Not Like Most

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

This well-known saying, is one I’ve heard regularly over my thirty-two years of life.

Time and time again, people are telling me not to change things if they work.

Most people would listen to the advice, but I’m not like most..

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival buttonI received three wonderful guides from The Lions Foundation of canada Dog Guides. Gryphon only worked nine months because of an unfortunate incident with a car, but Phoenix worked seven years and Cessna will retire after eight.

Given this record, most people would be planning to return for a fourth, but I’m not like most.

As many friends and readers of this blog already know, instead of returning to Dog Guides for my fourth guide, I have decided to give owner-training a try.

Most people would look for a puppy who is calm, confident and shows an eagerness to please, but I am not like most.

Rogue is confident, but instead of being calm and eager to please, she is busy and independent-minded.

Most people would rather not spend the time and money raising a puppy, and would rather have a guide who is fully trained and ready to take on the challenges of guiding a blind person.

Not me, I’m not like most.

I look forward to the challenge of raising and training Cessna’s successor. I enjoy the obstacles Rogue places before me, and believe that her spirited nature makes me a better person and subsequently a better trainer. Together, Rogue and I approach problems with enthusiasm, because I know she’ll forgive me for my faults, and she knows I’ll forgive her for her mistakes.

Most people want a service dog who will perform their tasks when they are asked to do so.

Not me, I’m not like most.

I like dogs who have a mind of their own. I don’t want a dog who will go into robot mode and work the second I pick up the harness handle. I want a dog who will question me, and who will make me work for their respect.

We all have our hopes and dreams regarding what a service dog will bring to our lives. some hope for miracles, but others just hope they can make the partnership work.

When I applied for my first guide, I looked forward to getting rid of my white cane, and to the opportunity to share my experiences with another. I was young and full of dreams, but I knew from the start that I needed a dog who would challenge me, and who would force me to go outside of my comfort zone to make our partnership work.

Phoenix worked well and challenged me almost daily. If he wanted to do something and i didn’t allow it, he’d plan his revenge and I never knew when it would come. In order to keep his work at its best, I not only had to practice his basic obedience a few times a week, but also had to make trips into bigger cities for him to feel challenged as well.

“Marchin’ To Your Own Drum” is something most service dog handlers do, but for some, it is something we take to heart because we’re not like most.

Different

We’re all different here at ruled by paws 🙂

Canyon’s Angry Bird

Today Huib and I went shopping with Rogue. Cessna wanted to stay home, so we did some public access work with the little Hurricane. She didn’t really have a great outing, but I did manage to find a really cool toy for Canyon. At the Staples Business Depot, they had a clearance section filled with various odds and ends. It sounds like a funny place to find a toy, but they had some plush Angry Birds’ toys that make the sounds as well when squeezed.

Canyon really likes balls, stuffed toys and things that make strange sounds, so a plush Angry Birds’ toy that makes noises was perfect.

Rogue Swims!

Today was a beautiful day, so we packed the gang into the orlando and headed off to Clear Lake.

Rogue hasn’t been much of a swimmer, choosing to bounce around on the shore while the others retrieved a toy or stick we threw for them.

Two weekends ago, we went to Woofstock in Toronto and bought three life jackets. Today we put one of the life jackets onto Rogue and hoped it might give her a little more confidence – it worked!

She didn’t swim as much as the others, but she swam nonetheless.

Random News

I’ve got a lot of random news to share with everyone.

First, last week I wrote about our trip to Guelph and the Toronto area. While there, I had a chance to see my family doctor and was given several different migraine medications to try out. She gave me a few different daily preventatives, a daily nerve blocker and one to take when I feel a migraine coming. A lot of these medications were suggested by a pain clinic doctor I saw back in March, but she also added a couple that she feels might help. Back in the early 2000’s I tried out a bunch of different preventative medications without much success, but I’m hoping that these new medications might have a better outcome.

On Monday night, I took my first Gavapentin (just a low dose right now) and woke up tuesday with barely any signs of a migraine that I’m sure I should have had (the weather is quite rainy and humid right now, which is a huge trigger for me). I took my first Atenolol (again a very low dose right now) Tuesday morning and my migraine really didn’t move much past a pain level of 1-3 out of 10, so a big win for me. It could just be a fluke, but I did the same last night and this morning, and so far my migraine isn’t getting any worse than the 1-3 out of 10 pain range. In a week, I will increase the Atenolol to a full tablet and leave the Gavapentin at just one 300mg capsule and reassess in a month’s time. If my migraine does begin increasing then I will try the medication my doctor gave me for break threw pain, but I’m not sure what it is called at the moment and I’m hoping that I won’t have to resort to it. In a month’s time, if we feel the Atenolol is not working well enough, then I will stop it and try one of the other two preventatives my family doctor and the pain clinic doctor suggested.

