with me. Cessna comes out when she wants, but I think she’ll retire fully really soon.

Rogue has not only enriched my life by being a friend, but she has also set me free. She forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and work hard at regaining my independence. In the process, I have found myself again. I am not completely comfortable with going everywhere on my own yet, but Rogue has shown me that it’s possible because she’s by my side.

Could They Be Friends?

Aiden, Skye and Bailey have now been with us for almost a week and everyone is getting along quite well.

Our bed is a queen-size, but it isn’t quite big enough to fit 6 full grown retrievers, so let’s start with just the 5 labs.

Skye, Rogue, bailey, Cessna and Aiden are lying together on a black metal framed bed with a grey blanket. Skye is behind Rogue, they are closest to the headboard with Bailey next to Rogue, Cessna beside Bailey and aiden in front of everyone.

Rogue thought it would be cool to pose with her sister, skye. Don’t they look so much alike?

Rogue and skye on our bed. Skye is lying behind Rogue.

Cessna wasn’t so sure she could handle having her picture taken more than once, so here’s a shot of just the fox red labs and Bailey.

Skye, rogue, Bailey and Aiden on our bed. Skye is behind Rogue, Bailey is beside Rogue and Aiden is lying in front of them all.

Aiden and Bailey got tired of posing, so here’s Canyon with Rogue and Skye.

Skye, Rogue and Canyon on our bed. Canyon is beside Rogue and Skye is behind them.

Fun With Dad

Canyon running through the forest with a wild look on his face, sort of like the smile on the Joker.

Canyon wagging his tail in the forest.

Cessna sitting in the forest with an icy beard.

Rogue making a path through really deep snow.

Rogue running through the forest.

Rogue Goes To Toronto

Huib had to go to Toronto for a meeting, so Rogue and I tagged along.

We dropped the Orlando off in Oakville and took the GO Train to Union Station. At Union we took the subway to king Street and walked a couple blocks. Since we were in a bit of a rush, I decided not to work Rogue, but had her heel beside me.

After Huib’s meeting we continued down King to Mountain Equipment Co-op, a hiking and outdoorsy store. I had rogue work the entire route. she never once brushed me up against anyone and only overstepped one up-curb. at one point Huib was busy trying to figure out where we were in relation to where we were going and forgot to warn me that there were two random steps down, rogue was perfect! She stopped with her paws an inch from the stair’s edge and waited for me to give her the okay to continue on. As soon as she stopped, Huib said “GOOD GIRL!!” in an excited voice, so I think the immediate praise helped her to understand that is what I’m looking for from her when approaching stairs. This weekend we will probably be getting together with my friend Karen and her Belgian puppy, spark, so hopefully Rogue will show me some further progress with her understanding of stairs.

At MEC, we walked around the entire store and then bought a dark purple with black rock climbing chalk bag that I will use as a treat bag. I have been looking for a new treat bag since my lime green Columbia one is starting to show some wear, but I haven’t been able to locate one I like. the rock climbing chalk bag is perfect though. It is deep, the draw-string closes at the very top and it is made of a very durable material, so I am hoping it will last a long time.

After we finished shopping at MEC, we walked back to the King Street subway station and went to St. Patrck’s station. I needed to go to Sick Children’s Hospital and ask them to send my surgical notes to my new neurosurgeon. I had rogue work the entire route from the subway station to the hospital and again she didn’t brush me up against anyone and other than wanting to avoid all grates, she was perfect.

I am going to need to do some work with grates because rogue’s reaction to them is a little too extreme.

After the hospital we went back to the subway and went to Bloor station. We were going to meet up with a friend I made over Twitter.

When shane and Yager arrived at tim Hortons, rogue decided to bark a few times. I’m not sure why she does this, but she seems to do it a lot. She wasn’t trying to get to Yager, she was sitting beside me and barking – what a weirdo!!

Shane sits with his guide dog Yager, an English type black Labrador Retriever, at Tim Hortons.

After a couple hours of chatting with Shane it was time to head back to Union to catch the GO train back to Oakville. I had Rogue work to the Bloor subway station and she overstepped a down curb and up-curb, but otherwise she worked well around Yager. While waiting for the subway train to arrive, I practiced staying away from the yellow line with her. I haven’t really needed to show her what I want, she just seems to know that she needs to stay away from the yellow line unless the train is in the station. I ask my dogs to turn right into me when we approach the yellow line and walk with the line to their left, so I stay away from the gap.

Our trip back to Oakville and then Guelph was uneventful. When we got home rogue rolled around and then went outside with Cessna and Canyon.

It is neat to see how excited Cessna gets when I come home. She doesn’t seem to want to join me these days, but when I get home, she is just as excited as Canyon.

Who’s Smarter Than A Golden?

Rogue lies in front of the kitchen cupboards on a mat that has different shades of brown.

THE FOX RED LABRADOR RETRIEVER IS!!

Back in October, I bought Cessna a puzzle toy made by Toys R Us. With this cold weather I’ve been bringing out the treat balls and the puzzle toy to keep the dogs relaxed.

