Adventures in Running: 12 More Days

D is back for a week or so.

On Saturday afternoon, we did a seven kilometre route in about 70 minutes.

Normally, we warm-up before starting to run. This time, I didn’t think about it, so after our second run, my lower calf muscles were hurting.

So, we walked at a brisk speed until I felt better.

Our route was a bit more hilly and the temperature was warmer, so I think it slowed us down a bit.

I was also a bit klutzy at times – poor D!!

Despite all of this, I think the run/brisk walk went well. Maybe I’m imagining things, but I felt as though we ran longer spurts.

This week is supposed to be warmer, so I am hoping we can get out a couple of times. I would much rather run several days outdoors, than even once on the treadmill, lol!!

After showering and getting dressed again, Huib and I went to The Running Room for some clothes. I got a baby blue jacket that has silver reflective, a long-sleeve black shirt and pants that are navy with baby blue on them. I thought about getting something to carry water and snacks, but I am not great at drinking while I walk, so I don’t see myself drinking while I run/walk, lol!!

I also talked to the clerk about finding another guide runner. She took down my contact information and said she would put an ad into their next newsletter – Very Cool!!

Just 12 more days before I do my very first, and probably not my last, 10k race – Scary Stuff!!

Adventures in Running: Progress

D came around 6:00pm last night, as a break from studying. It had been a day of sun, clouds and sudden downpours, so we had no clue what would happen during our run. Just before 6:00pm it poured, but then quickly cleared up and became sunny, so we were off.

We did a 5 kilometre route. We did our warm-up and then began to run. I felt really heavy on my feet and had some muscle discomfort in my shin region. I had done some stretches before D arrived, but it really didn’t seem to make a difference. Thankfully, the discomfort went away shortly after our second section of running.

Even though I stretch and we always warm-up, I wonder if I need to start doing a short pre-warm-up session on the treadmill as well… I did it once before and the run seemed to go really well, so maybe I should try to do this more regularly…

I think Jason might be right and I just need more time to warm-up.

After the second run, I began to feel lighter on my feet. Our first two runs were surprisingly good distance-wise, but I definitely began to feel better by the third. We walked up each hill (Guelph is a really hilly city), but we ran down one of the smaller hills.

In total, we ran about 200 metres, six different times. This is a really big increase for me!!

I felt really good after the run.

I am worried about the upcoming 10 kilometre race, but it is not for another month and a half.

So for now, I will take Dory’s advice and, “keep on swimming.”

Adventures in Running: Better

I have been training for 110 days.

I am still not a fan of running on the treadmill, but it is getting easier to run outdoors.

I haven’t been great about writing things down, so I am just going to talk about what I’ve been up to workout-wise the past couple of weeks.

After my week of not-so-good workouts, things began to improve.

I was pretty busy marking and preparing for the International Working dog Conference, so I only got a couple of workouts in before we left.

Tuesday afternoon, I did a run with D. I hadn’t done anything in a few days, so I did a bit of a pre-workout. I started with some stretching and then I walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I hoped the extra effort would improve our outing – it did!! We did our 4.1 kilometre route in 40 minutes. We ran about 120 to 150 metres five or six different times along the route. I felt a lot better than I had been. I felt lighter and did not seem to be heel-striking when I ran.

After the run, I talked to my friend Jason over iMessage about the improvement. I told him about the pre-workout stuff I did and he said it might be possible that I need a longer warm-up. I mentioned ;this to Jess and she agrees, so we’ll increase the warm-up portion of my workouts.

On Wednesday, I did a tough treadmill workout. Jess asked me to increase both my warm-up and cool downs to five minutes. She then gave me my assignment: one minute run, four minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk, three minute run, two minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk, one minute run and four minute walk. I warmed up at 3.1, ran at 4.5, walked at 3.5 and cooled down at 3.0 miles.

I did the warm-up, one minute run, four minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk and 3 minute run before I needed to take a 30 second breather. I then did the two minute walk and two minute run before taking another 30 seconds. Finally, I did the three minute walk, one minute run, four minute walk and then only did a three minute cool down. I didn’t do the full five minute cool down because I had a visitor coming in an hour and I needed time to shower and dress.

