Working Dog Conference: Final Day and the Trip Home

The conference organizers gave all delegates the day off until the gala.

I wanted to give Rogue a chance to have some fun, so Huib went to lay a couple of tracks for her on the Bow River Trail.

When he returned, we had some breakfast and then got ready to go run the track.

If you click on this link you will find a few pictures and a very short video of Rogue and I tracking.

Even though it has been about three weeks since Rogue last tracked, she did a fabulous job!! She thought about rolling in some elk or some other animal’s pee, but otherwise she was great!! She even had to ignore elk poop!! I assume it’s elk, but maybe it’s moose or caribou, I really don’t know what animal they have.

After tracking, we went back to the hotel to let her rest before we went souvenir shopping. Our flight home was scheduled to leave the following day, so we needed to get some things to take back for friends and family.

I got a nice reddish purple hooded Banff sweatshirt, two new hats from Roots (purple and white), a light purple Banff t-shirt with a matching hat, and a cool ornament for our Christmas tree. It is a bear in a birch bark canoe, lol!

We also bought a package of peanut butter and a package of maple fudge. I love chocolate fudge, but pure cocoa gives me a migraine, so I chose a couple of non-chocolate ones.

As a thank you for watching the goldens, we bought each of our friends’ kids a gift. We got Q smiling poop emoji slippers and a package of Thrill gum (it tastes like soap, lol!). For M, I picked out a purple bear change purse and a package of heart candies that say different things on them. There is a really neat candy store in Banff that has different candy from when we were younger. If we didn’t have to worry about the weight of our luggage, I would have totally bound some more stuff.

At 4:30pm we went back to the hotel to get ready for the gala. I wore black pants with black shoes and a black and white fancy shirt. Huib wore a light green dress shirt with black pants and black shoes.

The seats were assigned at the gala, so we got to meet a few new people. There was a woman from Pacific Assistance Dog Society, a couple guys from Customs in Japan, a guy from Australia who does work with military dogs, and then a woman from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Colleen was also supposed to sit with us, but she couldn’t make it.

Dinner was okay. I liked the steak, but the veggies were a little bland and the scalloped potatoes were kind of dry. I really liked the wild mushroom ravioli appetizer and Huib liked my salmon one, lol! I wasn’t a fan of the dessert, but I’m a little picky there.

After we all ate, Dr. Reynolds did a prevention on his work in Alaska. He talked about the history of sled dogs and then talked about a program where at risk youth care for and train sled dogs. I would love to go to Alaska some day and learn more about this program.

After Dr. Reynolds, came thank you gifts for sponsors, keynote speakers and the conference organizers. Then we played a quiz game, that our table totally lost, lol!!

Before the dinner was ended, they gave out the centre pieces to the youngest person at the table (which was me!!) and then the person who had travelled the furthest, which was on elf the gentlemen from Japan. I won the German Shepherd and the other guy got the Labrador Retriever. He really wanted the German Shepherd, so being a good Canadian, I said: “why don’t we trade?” Normally, I would have wanted the lab, but it has a fat face which bothers Huib, so he wanted the shepherd, lol!!

When it was all over, we went around to say goodbye to people and then headed back to the hotel to pack.

*****

On Thursday morning, we woke up around 7:00am to get ready for the shuttle that would take us to the Calgary airport.

The ride was uneventful. I think Rogue wished we had taken the Greyhound because it had carpeted floors, but otherwise she just slept the entire way.

At the airport, we checked in our suitcases and then walked around. Our flight was delayed by an hour, so we had a lot of time to kill. We checked out the different shops, buying a navy blue hat with ‘Cessna’ written in yellow 🙂

Around 11:30am, we went to security. They wanted Huib to go through first and then help me on the other side. I had wanted him to stay with Rogue, so she wouldn’t feel as though she needed to break her stay, but you really gotta listen to the security people 😉

Poor Rogue was not happy with the request, but she waited in a sit-stay while I walked through the metal detectors towards Huib. I’m not sure what caused it, but the detectors went off, so I had to take off my belt this time and then go through again. I was taking too long and doing things Rogue wasn’t sure about, so she broke her stay and came through to me. To make things less stressful for her, one security person quickly felt her gear, while I held her leash and another person padded me down. It took a lot longer to get through security than it had in Toronto.