A round orange plastic plate sized toy with four removable round blue plastic blocks.

rogue will work hard to get the treats out of the puzzle toys, but canyon just lies his head on the toy and waits for me to pick out the blue blocks so he can get to the prize.

Case of the Screaming Rabbit

My labs are SO bad!!

Last night, around midnight, I let the dogs out for their final relief. I asked everyone to sit, stuck my head out the sliding door to make sure there were no skunks, and then released everyone to go outside.

Rogue barked once. I told her to be quiet. she barked once more. I told her that was enough.

And then the screaming started.

It wasn’t the dogs. It wasn’t a person. It was like a high pitched screeching.

I immediately opened the sliding door and said “LEAVE IT!”

Huib ran over to the door and went toward the girls. As he left, he told me Canyon was hiding behind me – he’s too cute!

He said that once he was close, he saw a rabbit quickly hop away.

I guess Rogue had seen the rabbit and ran over. When she barked, she must have scared it so it froze in place. that gave Cessna enough time to join rogue and together they pinned the poor thing, probably scaring it, so it screamed. thankfully the rabbit didn’t injure the labs and they didn’t seem to injure it. when Huib got the girls back inside, he checked them over for injuries and then took a flashlight outside to see if he saw any blood. all he found was some fur, so hopefully the rabbit lived and didn’t end up having a heart attack somewhere.

Rogue is from a hunting line and I’m pretty sure Cessna is as well, so I can’t really blame the girls for their reaction, but I definitely feel bad for the rabbit. If Huib hadn’t run over, I’m not sure it would have survived, and I guess the girls would have had breakfast.

We’re Getting There…

We’re getting there…

Rogue is doing really well with her guide work training. She is working with me about three quarters of the time now. Her guiding is pretty close to always spot on and her confidence level is rising steadily. Rogue does well with formal turns – stopping and then asking for a left or right. She struggles a bit with moving turns though, so we still need to work a bit on that. We also need to work on her distraction level because I find she misses doors, openings and stuff when I ask her to find it. I know it’s a distraction issue because if we’re in a quiet, less stimulating environment, she has no problems locating things I ask for. She is still very new to the job though, so I know she’s going to be okay.

Rogue and I standing together on the snowy brick walkway at the University of Guelph. I am wearing blue denim jeans, white with grey winter boots, a primarily white winter coat with some navy blue on it, as well as a white roots baseball cap and you can also see the hood of my navy blue Dog Guides sweatshirt and a bit of my white backpack. Rogue is standing slightly in front of me wearing her navy blue harness what has lighter blue strapping. she is also wearing a light blue limited slip collar and a black leather half braided leash.

Our main challenge is still curbs and stairs. I feel as though I’m constantly writing this, but know it will fall into place when it’s meant to.

After talking with a couple of friends, it’s been decided that I will start using Rogue’s paw targeting to teach her exactly where I want her paws to be when we come to a curb or stairway. Right now she is still stoping a bit too far back at down curbs, forgetting to stop at up curbs and often comes to a stairwell at an angle – which is a bit dangerous for me. I’m going to start by doing some paw targeting in the house, using the surface change between the carpeting in our living room and the tile in the front foyer. Then I will take the yogurt container lids I have put some coloured electrical tape on, to the university campus and practice the stairways in the University Centre and in the primary building I have classes in, McKinnon Hall. With the snow, it’s a bit difficult to do curb work, but I’ll have to figure something out for that.

My friend Karen has just gotten a puppy, a male Belgian Shepherd who is now 10 weeks, so her and I have decided to try getting together every weekend for a couple of hours to work on stuff with her puppy (he’s not yet names) and Rogue or sometimes Canyon.

Cessna is deciding more often these days to stay home and not go places with me, so I know it’s just a matter of time before I need to call Dog Guides and inform them that she’s retiring. For now, I let her choose when she wants to work and her work is still 100%, so I think this arrangement is okay.

Rogue and Cessna Take on New York: Part III

Welcome back everyone!

Rogue modelling her new harness. The back plate is camo green and has a pocket with Service Dog embroidered on it in white thread. The straps and stabilizer loops are black with small white reflective paw prints. the girth strap is just black. she's also showing her new black with white Haida pattern collar.

Now I’m going to tell you all about our final day in New York City.

Rogue's face and a bit of the chest part of her harness.

Since we had a chance to get to bed at a reasonable hour the day before, we woke up pretty early on Tuesday. Breakfast was pretty uneventful until I had to rescue Cyndy from the Honey Bug. I’m not sure why she wasn’t scared or why Mommy and daddy were laughing, but there was this Honey bug sitting beside Cyndy’s iPhone that I thankfully noticed and had to get. It was SO scary though! I tried really, really hard to be brave and get the Honey Bug for Cyndy, but it was just too much for me to handle.