Even though I had to take breaks, I still felt my workout went a lot better than past ones.

While we were in Calgary and Banff, Huib and I did a lot of walking. Huib is a pretty fast walker, so I didn’t need to worry about finding a gym. I didn’t get any running in, but I don’t think my fitness level suffered.

Around 3:50pm today, D texted to see if I had time for a run. I was just drinking the last of an extra large coffee, so I said “sure,” but asked if we could get together in an hour. I wanted to give the coffee some time to vacate, lol!

D arrived around 4:40. We did our usual 4.1 kilometre route. We walked from my place, down Watt, left on Starwood up to Grange, crossed over and then began to run. We ran about five different times along the route. D felt we ran further than usual, doing at least 150 metres each time. We aren’t the greatest at measuring distances, so other than our full route, the rest of the measurements are kind of estimates. I was worried about the coffee making me feel sluggish, but I felt surprisingly light on my feet.

If it hadn’t been for the wind, I think we might have been able to run more. When we ran into the wind, I felt as though I couldn’t really breathe effectively. I honestly thought I might need to consider bringing my inhaler next time. It has been years since I actually needed to use it, but the wind really made me feel kind of nervous. Maybe if my nose hadn’t been as stuffy from the cold, breathing would have been a bit easier.

Other than the breathing problems, I didn’t feel any discomfort, so I guess my left hip muscle issue is gone – yay!!

I really think I’ve made a lot of progress since starting this adventure on December 19th.

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!!

Adventures in Running: A Rough One

I want to keep everyone up-to-date with my progress. I also think publicly writing about it helps me stay accountable.

Things are going pretty well this week, but last week was pretty rough.

D and I got together at 8:30am on the 15th for a run. It was a bit crisp temperature-wise, but once we got going, it wasn’t too bad. Our biggest challenge was the snow on the sidewalks. Most of the sidewalks close to my house were quite clear, but some of the others we travelled were full of drifts because on top of the snow was a lot of gusting wind.

Like usual we started out walking a couple of blocks to warm-up. There are three long metal electrical wire covers along the warm-up route, so that’s why we walk it. Once we passed the third grate, we started running to Grange. I’m not sure how far I made it, but probably about 100 metres before I needed to slow down. The rest of the route went very similar, we only did about four more running spurts which equalled about 100 metres each. So, on top of running less of a distance, we also couldn’t manage as many attempts.

On the bright side, we still got back to my place within the same amount of time as before, so I guess we must have at least walked faster.

We planned to get together again on Saturday, but D went home for the weekend, so we rescheduled for Wednesday. Then we got wild weather Wednesday, so we’ll try again Friday.

On the treadmill workout front, Jess continues to push me 🙂 Unfortunately, my migraines have really been getting in the way.

On Friday, I did 40 minutes that included incline work. I developed a bit of muscle discomfort in my left hip region, so Jess suggested I walk and avoid going past incline level four.

My walking pace has really increased since beginning this adventure. In December, my fastest speed was around 3.0, but this is now my cool down pace. My normal walking speed is up to 3.5 miles and is creeping towards 3.7.

The workout didn’t go too badly overall, but I definitely felt like giving up at various points. I pushed myself and got through all, but incline four, where my muscle discomfort began to increase after 2.5 minutes, so I finished the last 2.5 minutes at a lower incline level.

Jess and I have been talking about the 10k goal and we’ve decided to increase my workout days to four times a week.

On Monday, I had a migraine during the day, so in the evening I did a 35 minute walking workout that had me changing speeds. I did the usual three minute warm-up, then I did 6 reps of five minutes at 3.7 and five at 3.9. Other than getting really warm and wanting to stop because I was bored, I did it all, including a two minute cool down.

