Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Now that I am done school for a few weeks, it was time to turn the house into a holiday oasis.

Kira hugs a big, tall spruce tree.

Huib cuts down the tree.

Kira, Huib and I went to a tree farm just outside of Guelph to pick out our Christmas tree.

I am standing in front of our Christmas tree with my sister

Me with my sister and step-dad in front of the tree. We also have /Canyon, Rogue, Cessna, Arizona and their cousin Dexter sitting with us.

After we did some decorating, Brandi I headed to Walmart to pick up some last minute decorations.

I also did some modelling…

This is a light brown dog hat. The ears move along to some Christmas music.

This one is a red and white elf hat with bells that sings & moves.

Her's a red Santa hat with zebra print on the brim and the pom-pom.

This is a camouflage hat with moose antlers that move along to Christmas music.

We had a busy and fun weekend. I can’t wait for Christmas to come.

It’s Time

Well, I guess it’s time. It’s time to make it official.

Cessna is now retired.

I had always planned to retire her by the age of 10, but she wanted to work longer, so I let her make the decision. She hasn’t wanted to come out for a while now, so if I think back to the last time she worked, I think it would be at the end of September or early October. that means she’s been retired for over 2 months now.

Can you believe that? Retired for 2 months and I just finally got around to making it official.

I haven’t told her school yet and I’m not really sure I ever will. They haven’t contacted me in years and to be honest, I could care less about them knowing.

All that really matters is she’s happy and healthy.

I had wanted to have a retirement party for Cessna, but all of our friends have been busy and many have moved away, so I think I’ll just let it go. I think I will buy her a new retirement collar and leash though…

This is really hard. It’s hard putting it into real words, finally saying to everyone that Cessna is retired. She hasn’t worked in a while, so it’s not like I haven’t known it was happening, but putting it into words makes it real.

It’s been an amazing 9 plus years of working together my little Cessnaroo, but it is time to hang up your harness for good and to start a new adventure together. You taught me so much over the years. If it weren’t for you, I’m not sure I would have ever learned about clicker training or the importance of positive reinforcement. I’m not even sure I would have thought about fostering puppies, let alone raise and train my own guide dog. You are one amazing little lab.

I will try to make your retirement years as wonderful as your working years have been.

Happy Birthday Cessna

Cessna is now 11 years old!!

We didn’t do too much on the actual day of her birthday because I had school and Huib had work.

The dogs each got fresh beef bones for breakfast, and a ground beef Kong for dinner.

Since Cessna’s birthday is so close to Halloween, we decided to have a mini-Halloween costume party for her.

Arizona wears a green frog costume. It has a stuffed frog head that is on her head, and stuffed frog legs.

Canyon wears a Tigger costume. The costume has a stuffed Tigger head that is sitting on his head.

Both Rogue, the lion, and Cessna, the monarch butterfly, weren’t into being photographed, so we just took pictures of the goldens.

Arizona in her frog costume with a big smile on her face

Arizona really didn’t seem to mind her costume.

Canyon Looking for Trick or Treaters. He's looking out the screen door in his tigger costume, so the picture is taken from behind.

We had about 60 kids come, so Canyon thought it was great.

Arizona passed out on the floor in her costume

It was a pretty exhausting day, and then night for the little frog.

During the day Huib and I took the dogs to visit residents at the long-term care home where he works. We took the goldens together and then in the afternoon we took the labs. The dogs were a big hit with the residents.

Cessna even had her friends Ace and Piper come for a visit in their super hero costumes.

Happy Birthday Cessnaroo! We all love you!

Corners and More Corners

Today Rogue had her third tracking lesson with Search and Rescue Dogs, Ontario.

She was a freaking superstar!!

Other then being a bit too enthusiastic, Rogue nailed her lesson on tracking corners.

We have graduated to the next level, so we are now working with a woman named Mary-Anne.

There were only 2 other dogs, a Beagle and a German Shepherd, in our group, so we had a chance to do 5 long tracks.

Mary-Anne had us each go and lay our tracks. She told us to do the same as we had been before, but that once we reached the spot where we wanted to turn, we were to put a flag and then continue past a bit. They continue past the flag in order to make sure the dogs are using their noses to find the track and not following the flags. Once we started our corner, we didn’t go as far as we had, so the track ends up sort of being an L-shape.

rogue wanted to run, so zigzagged a lot her first track. Mary-Anne said that Rogue is a really fast dog. She says it looks like she really knows what she is doing, but that she wants to go faster than we are going and as a result, gets frustrated and pulls. I suggested Huib do the next track or two on his own, just to give Rogue a chance to go as fast as she wanted and see how she does. Mary-Anne thought it was a good idea, so that is what we did.