Next, Rogue and I have begun to use her “touch” cue to press a button. About a year ago, I bought a button that when pressed, plays various types of laughs. It is like the Staples Easy Button, but when I saw this one on sale for less than $10 at Halllmark, I snatched it up for training. rogue has an amazingly firm “touch”, and my visual impairment has made it tough to teach her to “touch” a stick or a spot on a wall or the floor, so I decided to put some navy blue electrical tape onto the laughing button and then start teaching Rogue to press it when I point and say “touch”.

I first had Rogue do some practice touches with the palm of my hand. then, I held the button, so it was facing her and waited. I wanted to see what she would do without giving her any hints as to what I wanted. She had an idea of what I wanted, so started moving towards the button, I clicked and gave her a treat for each movement towards the button. Then, I upped my requirements for a click and waited for her to even lightly touch the button with her nose. each time, I’d click and give her either one treat for just a light touch, or a jackpot of treats and a party for actually making the button laugh. She quickly caught on to how she could get more treats and began bumping the button as hard as she could – I then named the behaviour “touch”.

Once we had the pressing the button while I held it at her nose level perfect, I decided to start moving my hand around. I held it low, she pressed. I held it so she had to take a few steps, she pressed it again. Then I started holding it up so she had to jump up a bit to press and of course, she did it flawlessly.

I then put the button onto the floor and pointed and said “touch”. she bumped my hand with her nose. I waited, she bumped my hand with her nose several more times and then started to get frustrated. I couldn’t see where we were misunderstanding one another, so we stopped the lesson and both slept on it.

The following morning I figured it out, I had been lumping (or moving too fast). I got out the button and started practising what we had done the day before. Since we were doing it in a new place, I began by just holding the button and not saying a word. She knew exactly what we were doing and hit the button hard, making it laugh every single time, so we named it again – “touch”.

I then placed the button on the floor, but instead of just pointing I kept holding it and waited. It only took her a second before she was moving towards the button and I clicked and gave her a bunch of treats. After several perfect “touches”, I named the behaviour again “touch” and then started saying “Rogue, touch” and she came over and pressed the button.

Instead of completely removing my hand from the button at this point, I began holding the button with less and less of my hand. even when I was just touching the side of it with my index finger, rogue came over and pressed it when I said “touch”.

By the end, she was pressing the button when I pointed and said “Rogue, touch”. She is such a smart and forgiving puppy. Even when I make a mistake, she tells me what she needs and we start learning again together. I’m not sure what we’ll do next, but for now we’ll keep practicing our palm touches and button pressing. Rogue’s favourite behaviour is “touch”, so even though we are not further in the new levels books, I decided it was okay to move further with her “touch” cue because unlike other behaviours we’re learning, “touch” is fun to her and gets her brain moving.

Yesterday we got a call from the adoption worker. her case load is quite busy right now, so she has decided to move the adoption training to late fall. This is okay with us because right now it looks as though my step-dad will need to come stay for a bit, but it’s also frustrating because it seems as though each time we get somewhere with the adoption process, we’re left waiting again without any sight of the finish line. Hopefully in the fall things will begin moving full steam ahead.

Finally, today is our calico, Logan’s 10th birthday. Here on ruled by paws, the cats don’t tend to get much written about them, but I thought it was a milestone worth mentioning. We got Logan from the Guelph Humane Society when she was just 10 weeks old. She had been part of a family, but was surrendered to the shelter just hours before Huib and I went to see the cats. Huib lived in a bachelor apartment and for his birthday, I decided to buy him a cat, since I thought he needed a friend while he studied. We had planned to pick out an adult cat, but when we saw Logan, it was almost love at first sight. She was so cuddly and purred so loud that we thought for sure there was a little boat motor inside her. We told the shelter staff that she was the one, and after filling out some paperwork, we were told that we could come back in a week for our new kitten. She needed to be spayed and given her vaccines before we could bring her home. even though Huib likes to joke about giving Logan away to anyone who will take her, I know he loves her and that she’s going to continue providing us with years of entertainment.