I’m not sure why, but i’m really finding it tough to get through some of my workouts right now…

Tuesday, I did a walk/run interval workout – I really dislike these ones!! I did my normal three minute warm-up at 3.1, up from 3.0, then attempted to do three minutes of walking at 3.6 and two minutes of running. I am still trying to figure out a good treadmill running speed, so I played around a little. My first run was at 5.0 and the second was at 5.5. After each run, I had to pause the timer for 30 seconds to catch my breath, wipe my face and drink a bit of water. Thinking I might be able to go without stopping if I slowed it down some, I did the third and fourth runs at 4.5, but I still had to take a break. At this point, I wanted to quit, but I also didn’t feel horrible, so I pushed myself to try a fifth run at 5.0. I only got through 90 seconds of the final run, but I was happy I tried and I finished with a three minute cool down at 3.0.

Since D and I weren’t able to get together on Wednesday, Jess said she had “an easy workout” for me to do. She was totally fibbing!! I got distracted by the papers I needed to mark and by a book I’m reading, so I didn’t get around to the workout until later in the evening.

In total, my workout was 48 minutes long. I did a three minute warm-up at 3.1, then did four intervals of walking at 3.7 and 3.9/4.0. I started out well. I did two full intervals without pausing the timer. After the second 4.0, I stopped for 30 seconds. I slowed the third interval from 4.0 to 3.9, hoping I could push through to the end of the fourth without stopping, but I had to stop for a minute. Then, after the fourth 3.7, I stopped for three minutes. I was done, I didn’t want to go any further, but then I felt really guilty. So, I made myself get back to work and squeezed out 2.5 minutes at 4.0 and then did a five minute cool down. Even though I didn’t get through the final five minutes of 4.0, I still felt good about it because I pushed myself to go further than I wanted.

Today is my day off, then D and I run at 8:30am.

Tracking Frustrations

This week we didn’t have obedience because Huib had to work late and I have been dealing with some weather-related migraines.

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This afternoon we had tracking with Laura and others. It was quite a large group: Sandy with Stewart, Mary with Cordelia, Annie with Trixie and Maestro, and then us with Rogue, Arizona and Canyon.

It was a pretty cold day, so Mary brought us all hot chocolate, Sandy brought yummy scones and we brought banana nut bread.

Laura laid tracks for Stewart, Cordelia, Rogue and Arizona before we all arrived, so they would have time to age. She then asked Huib to lay tracks for Trixie and Maestro, while Annie laid a track for Canyon.

Stewart and Cordelia went first. Each of them struggled a bit with their track, but did a good job overall.

Rogue went next. She did a beautiful job on her first leg, but then she got lost on her second and third legs. I’m not sure what messed her up, but it kind of frustrated me. I was probably totally over-thinking things, but I kept wondering if maybe we shouldn’t even consider entering the urban test in April. Laura said the area was quite contaminated and not to worry, and Huib feels the wind might have played a part, but I was still a bit frustrated with Rogue’s work – I’m such a bad handler, I shouldn’t have blamed her for the problems… Rogue did a great job on the rest of her track, so she definitely redeemed herself – good girl!!

I’m still not sure I want to enter the test in April, but I think we have a bit of time to decide.

Arizona was next. She did some great work, but then some not-so-good stuff. She almost missed her first article. Then she got really distracted by a bunch of birds, specifically a fat robin, lol!! I think she also found it tough working close to a fence line.

I’m not sure if it was the cold temperatures or the fact we were working in a school yard, but all of the more advanced dogs seemed to face some challenges today.

Canyon had had a seizure around noon, so we did an easy warm-up track to judge how he was feeling. His last seizure was a mild one on February 3rd. Added to the upcoming snowstorm that is forecasted to hit tomorrow, this is about his regular time for another. His seizure was one of his usual ones, with lots of drooling, muscle tremors, fixed eyes, but totally aware of things around him, and a release of his anal glands. Once it was over, he got up and started begging for my lunch, lol!! The warm-up track went well, so we decided to let him do the one Annie laid.

He found both of the articles and did a great job on the final leg, but he was pretty unsettled. I’m really hoping that as he continues to run tracks, he’ll return to his initial focused working that we witnessed a month ago.