Rogue did fabulously! In addition to having Huib do the tracks on his own, he also began laying the treats closer together, so it would get her back on task and slow her down a bit. We were using cut up chicken wieners, so we knew she’d slow down for them.

After Huib did two tracks on his own, I rejoined the team and we had two successful, final tracks.

I’m not sure where we will end up going with tracking, but Rogue seems to really enjoy the lessons and excel at it, so we’ll see where she takes us.

Growing Up

It’s hard to believe we have already had our Wild Child for 3 months, but it’s true!

Arizona hanging over the edge of the big jet tub, playing in the bubbles. She has bubbles around her nose and under her chin.

Arizona is maturing and growing quickly, but she’s still just as crazy as ever.

Hmmm….what’s been happening with her since the last time I wrote…

Ari is now 19 inches tall, 18 inches long, has a 22 inch girth and weighs 38.5lbs.

She is also teething, so we really have to watch what she puts in her mouth. She seems to think everything is chewable. So far she has redesigned our front door mat, added some artistic touches to a few baseboards and created handfuls of wood chips, doing her beaver impression on fallen tree branches in the backyard.

On the training front –

We have started field lessons, so our homework right now is to work on having her sit in one spot until we give her a release word, to not just come when we whistle and to walk on our left side.

We are working with Susie Bell of Pinebank Labrador Retrievers. Susie is a Labrador Retriever breeder who teaches both obedience and field work. With our schedule and my visual limitations, we have decided to do private lessons, so we meet with Susie every 2-3 weeks.

Our work with Arizona is slow going, but she’s getting there. we really want to avoid luring and forcing her into position as much as possible, so it’s taking longer to teach her to sit and heel then it could.

Ari is a bundle of energy, but she is extremely curious and confident, so it’s been a learning experience for us and a lot of fun at the same time. I had hoped to be further in her basic training by now, but with her energy and independent-mindedness, I needed to take a step back and let her mature and let me enjoy her without the frustration. I did this with Rogue and even though her training took longer, I think that in the end she became a better companion for us, so I hope the same can be said for Ari when she’s Rogue’s age.

we finally got Arizona’s CKC paperwork in the mail this past week. She is now officially registered as: Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

She will make her conformation debut next weekend at the Elgin County Kennel Club show, which also happens to be the Purina National. Arizona is still considered a Baby Puppy, so she will only show on Sunday. Canyon is also entered, but he shows on both Saturday and Sunday with Huib and then again on Saturday with our friend Kira, who will make her debut as a Junior Handler.

I am not so sure Ari will do well in the CKC conformation shows, because she’s from a working line, so I talked to my friend Amy who has Dalmatians and I think we’re going to try and show our dogs together in the US starting in February. I just need to ask Arizona’s breeder for full breeding rights, so that I can register her with the AKC – wish me luck!

That’s probably about all I have to update everyone on for now with Arizona. I have some entertaining antics to share, but I will try and put them together in a separate post.

Keith Urban

Brooke & Rogue posing in front of the Tiger Cats logo. Brooke is on one knee, wearing white jeans, a black hooded Roots sweatshirt, white roots baseball cap and black leather sandals, while Rogue is standing beside her in her red harness.

Last night Rogue and I went to see Darius Rucker and Keith Urban with Huib and our friend Sam. The new Tiger Cats stadium was opening in Hamilton and it was a pretty big event. The stadium was SO busy and loud, apparently there were like 20,000 people expected. Rogue was an absolute champ the entire evening. She walked beside me calmly when Huib guided me through the huge crowds, she guided me with confidence up and down the various stairs we needed to climb for our seats and during the concert, she slept under our chairs, where barely anyone noticed her. She wasn’t the only guide dog at the concert either, Huib saw a woman in the accessible seating area with her yellow lab guide that wore a brown harness. We chose not to sit in accessible seating because in my opinion it’s better not to use it if you don’t really need it – which I do not.

The concert was awesome. Darius Rucker played a lot of his newer stuff and a bit of his stuff from when he was with Hootie and the Blowfish. He has such an awesome sounding voice. Keith Urban was better though. He was so into making sure the crowd had a good time and interacted with as many people as he could. Even though Huib and I Originally weren’t too thrilled on going to see him, we are glad we did, he was just that good!

With this concert, Rogue has now attended 4 concerts and one musical. I’m not sure what our next adventure will be, but I’m sure it won’t be too far away.