Happy 10th Birthday Logie, you are one comical little calico!

On The Road Again

This past weekend we took the dogs south. I had to see the doctor for some medication refills and to touch base on what the neurologist had suggested for migraine relief, so we also made a vet appointment and planned to visit friends in Toronto.

the vet visit went well. Everyone was checked over thoroughly and then had blood withdrawn for Heartworm and tick borne disease testing. Dr B gave the labs their rabies vaccine and then prepared homeopathic remedies for both of the goldens. Aspen’s remedy is supposed to help her with anxiety and possible pain, since Dr B feels she needs some chiropractic adjustment. Back in the spring last year, Canyon ran full speed into Aspen, sending her flying, so now she seems to be out of alignment and Dr B would like us to take her for adjustments the next time we are in the area. I honestly never thought I’d be taking my dog to a chiropractor but I also couldn’t imagine ignoring Aspen’s possible discomfort.

After the vet appointment, we drove to Ren’s to see our friend Kelly and do a little shopping. We often stay with Kelly during our visits south, but she is currently fostering a dog from Aussie Rescue that is not too dog friendly, so visiting her at home wasn’t really an option. At Ren’s we chatted briefly with Kelly and bought Canyon a new toy – it’s like a cuz, but is all holey and has a water bottle crunched up inside it – as well as some blueberry treats and some kitty Greenies.

We then set off for Toronto and stayed with Taz and Caleb for the weekend.

On Saturday we drove to Newmarket to buy some new running shoes for Huib and then to Aurora to plant some flowers at my Mom’s grave. A few years ago, Huib and I created a little garden in front of her gravestone and try to plant flowers each summer. After we were done, we set off for Etobicoke and took Phoenix’s foster family for dinner at Swiss Chalet. Ray and Alice are doing well. Alice no longer needs a wheelchair and just uses her walker to get around. It’s so amazing to see the progress she has made since her stroke three years ago.

sunday was Woofstock. We drove the Orlando downtown and then parked it in the Metro’s underground parking lot. We thought we’d park there so that the dogs could have a safe place to rest if they became too overheated or tired.

Look who else came…

It’s Rogue’s sister Ruby!

Ruby is a little bigger than Rogue and has slightly longer and darker fur. She is absolutely adorable though, just like her sister. I can’t wait to have the girls meet in a less chaotic environment though because similar to Rogue (at times) Ruby was a bit timid and subdued, so it will be neat to see her in her own environment.

Woofstock was great, there were tons of different vendors and organizations to see. We got various treats and bought life jackets for the girls and winter coats for the labs. the life jackets are red with black and the winter coats are purple and bluish purple. I really wanted to get them each a cooling coat (it feels like a shammy and you cover it in water to keep the dogs cool) but they were over a hundred dollars, so we will need to wait on that.

Time to cool off…

By the end of our trip, the dogs were completely exhausted! they all piled into the Orlando and we didn’t hear from them until we arrived in Huntsville a few hours later.

The Rogue Kitty

Doesn’t she make a cute kitty?

Last Week In Pictures

Sunday Is For Swimming

Monday Is For Malls

Tuesday Is For Trains

Wednesday Is For Watching

Thursday Is For Training

Friday Is For Fools

Saturday Is For Snuggling

The Learning Never Ends

At 5:00am on Thursday, I awoke to the sound of Rogue heaving, or at least I thought. I quickly helped her off the bed and squatted down beside her, rubbing her sides and calmly talking to her as she continued to make this awful sound. It lasted about 30-45 minutes, with short intervals of Rogue wagging her tail and licking my face, so I was at a loss as to what to do. I checked her throat to see if I could find anything lodged. I felt her neck and belly to see if I noticed any difference. I gave her treats and water, hoping it would help calm her stomach (I thought she was trying to throw up). I tried to stay calm, knowing that she didn’t seem panicked herself, so wanted to continue keeping her that way.

when the episode seemed to have finished, I helped Rogue back onto the bed and we laid together, waiting for Huib to return home from work. I told him what had happened and he checked her over and couldn’t find anything wrong, so we decided to have a nap and then reassess after that. Rogue had a few more episodes and Huib reaffirmed my observation that this was not your typical “I need to throw up” behaviour. Instead of sounding and looking like Rogue was trying to expel something, it looked and sounded as though she was trying to clear her sinuses. It was like she was experiencing post nasal drip and was trying to get it to stop.