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I’m not sure if it’s related to his unsettled work at tracking, but a couple of hours after we got home, Canyon had a second seizure. This one was short, but about the same intensity as the one earlier in the day. I think it might be the upcoming snowstorm that is causing him problems. I sure know it has been causing me issues, with constant migraines and nausea at times.

For both of our sakes, I hope Mother Nature makes up her mind soon and sticks with some sort of weather for a while before changing again.

Quiet

This week has been a bit quieter. Other than obedience class on Thursday night, we haven’t done too much.

Classes at McMaster were out for winter break, so I didn’t even have marking to do. For those who don’t know, I am a grader for one of the third year classes. The class is on disability, chronic illness and aging, so it’s been pretty interesting so far. The readings for the class are informative and it has been a bit of an eye opening experience to read some of the responses students give to questions posed by the instructor on issues, such as physician-assisted death.

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Arizona and I were the first to show Susie what work we have done.

Before we could do this, Susie had me walk with her in the training area without Ari. I think she is hoping that by practicing the patterns regularly, I won’t be as nervous when the time comes for us to actually enter a trial.

Once we had gone over two different patterns, Huib let go of Arizona’s leash and she came barrelling over to me.

I began with our usual warm-up exercise of, sit, down, touch, and then we did some turning. I turn in the same spot, so Ari has to pivot with me and keep her back end moving in line with my movements. Ari isn’t always great at this exercise, but after a while, she catches on.

Susie noticed that Arizona appears to have a good ‘touch,’ so she suggested we try using it on turns, to keep her attention on me and also keep her lined up properly.

When I turn right, I ask her to ‘touch’ my hand, which is at my left pant seam, as we finish the turn. By doing this, it keeps her focus on me and stops her from moving too far ahead. When I do a 180, I ask for a ‘touch’ before we turn and then as we finish. In all cases, she’s touching my left hand by my pant seam and I am passing a treat from my right pocket to my left hand. I need to work on not moving my left hand from its anchor spot. I think this will work though because Ari’s ‘touch’ has really come along since we first started it in late October.

I think we did a pretty good job of following the directions Susie laid out for us. Ari’s heel is coming along. She was still a bit sniffy at times, but Huib wonders if maybe there’s something on the floor because Rogue also wanted to sniff in that area. I will just keep working on their floor zen (leaving treats and stuff alone on the floor unless cued to interact with them).

When we did the figure eight, Susie and Huib were the posts – very distracting for poor Ari. I used the ‘touch’ cue to keep her attention on me and away from Susie and Huib. As I finished the turn around the post, I asked Ari to ‘touch,’ which kept her head from moving towards the posts and we were able to stay in motion and on track.

I asked Susie if she felt Arizona and I might be ready to consider a trial in the near future and she said we have a lot of work to do. Personally, I think we’ve made huge progress since our first lesson back and this is only our third. I am hoping that if I keep working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels and on the Fenzi Academy classes we are taking, that maybe we can prove Susie wrong.

Then it was Rogue and Huib’s turn.

Huib has really tried to do a lot of work with Rogue. It really showed. I don’t think Susie had anything bad to say about their performance.

She had them run through two different exercises and they were great!!

Susie thinks that if they continue to practice, they should be ready for a trial soon.

After having Huib and Rogue work, Susie suggested Arizona and I do some more work with her. She had us practice walking and stopping. She feels Ari is too used to being given a cue twice, so wants me to correct her immediately if she ignores the first cue. I did this, but I am going to keep working hard on having Arizona respond to my first cue, so that I won’t have to give her leash corrections for longer than necessary. I really do not like leash corrections and I try to only use them if the dogs are in danger, like if they are about to run out into the road or something.

After a while of that, we moved on to doing some sit-stays and recalls. Arizona is doing really well at sit-stays, but still struggles at staying as I return to her side. I think it will just take time for her to realize it’s okay. Usually I expect the dogs to move out of my way, but I need them to learn that if I ask them to stay, it means they don’t have to move out of my way when I come near.