***** A quick note from the humans about the “Honey bug”. Cyndy had wanted some tea, so she got a small packet of honey to put into it. she placed the packet beside her phone on the nigh stand and when Rogue got onto the bed to greet her, she noticed the packet of honey and started acting as though it would eat us all. She barked at it and backed away and moved a bit closer and then barked and backed away again. We couldn’t stop laughing and as hard as we tried, the “Honey bug” was to scary for the Rogue Hurricane. *****

Once the humans were dressed, we headed to the subway. It was pretty rainy and icky out, so we didn’t really want to walk too much. We took the subway to Battery Park to catch the ferry to Liberty Island.

view of the New York City skyline from the ferry

Cessna, Uschi and I had a lot of fun watching the propellers splash through the water at the back of the ferry. We also liked watching the mainland move away and all of the seagulls flying around.

Cessna on the ferry looking through the railing of the ferry toward New York City

Once we got to Liberty Island, we got into the line ups for entrance into the Statue of Liberty. Since Mommy and Cyndy aren’t able to see very well, the security people let us bypass the lines and go right to the security checks. Mommy and Daddy didn’t have too much trouble going through, they just had to remove almost everything they were wearing and Mommy was even close to losing her pants because she had to remove her belt before she went through the metal detectors – wouldn’t that have been hilarious?

Rogue and Cessna looking into the water from the deck of the ferry

Rogue sitting in front of the old Statue of Liberty flame. The flame is a metal frame with yellow glass.

Cyndy had a bit more trouble though. the security lady was not very nice to her and at one point put her hand onto her shoulder, ripped Uschi’s leash from her hand and pushed her back through the metal detectors and asked her to come back through. Cyndy was pretty shaken up by the lady’s actions and was quite vocal about it. the lady didn’t apologize and even threatened to have her sent out of the statue completely if she had a problem with the search techniques. Cyndy said she’ll be calling the people in charge to have the woman talked to about the appropriate way to treat visitors, especially ones with disabilities.

Brooke squatting with Cessna to her left in front of the old Statue of Liberty flame.

From the security checks we walked up some stairs and then took a couple of elevators up to the pedestal of the statue. Cessna and I were pretty excited to see what was below us, so we had Daddy pick us up. the barriers holding people back from the edge was too high for us to just put our paws up, so Daddy held us both and let us look around.

Brooke on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty with the New York City skyline behind

Ellis Island from the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

After we were done on the pedestal we went back down to the museum part of the statue. Mommy got to feel some of the parts of the statue and Daddy read some of the explanations to her and Cyndy.

Rogue, Cessna and Uschi in front of a replica of Lady Liberty's face in the museum section of the Statue of Liberty.

Cessna, Uschi and I thought the Statue of Liberty was kind of boring, but we really liked walking around the island. We saw tons of birds and there was SO much water! I really wanted to go check out the water and so did Cessna, but Mommy and daddy were big bums and wouldn’t let us go in. We did get to look in though which I guess was good enough.

Brooke and Rogue at the fence that borders Liberty Island. rogue has one of her front paws on the top rail of the fence and Brooke is looking toward the water.

Cyndy and Uschi at the fence that borders Liberty Island.Uschi has her front paws up on the rails of the fence.

Uschi and Rogue looking through the fence that borders Liberty Island.

After we caught the ferry back to the mainland, we decided to head toward time Square. The humans were hungry and we were planning to go on some sort of cruise, so they thought eating in Time Square would be a good idea. The weather was still pretty icky and it took us a while to figure out where the humans wanted to eat, so by the time we were standing at the bus stop that would take us to the next ferry, we were all pretty tired again. Cessna was not in an excited mood and kept picking her paws up as though they were hurting, so that worried Mommy a bit.

Brooke and Rogue with Cyndy and Uschi waiting for the ferry back to the mainland.

The decision to forgo the cruise was made after Cyndy fell over though. It was kind of funny. Cyndy was standing to the right of Daddy and the humans were chatting. Then all of a sudden, Cyndy fell over to the right. No one knows why she fell, maybe us chi pushed her or maybe she lost her balance, it just happened so quickly.

At the hotel we all had a nap and then at 7pm we headed back to the subway to go to Brooklyn for dinner. Cyndy’s friend was meeting us there, so even though none of us were really in the mood to move again, we had to go. Cessna, uschi and I slept under the table while the humans ate cheesecake, drank milkshakes and chatted. Mommy said the cheesecake was awesome and was really glad Cyndy wanted to share with her and Daddy – the portions were big I guess…

After a few hours, the humans were finally stuffed. We headed back to our hotel and went to bed.

Early Wednesday morning we got up, ate breakfast and then began packing. We had to catch the train back to Albany at just after 10am.

The train ride was quiet. I think we were all exhausted from our trip.

Mommy, daddy, Cessna and I headed back to Canada Thursday morning. We arrived at the border around 4pm, so called our friend Della to see if we could pick canyon up. I was SO happy to see my golden brother! It had been an entire week since I’d seen him last. He was happy to see us, but also seemed happy enough to stay longer.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to New York. If you want to see more pictures from our trip you can go to Cyndy’s blog to see a complete gallery.

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 🙂