At some point, I went onto Twitter and posted a tweet about my observations and was informed that what Rogue was experiencing sounded like Reverse Sneezing. I had never heard of this and was delighted to learn that it was not serious and that it was actually quite common (I had never seen one of my dogs do this before).

Reverse Sneezing is quite scary to observe. It looks and sounds like the dog is gasping for air. it is quite common in flatter faced breeds such as pugs, but can also happen to other breeds. According to this article, “the most common cause of reverse sneezing is an irritation of the soft pallet and throat that results in a spasm. During the spasm the dog’s neck will extend and the chest will expand as the dog tries harder to inhale. The problem is that the trachea has narrowed and it’s hard to get the normal amount of air into the lungs.” Reverse Sneezing can be caused by a number of factors, but in almost all cases it is not serious and will resolve on its own.

Since Thursday, Rogue has had less episodes, and as of today has gone over sixty hours without Reverse Sneezing.

Huib got a short recording of her the other morning to send to Dr B and we were told that it should resolve itself, but to keep her posted. We are thinking that maybe Rogue was reacting to something outside since the grass has begun to go green and the trees and plants are beginning to bloom. I’m really hoping this is a one time thing, but I guess we’ll know more as time goes on.

It’s amazing to see how much more we have to learn from our dogs. After having Phoenix and dealing with all of his health issues, I thought I was set, but then Cessna taught us about coconut allergies, and now Rogue has introduced us to Reverse Sneezing.

**Just a quick note: Blogger has decided to begin implementing their new platform so I have begun to set up our blog over at WordPress. I will try to continue having posts up here as well as over at http://ruledbypaws.wordpress.com, but if Blogger does not improve their accessibility then I will be forced to completely stop posting here. I hope you will all join us over at WordPress, if you need any help with doing this please leave me a comment and I will try to help you out.**

Huntsville to Chatham And Everywhere In Between

Last week Huib and I took the dogs to southwestern Ontario. I had my final examination for my Business and Consumer Law course, and Canyon had his third conformation event. My sister is still in a bit of a “my life sucks and everyone should feel sorry for me” mood, so instead of staying at her place Wednesday night, Huib and I decided to leave early Thursday and just quickly stop in to check on Dad.

After eating lunch with Dad and letting the dogs drink some water and stretch their legs, we got back into the Expedition and made our way to Guelph. On the way, my aunt called to see what our plans were for Friday night and informed me of the true facts surrounding my sister’s new mood and odd behaviour. I was under the impression that she was just going through her usual “poor me” phase because of not being able to find regular paid employment, but it looks as though it is more emotional and disceittful. My sister had been dating a guy around February who was not a good person. According to my Dad, he’s lazy, immature and has an explosive temper. My sister can be lazy and also has quite the temper, but we were all happy when she said that the relationship was over and asked us to have Dad come stay with us for a bit. Well, it looks as though this was not the case, or at least not the case for more than a few days because now I’ve learned that she has been lying to us and that she is still dating this guy. I have no issue with the fact that she chooses to date a guy who is not good for her, I don’t support the relationship, but I won’t tell her who she can or cannot date, but I do have an issue with her treating us like crap and lying to us, while continuing to request assistance financially. I’m not sure what will end up happening there, but I do know that we won’t be helping her out and that she will be finding new living arrangements.

In guelph, we stayed with our friends kelly, Ace and Archie. Kelly made a wonderful dinner for us and was an amazing hostess as usual. I love visiting her and her boys (Ace is a 3 year old male black lab & Archie is a 9 year old male orange and white tabby). Ace makes me laugh because he loves wrestling with Rogue and thinks all of the girls (Cessna, Aspen & Rogue) appreciate him mounting them, even though they tell him otherwise.