Our next class is Thursday evening, so I will continue working on incorporating the ‘touch’ into our turns and also work on floor zen and longer sit-stays.

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On Sunday, we were supposed to have urban tracking, but Huib got called into work. It worked out okay though, because I had a pretty bad migraine with nausea most of the day. With this unstable winter weather, I’m dealing with a lot more migraines than usual. Winter tends to be the better time for me, migraine-wise, but not this year. I am hoping things will calm down soon, so I can give my liver a break from all of the extra medications I have had to take.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope everyone is staying safe.

Adventures In Running: What Am I Thinking?

I have been training to run for 63 days.

I am progressing slowly, but change is definitely happening – I have lost eight pounds!!

Two weeks ago, I found out my abstract was accepted, and I will be presenting at the annual Canadian Disability Studies Association conference taking place May 31 to June 2. I don’t know what day or time my presentation will be, but I now know that I am free the last weekend of May.

So…

I will be doing a 10 kilometre race with my friends, Jess, Jason and Jon, in Ottawa.

Now, my training really means more than just getting healthier.

My last two workout assignments from Jess were torture!!

On Saturday, before we did our tracking stuff, I did 23 minutes on the treadmill, which doesn’t seem too bad, right?

Well, Jess asked me to do my usual warm-up and cool down, and to do six repetitions of two minutes walking and one minute running. To get a comfortable running pace, I set the treadmill at 5.0 miles and then my walk is at 3.4.

The first three times through were fine. Once I finished the fourth session of running, I needed to stop. I had to stop the treadmill, for 30 seconds, in order to catch my breath. I did the same thing after my fifth running session.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it through the sixth time. Luckily, I had Huib to cheer me on. He counted down the seconds. When I finished the sixth repetition of running, I was DYING!!!

I had to stop the treadmill for a full minute before I could do my final walking session, and then the cool down.

I did it though. I did the entire assignment!!!

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Monday was another torture session.

When I first got my assignment, walk for 45 minutes raising the incline of the treadmill platform by one every other five minutes (lowering it back to the regular incline after five), I was like,, “cool, that’s no problem.”

In the past, the long walks with different incline work has been tough, but okay.

I was wrong. It was more than just tough…

I began with my usual warm-up of 3 minutes at 3.0, and then the ‘real’ work began.

The regular incline I work at is one, because this incline would be similar to running outdoors.

I started with five minutes at an incline of one, then I did five minutes at 2. At the 18 minute mark, I dropped down to one for five minutes, and then went up to level three for five minutes.

Incline levels two through four were tough, but not horrible. Level five was killer!!

I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of the five minutes, but I did. When I was through, I had to stop the treadmill and just breathe for a minute before I could complete the last walking part.

It is VERY awkward working at an incline of five. I couldn’t imagine having to do longer than five minutes.

Even though my comfortable, fast walking pace remains around 3.4 miles, it’s okay. I am just hoping I can start extending my runs to more than a minute at a time, or the 10 kilometre run is going to take forever, lol!!

Until next time.

Busy Bees

The past two weekends have been good weather-wise, so we have been out tracking at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend Laura laid a really tough track for Rogue. She did an AMAZING job!!

The track was on Johnston Green, where a lot of students cut across to get to the corner of College and Gordon. There were a couple of corners where Rogue had to work harder to locate the track amongst all of the other scents, but she idd it perfectly. She has really improved over the past year.

This weekend’s track was a bit easier, but it still had some places where Rogue needed to work things out. I think the toughest part of her track was having to work through areas of slushy snow and puddles. It got up to about 8 degrees celsius on Saturday, so we had a lot of slush.

I am really glad I bought waterproof shoes last month. They kept my feet warm and dry, while also giving me enough traction to navigate the snow, slush and sections of ice.

Last weekend Arizona’s track was around MacDonald Hall towards the hospitality buildings. Laura and I stayed on the opposite side of the road to watch because Huib and Arizona had to cross the road twice. Arizona did a bang-up job!! Other than a bit of hesitation when she had to cross over the road, she really didn’t struggle at all. I love listening to people describe her working.