Huib had forgot to drink all of his lemonade, so once he got us situated, he had to go back through, drink the lemonade and then return. While he was gone, a lady came over to talk to me about Rogue. She told me she had a chocolate lab and that her friend raises puppies for a program. She asked how long I have had Rogue and when I said since she was eight weeks. She automatically assumed it meant I was able to be involved throughout her training, so I just agreed with her. I didn’t know who she was, so I didn’t want to cause any issues by clarifying that Rogue is an owner-trained service dog.

When we got close to the boarding area, we grabbed some lunch at Tim Hortons. Then, at 12:10pm, it was time to board.

The flight was pretty good. We experienced some turbulence a few times, especially during the last half hour, and there was a toddler who felt screeching was a good way of communicating, but otherwise things were good. After about two hours, I fell asleep for a bit, while Huib watched a movie.

At Pearson, we collected our suitcases and then went to catch a shuttle over to the Park and Fly lot where we had parked the car. Our drive home was a bit messy with a rain/snow mix, but Cessna was pretty excited to see us when we walked through the door!!

After we got the suitcases into the house, we went to pick up the goldens. Arizona was really happy to see us, and Canyon was excited to see me!! He was SO cute, jumping up and giving me kisses.

It was a great trip and I had a wonderful conference experience, but I am sure glad to be home!!

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!!

Working Dog Conference: Day One

The hotel only had a continental breakfast, so once we were dressed and Rogue had eaten, we caught the bus to Rim Rock. The conference organizers put a breakfast on for the delegates.

At 9:00am the conference began. The first hour or so was taken up by introductory stuff from the organizers and the conference board. This conference was different from others I have attended because the talks were not broken into different sessions for people to pick from, everyone just attended all of the presentations. I think they said there were about 177 delegates from about 20 different countries.

Huib and I sat with Dr. Colleen Dell, a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan. I first met her a few years ago when I was deciding whether or not to attend Mac for my masters degree.

A lot of the talks were on different aspects of breeding, but there were a couple on body conditioning and a couple were about the early training of puppies to become a working dog. I liked the training ones and body conditioning the most. I found some of the presenters more interesting than others, but since the talks were only 15-20 minutes long, it wasn’t too difficult to sit through the ones that were outside of my understanding or interest.

At lunch we sat with a couple of people from Royal Canin, Canada. They are located just outside of Guelph, so they were familiar with where we live. One of the Royal Canin reps has a son with an autism service dog from Dog Guides Canada. She was interested in finding out about Rogue. I liked hearing about her son’s dog.

At night was the conference dinner. Huib and I sat with a couple people I knew from the Service Dog Standards Committee. It was nice to socialize with them outside of the stress of the committee meetings. At the meetings everyone tends to be on edge, wanting to push for their organization’s needs, but in this environment there is no stress. Dinner was okay. The chicken and pork was a bit dry, but the garlic mashed potatoes were tasty.

We couldn’t stay too late because I needed to continue memorizing my presentation notes, and I still had to prepare my powerpoint. When we got off the bus, we went for a bit of a walk to let Rogue stretch her legs and go to the washroom. It had been a really long day for her, so once we were back in the room and she had eaten, she quickly fell asleep. Even though she wasn’t actively working the entire day, often lying under the table, she still stays on alert, so a long day takes a lot out of her.

Working Dog Conference: Hello Banff!!

After checking out the different options for travel between Calgary and Banff, we decided on the Greyhound because it was less than half the price.

We weren’t sure how they would do with Rogue, since officially, Canada’s travel regulations say the dog should be program-trained, but no one said anything.