On Friday morning we woke up early to get Canyon ready for his show, and me ready for my exam. Huib dropped Cessna and I off at the University of Guelph and then took Rogue and Canyon to Chatham. Cessna and I spent most of the morning in the University Centre because I didn’t feel overly comfortable with walking around the campus with her. Even though I attended the University of Guelph with Phoenix for five years, I find my sight to be less since my troubles in January of 2011 so find it difficult to navigate even familiar places. So, Cessna slept while I drank a Starbucks latte, surfed the internet and did a bit of studying. Around lunchtime I decided to take Cessna out for a bit of fresh air and thought we’d see if we could find the hot dog vendor who has been a fixture on the campus since Phoenix and I were students there. I had Cessna walk along a path and then asked her to go along another one that I knew led to the hot dog guy. We never ended up finding him, but she did point out another service dog or puppy in training and got a chance to relieve herself before we returned to the University Centre. After eating a sub, I packed up Cessna and my stuff so we could head to the library where I was scheduled to do my examination. We found the building without too much trouble – Cessna needs to learn to walk in straight lines – and almost made it to the room where I had to sign in, but got a little turned around. Thankfully a nice woman saw us and offered to help me find the room. My exam went okay. I left the exam feeling as though it could have been good or bad, which is often a good sign since I tend to do horribly if I think it went amazingly well or amazingly horrible. After the exam my proctor (the woman who read my exam and filled out the answer sheet) offered to walk with me to Second Cup where I was meeting my aunt’s guy friend. Along the way, we let Cessna run a bit and had a good chat about her own pet dog, a 3 year old female australian shepherd. At Second Cup, she helped me get a drink and then offered to stay and wait for my aunt’s friend but I didn’t know for sure when he’d arrive so told her I’d be okay and got my computer out for company. My aunt’s friend arrived an hour and a bit later and we headed to London where I met up with Huib, Canyon and Rogue.

On Saturday we woke up somewhat early to head back to Chatham for the final day of showing. I was so glad to be able to attend with them because I got to see my friend Amy and her one year old female dalmatian who was also showing. Unfortunately Waverley did about as well as Canyon did, so it was sort of a crappy weekend for everyone. After both Canyon and Waverley had shown, Huib and I started the drive back to Guelph where Aspen was staying with kelly. On our way we stopped at a grocery store and bought some turkey, duck and pork for the dogs (we feed raw) since it was an awesome price, and then stopped at Ren’s Pet Depot in Kitchener to pick up Kelly’s house keyes. of course, we also picked up a few new toys for the dogs – a long pink monkey with brown hands, feet, tail and face that squeaks and is somewhat stretchy, as well as, a squeaky penguin and squirrel – and a new winter coat for Rogue since the RC Pets brand jackets were on for 40% off. We ended up getting her a coat that is grey with teal and white clover leaf like designs on it. She can wear Phoenix’s red one still, but I also wanted one that matched her teal training vest and one that she could wear outside while Cessna wore Phoenix’s red one when it was really chilly. When we got back to kelly’s house, Aspen and Ace were really excited to see us all. Huib took both Ace and Aspen for a quick walk and then we got ready to go for dinner with Kelly (who was going to be home from work soon).

On Sunday, Huib and I left Guelph just before noon to head back home. The Expedition’s bearings were making some odd sounds, so we wanted to start out early enough and take it slow so we got home safely. We stopped in Huntsville to see Dad and let the dogs stretch their legs and then continued our drive. About twenty minutes north of North Bay the Expedition started making a really loud clunking sound and Huib started to panic. he knew it wasn’t going to be good and he wasn’t looking forward to the cost to fix things. We pulled over and called CAA to come tow the truck to New Liskeard. When the tow truck driver arrived, he told us that he could only allow the labs into his truck because he felt there wasn’t enough room for the four dogs and because they were service dogs (Rogue is in training) he wasn’t going to refuse them. I was so angry! I couldn’t imagine leaving my goldens alone in the truck while we were safe in the tow truck. The driver wouldn’t change his mind though so I refused to talk to both him and Huib the entire ride, worrying about how the goldens would be affected. The driver was nice though, he made sure the Expedition was totally secured and stopped a couple of times during the drive to make sure the dogs were okay – of course, both Aspen and Canyon were true to their breed description and could have cared less about the arrangements. Rogue slept in my lap the entire drive in the tow truck and Cessna fell asleep at my feet after the first hour of driving. Cessna is a bit of a stress ball when it comes to loud noises and bumps while driving, which are both problems with trucks so it took her quite a while to settle. In new Liskeard our landlord met us at the Ford dealership and drove us all home.

It looks as though the Expedition has seen it’s last drive south with us. The mechanic at the dealership says something with the drive shaft is detached so it will cost over $2000 to fix and that doesn’t even repair the bearings or replace the muffler, so Huib and I have decided to get something new. We did some research and shopped around a bit on Monday and tuesday.

As long as all goes well, we should be picking up our brand new 2012 Chevy Orlando early next week 🙂