This weekend’s track was more about navigating the deeper snow. Laura wanted to see how she’d do with the challenge of finding her scent amongst the snow and other people’s footprints. Huib was able to see the track somewhat, so it gave him an idea of when Ari was checking out a cross track or if she was actually on the track itself. Other than taking the wrong direction near the end, she did great!! Ari had briefly indicated the correct direction, but it was such a fleeting indication, that Huib missed it.

Arizona has only been tracking for a year and she is such a different worker now than she was three months ago.

Last weekend, Canyon did a tough track that included pavement, snow, ice and sculptures. His track went through the sculpture garden at MacDonald Hall. I had to do a lot of encouraging, but he did a pretty good job considering how new all of this is for him.

This weekend, Canyon seemed a bit more unsure than usual. He kept running back to us, so I just encouraged him to continue on. Laura says that this behaviour is pretty common for obedience dogs. Canyon hasn’t really done formal obedience trials, but we have been training for them and he also does other dog events, like conformation, so I think her comment is still valid. She said that a lot of obedience dogs find it tough to work on their own, without constant direction, like they don’t think it’s okay to track.

I think it will just take Canyon some time to realize that it’s okay to work things out and to do things on his own, without any cues from me. Once he gets the idea of it, he’ll really excel!!

It has been really good for me to work with him. He is really a different worker than Rogue. I also find he’s less all over the track, so right now, it’s sometimes a bit easier to read him. This may change as he gets more confident though.

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On Tuesday I had my annual check up with my ophthalmologist. Alain wants to keep a close eye on how my optic nerves are doing, so each appointment begins with an O.C.T. (I just know the ‘O’ stands for optical). The images from the O.C.T. will give him a good idea of what is happening and if anything has changed. He wants to keep this record, so that when stem cell research into optic nerve regeneration progresses far enough, he will attempt it with my worse eye. In my left I really only have light perception, so I wouldn’t lose anything if it didn’t work. From the images he got this year, nothing has changed, so he was happy with the results. I had my pressure in each eye tested, but I didn’t have to have them dilated – YAY!!! My pressures were normal. Alain says he checks pressures because it would be a shame if I lost more vision because of something he could have prevented. He’s a pretty cool guy.

It would be really strange to have my full vision back. I wouldn’t mind having more than I do now, but I don’t know if I would want it all…

Unless I run into any problems, I’m good for another year.

We were going to meet one of my aunts for dinner, so we stuck around London after the appointment.

I needed to get a new CNIB card, since mine expires in March – it’s kind of funny to know that the card expires, it’s not like I’m going to stop being visually impaired. The new card should arrive in about two weeks. I hope the picture is better than my last one.

We went to dinner at Dawghouse with my Aunt Tracey. We haven’t seen her in a while, so it was nice to catch up. The food was great!! I had a vegetable stir fry with spicy teriyaki sauce, while Huib had a turkey club with fries and Aunty had a beef dip with a salad. We had a really large lunch at the Mandarin, so I ended up taking half of my meal home. After dinner we went over to Aunty’s place and they opened their Christmas presents. Last year, we had all planned to do a stocking sort of thing, so Aunty had Huib’s name and Dad had to buy for Aunty. We had an ice storm before our Christmas dinner, so Aunty was not able to make it. Huib got an awesome cushion for his chair at the office or in the car, along with a cute moose toque, a big travel mug and some other things that I cannot remember.

Huib is going to look pretty adorable tracking in his moose toque!!

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Friday was obedience class. Susie was quite impressed with the progress both girls have made.

Arizona and I need to continue working on heeling and sit-stays. I also need to get her used to people walking around her for the “sit for examination,” and making a beep noise when we’re doing the figure eight.

Since I cannot see, the obedience judge will have the ring stewards be the posts, making a “beep, beep…” sound as I approach. Arizona thinks this is pretty exciting at the moment, lol!!