Our First Day

I am now a graduate student!

On Monday, Rogue and I started our new adventure at McMaster University.

Rogue and I walk up concrete stairs. You can just see our backs and you can tell that Rogue is happy because her tail is sticking straight out.

I am doing my masters in the Department of Health, Aging and Society. This semester I am taking two classes and leading two tutorials. I am pretty nervous about all of the upcoming changes, but as long as I have my Roga-Monster by my side, I think I’ll be okay.

We got lost a few times our first couple days, but no matter what happened, Rogue did her job well and kept us safe. It will probably take me a few weeks to become comfortable with the various routes around campus, but as long as Rogue does her job, then I will work hard at doing mine.

If nothing else, this week has been amazing for Rogue and I. Having to learn to navigate a large, extremely busy campus has forced us to trust one another and Rogue has risen to the challenge. This week, she has shown me how ready she is to finally take over fully from Cessna – now we just need to convince Cessna that she is ready to hand over the reins.

The wild Child

Today we went to our friend, Sam’s place to help her move.

In the morning i just brought Arizona, so we wouldn’t need to worry about leaving her too long. She was awesome! She played out in the yard and then slept most of the afternoon.

Later on, Huib needed to go into work for a bit, so he brought over Rogue and Cessna and then took Canyon with him to work. the girls were all very well-behaved. They played together and then relaxed while Sam and I put together Kira’s room and helped Mikayla put up some pictures on her wall.

After Huib and Canyon returned, we all needed a break so sat on the deck while the dogs played.

Arizona is such a good sport. We thought it would be fun to see how she liked the swing and slide in the yard.

She LOVED it!

Arizona sits in a red baby swing with a yellow table.

We had to help her up the ladder on the slide, but she did the rest herself.

Arizona zooms down a yellow slide. She's kind of blurry because she's going so fast. She even has her front legs down flat in front of her and her hind end up as if she's going down a ski jump, lol!

Arizona is one CRAZY 3.5 year old puppy!!

RIM Park

Every Friday we get together with our friend karen and her dog, Spark, in either Guelph or Waterloo.

this week we chose to travel to RIM Park with Arizona and Cessna.

I had never been to RIM Park, so it was a pretty neat experience. There were tons of different things to do with Arizona and Spark.

We took them on various bleachers, over a number of different surfaces and even had them walking on the playground equipment.

Spark wasn’t too sure about some of the surfaces and playground stuff, but Arizona continues to wow us with her fearlessness.

Brooke, Cessna and Arizona sit in the middle of an artificial turf soccer field. Brooke is wearing a long sleeved teal shirt with a navy blue vest, jeans, a white roots baseball cap and white running shoes. Cessna is lying beside her wearing her black leather CVC harness, purple Silverfoot martingale collar that has brown Haida whales on it and a black nylon leash that goes across Brooke's body. Arizona is wearing her Mickey Mouse collar and harness with a thin black nylon leash. Arizona is all fuzzy because she's trying to jet away.

same picture as before, but this time Arizona is laying down in front of Brooke and Cessna.

Rogue In Action

After missing July’s tracking lesson, we got back at it.

And, Rogue was a freaking pro!!

Rogue searches for the scent. the picture is taken from the side, you can see me holding her tight leash and Huib walking closer to her head in case she needs some direction.

A front view of Rogue searching.

A front view picture taken from a lower point.

rogue is getting close to the end of the track we laid. She's pulling hard towards her prize.

Rogue has found her orange Orbi ball on an orange braided nylon strap. The picture is sort of taken from the side back and you can only see Rogue with her toy.

We laid two shorter (50 feet long) and three or four longer (130 feet long) tracks for rogue to do.

On the shorter tracks, we had the treats laid out every couple of feet, but once we got to the longer tracks she was only getting treats about every 10 to 20 feet. On the longer tracks, Huib would lay four treats a foot apart from one another and then walk 15 to 20 feet before he laid four more treats a foot apart from one another.

Rogue freaking rocked the tracking lesson. If we had not run out of treats, the instructor was going to have us start spacing the treats out to 25 or 30 feet – which is our homework.

Huib, Rogue and I stand together. Huib and I are facing the camera, but rogue has her side showing. Huib is wearing jeans with a navy blue hooded sweatshirt. I am wearing jeans with a teal t-shirt and navy blue vest, pink baseball cap and rogue is wearing her teal Silverfoot martingale and a brown leather braided leash.

Rogue made us SO proud! We are going to try hard to practice before the next session, when we’ll begin learning about tracking corners.