At the station, we waited for probably an hour before they began boarding the bus. While waiting, Huib went to the washroom and found a bud of medical marijuana sitting on a ledge. He said that he smelled something off when he entered the stall, so liked around and saw it. He gave it to one of the security guards, who put it into their pocket, lol!!

You would never have known it, but this was Rogue’s first time on a Greyhound bus. Unlike a city bus, the space is a bit restricted, but she just curled up and fell asleep. It took about an hour an a quarter to get to Banff.

While we were in Calgary, my migraines were pretty mild, but the weather had begun to change, so my migraine was not as great on our drive. As a result, I ended up falling asleep for part of the ride.

In Banff, the bus dropped us off at the station, which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. It was a good walk. It gave Rogue and us a chance to stretch our legs. Huib took care of the suitcases, while I carried my backpack and Rogue guided me. She got really good at following him at a distance where I wouldn’t end up walking into the back of the bags if he stopped quickly.

Once we had checked in and dropped off our bags, we went for a walk. We checked out some of the stores along the main street and went into a neat stone place that has really expensive stuff. I got to feel some fossils and other art made of rock. Before we went back to the hotel to change, we got some french fries. The fries were good, but the seasoning had MSG in it, so I had to take some meds.

At the hotel, I quickly changed into nicer clothes and then we called a cab. The International Working Dog Conference took place at Rim Rock, a hotel that was about four kilometres away. Unfortunately, there were no sidewalks up to the hotel, so we couldn’t really walk.

There were a lot of events taking place at the hotel, so it took us a few minutes to figure out what floor we needed to be on. While we were looking, a woman from the Standards Committee I’m on, came over to say hello. Her staff were attending the conference, so she had dropped them off before heading on vacation.

At the conference registration table, I had a bit of a brain fart and forgot to tell the person my name, I just told her I was there to check in, lol!! They gave me a name tag with tickets for drinks, the conference dinner, the excursion and then the gala. They also gave me a bag that contained red Canada mittens, a battery pack, a memory stick, and an Alberta pin. I was excited about the mittens because mine are pretty beat up and really need to be replaced.

At the social, we had some appetizers and drinks. While Huib was grabbing our drinks, a woman came over to introduce herself. I guess she had made note of the different Canadian presenters, so she could scope them out. I enjoyed meeting her because she is doing some interesting service dog research and she knows my masters supervisor, James. I gave her my business card, so maybe we will be able to keep in touch.

Shortly after she left, we decided to go as well. The social was only scheduled for two hours, so we thought we might as well go catch the bus and then walk around a bit.

Working Dog Conference: Calgary

Around 3:30am Friday, we woke up and began to get ready to head to the airport. Our luggage was packed, we just needed to add our toiletries after we were dressed. Once they were in, we secured the suitcases with zip ties and Huib put them in the car. While he was putting stuff into the car, I got the last of the stuff into a bag for the goldens to take to Mandi’s house, and double-checked that I had everything for Rogue.

We didn’t want anyone to have an accident before Dad woke up, so we left him food for everyone. Mandi was coming to get the goldens in the afternoon, so he just had to worry about them until she arrived.

Our trip to the airport was uneventful. We parked the car in a Park and Fly lot, then took a shuttle over to the terminal. We were glad we arrived on the early side because the baggage check-in line was really slow moving. At the front, they weighed our bags and then asked us to wait, so they could make sure the next people knew a service dog was coming. I’m not sure why they felt this was needed, but we had time to spare, so it wasn’t a big deal.

At security, I asked Rogue to sit and then I walked through. Huib planned to go after me, so that Rogue wouldn’t be worried about me leaving her behind. It worked out great. I thought they would ask me to take everything off her, but it didn’t happen, so when I called her through, she came running with her leash dragging behind.

We still had an hour or so to kill before we would be boarding, so we had some breakfast at Tim Hortons.