I also need to keep working on ‘leave it’ because she wanted to sniff the floor at times, which really got in the way of my ability to remain in a straight line.

Like us, Rogue and Huib need to continue working on heeling and some stay stuff. She is paying more attention to him, dropping her head less, so that is huge progress!!

I think working with Rogue is good for Huib because it will make him a better trainer. He says that unlike the goldens, Rogue really seems to cue off his body. As a result, he needs to pay close attention to what he’s doing and make sure she knows he’s watching. When he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she will often start tossing behaviours at him, hoping she’ll give him what he wants and get a reward.

From personally working with Rogue, and listening to them work together, I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to her more. I talk to her a lot when we are out walking and also while we’re tracking, so that’s what she is used to. I think she gets distracted or thinks she’s doing something wrong when we don’t communicate with her enough.

Rogue is a sensitive girl, so needs to know she’s doing things correctly. I think this communication is needed most when she’s initially learning things, then he can probably back off a bit.

While the girls were learning, Canyon was visiting his friends Mandi and Maddy. Last time we had obedience class, I left him at home, and he had a seizure. We got home just as it was finishing, but it still made us nervous to leave him again. Dad is usually pretty good at paying attention to him, but I think Canyon must have fallen asleep on the couch upstairs, waiting for us to return. i think the seizure caught him off guard, so he didn’t have enough time to get to Dad. It must have been a pretty mild one because when we arrived, he was still on the couch, laying close to the edge. If it had been a moderate or bad one, then he definitely would have fallen off. His head was up, so it was his usual partial one, but it still worried us. As long as Mandi and family are not busy, they have offered to take him while we are at class each week.

We are SO thankful for these guys!! They are so great with the goldens and amazingly accommodating.

Well, that’s a wrap. As you can see, our week was pretty busy.

Busy Busy

What a week!!

Around 3:00am Wednesday morning, Huib, Rogue, the goldens and I took off for Gatineau. I had to attend a three day meeting that would be starting at 9:0am. We had originally planned to leave Tuesday evening, but Ottawa got a lot of snow, so instead of worrying about the road conditions, we decided to delay our departure and do an early morning drive. Our drive was smooth and uneventful – it only took us five hours, compared to the usual six.

After dropping Rogue and I off at the meeting, Huib and the goldens drove to our friend Jess’ place. They spent the day relaxing and helping Jess run a few errands.

Rogue and I had a pretty boring day. She slept under my chair most of the time, while I tried to pay attention and control my facial expressions. When you are in a room with a group of people who have very different life experiences and opinions, it can be difficult at times not to scowl or roll your eyes, but it’s important to try not to do so, just in case you might insult someone.

I’m not sure how many other service dogs were in the room, but Rogue was fabulous!! We had another dog sitting right beside us, but she never paid any attention to him. Other than getting up a bit more often starting around 3:00pm, an hour before the meeting’s end, Rogue remained relaxed throughout.

With the early start, we were all pretty exhausted Wednesday evening, so other than ordering some pizza and salad for dinner, we did nothing and went to bed by 9:00pm.

On Thursday, Huib fed and relieved the dogs while I got ready. Rogue and I had to go to another full day of meetings, so Huib tried to ensure she had a good amount of time to relieve herself. Rogue can be a bit of a finicky reliever when not at home, but I think it helped that she had been to Jess’ place before because she had no problems.

We were a little late getting to the meeting, so we had to rush into the building. We got stuck in traffic between Ottawa and Gatineau. With the rush, I let Huib get Rogue ready while I got my backpack on. He passed me her leash and we were off. As we were walking/running to the room, Rogue tried to sniff some things, so I told her to “leave it!” It isn’t normal for her to try sniffing in harness, so I was a bit firmer the second time it happened. When I settled at my chair, the woman beside me asked me if I meant to have Rogue work without her harness. The woman knows I am visually impaired, so told me about the missing harness because she was surprised I would choose not to have her wearing it. I laughed and immediately messaged Huib, who came running back inside with it. The mistake totally explained why Rogue was so interested in smelling things as we were walking through the building.