About 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off, they began to board everyone. We were in zone five, or about the middle of the plane, so we got in line. Rogue was a complete professional about it all. She patiently waited beside me and then once we were on the plane and I removed her handle, she curled up for a nap. She woke up a bit when we first took off, but once she knew there was nothing to worry about, she fell back asleep.

I read through my presentation notes a couple of times during the first part of the flight, then fell asleep for a bit. I think even Huib slept some.

Once we began descending, Rogue woke up, so I gave her some treats. When it was time to get off the plane, she walked nicely at my side.

At the baggage area, we waited a short time for our suitcases. While waiting, they announced that a person’s carry-on had been mistakenly taken by another passenger. It was a black bag, so probably an honest mistake, but who knows because they were still making the announcement as we left the airport.

We got a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We planned to see if we could drop the bags off, so we wouldn’t have to drag them around the city while we waited for our room, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could check-in. The hotel had a room available on our floor, they assign all dogs to one floor, so they gave us an upgrade and we got a suite for two days!!

The room was great!! We had a small kitchenette with a sink, counter, table with chairs, a bar fridge and a microwave, a decent size living room with a TV, love seat and two chairs, then a bedroom with a king-size bed and a small bathroom. I thought it might be good to relax a bit before we went walking and for lunch, so we all settled in the living room. I read through my notes until I fell asleep, while Huib watched a bit of TV and dosed and Rogue slept on my legs and then in one of the chairs.

We walked for about three hours!! We checked out the mall and bought a few things. We walked the streets and along the pedestrian paths, stopping to take pictures in front of statues and to check out various stores. There were a lot of ‘interesting’ people along the way.

There was a woman walking along carrying her pants and shoes. I asked Huib if maybe he should stop and ask if she needed help, but he explained that there was another woman who appeared to be trying to help her. I guess he was right, because a bit later, we walked by them and she had helped the woman get dressed and was trying to convince her to come somewhere. At another spot, we passed a man loudly talking on his cell. It’s always funny to enter a conversation part way through. As we were passing, he said: “she got canned today too!!” Finally, there was another man talking on his phone, and as we passed by he was complaining to whoever he was talking to about the fact that he had been cut down to “just a pound and a half of medical marijuana.”

We then went back to the hotel for an hour to relax and drop our purchases off.

In the evening, we went for another walk. This time, we walked by the Bow River. It is a really nice spot to walk.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 8:30am. The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so we got dressed and went down for food. It was a pretty good buffet. We had eggs, potatoes, grapefruit, orange juice and coffee. I had a croissant and Huib had a waffle. When we got back upstairs, Huib surprised Rogue with a couple of sausages to add to her pork rib breakfast.

I still needed to memorize my conference notes, so we spent a bit of time in the room before we went touring. We walked around Bow River, checking out the island in the middle. They created a really nice park on the island, with pedestrian bridges crossing over to it, so we walked around most of it. We also checked out some more stores. I almost bought a jacket for running, but it was only $20 off, so we decided to just wait because it was also on the bigger side.

For our last night in Calgary, we decided to go for a little bit of a fancy dinner. We walked around for over an hour and a half trying to decide where we wanted to eat, but there were too many options. Finally, we chose a place called The Gild. This place had caught our eye earlier that day because they had whole pig parts hanging in glass sided fridges to age. We thought it looked pretty interesting.

On the menu outside it listed meals from $40 to over $100. Once inside, we learned that the majority of the choices over $100 were meant to be shared, so I guess that actually isn’t too bad. When Huib read those options, he learned that they were 85% protein, so you got small sides and then a ridiculously huge portion of beef or something else.

I chose an applewood smoked half chicken meal that came with a cool poutine like side and grilled veggies. It was fries with chicken gravy, peas, shredded chicken and cheese – very yummy!! I also had a mimosa, a drink that contains champaign and orange juice.

Even though Alberta only recognizes program-trained service dogs, I did not get asked once about Rogue. The only comments I got were about how well-behaved and good looking she is.

Calgary is a pretty neat city. I think I would like to go back some day to see more of it.