The rest of our day was completely uneventful.

At 4:30pm, Huib came to get us. Jess was also with him because her and I were going to her running group.

Before Christmas, I started walking a few times a week on my treadmill. Jess has been helping me increase my speed and endurance over the past month. Our treadmill measures things in miles, so I have gone from doing my workouts at 3.0 to 3.5 miles.

Jess has asked me to do a 10 kilometre race with her the last weekend in May. As long as I do not have a presentation that weekend, I said I would do it.

Walking/running outside is a lot different than doing it on a treadmill, so Jess asked one of her guides to guide me Thursday evening. I didn’t realize we weren’t going back to her place before the running group, so I forgot to pack my running clothes in the car. I had okay shoes for the run, but my clothes were a bit of a poor choice. I was wearing jeans and a knitted sweater, lol!! Jess asked one of the guys if they had a shirt I could borrow, which they did, so I changed out of my sweater and was ready enough to go.

The walk/run went well. The roads and sidewalks were a bit icy, so we only ran when the path was clear. I think we ended up doing a total of four or five short running sessions. While we walked, I learned about getting into a stretching routine, the importance of breathing and not heel-striking when running.

Jess, and our friend Jason, are going to see if they can find guides for me in Guelph, so i can continue working outdoors.

Every time I think about the fact I am actually considering a 10 kilometre run, I laugh. I have never been interested in running, but Jess has really motivated me to try.

Stay tuned for more updates!!

Friday was another full day of meetings. It is tough not being able to talk about the meetings, but I can say Friday was pretty serious and intense. It is sometimes rough going when you’ve got a large group of people coming from different walks of life. everyone has their own opinion on how the work needs to be done and has their own agenda. As a non-voting member of the committee, it can be frustrating at times not feeling as though you’ve really got a voice in the discussion.

On Friday evening we went to dinner with Jess, our friend Jason and some others. We met at a pub that had a nice atmosphere and good food. I had a nut burger with fries, while Huib had some sort of potato and veggie thing with fries. Jess and two others had fish in a coconut sauce with fries and I can’t remember what the other two people had. It was nice to catch up with Jason and to hear about the trip him and his wife had taken to Barbados. Jason is pretty excited about me running, so we took some time to chat about that as well. He has a lot of connections here in Guelph with the running community, so I hope he’ll be able to find some guides for me.

On Saturday, Jess had a triathlon camp to attend, so we got together with a friend to track. We have met Michelle at a couple of tracking tests, so when I knew we were going to be in Ottawa for a few days, I sent her a message on Facebook to see if she might want to do some tracking.

We got together at one of the National Research Council sites – a great place to track!! Huib laid a track for her dog, Cameron, while she laid tracks for Rogue and Arizona. Huib also laid a track for Canyon, so the poor guy wouldn’t be left out. After all of the tracks were laid, I had to pee, so we went to a little coffee shop nearby. They have tasty cinnamon buns and some good coffee.

Since Canyon is still learning, Huib had him run his track first. Michelle said he did a fabulous job!! This is Canyon’s second time formally tracking, so she was impressed. Huib says he thinks I can start handling Canyon now. Huib usually starts with them, so he can point out where the track is if the dogs need help, but Canyon seems to be a natural.

Next it was Arizona’s turn. I’m not sure where our crazy girl went, but Ari seems to have found her work ethic. She did a great job on her track. I walked along behind with Michelle, so got a play-by-play.

Cameron’s track was closest, so we did his next. Michelle did a really good job of handling him and he followed his track well. It was interesting to see the differences between his work and the way our retrievers work. Cameron checked out each of the cross tracks we passed, but never really went far off his actual track. I also liked how he picked up the article – I hope Rogue will do this some day!!

Rogue’s track was next. She was a bit excited at the beginning, so she had a bit of a messy start. She never got off track, but she was portering a lot. Michelle suggested I rein her in, not giving her so much line, so I brought her closer. She wasn’t as exact on her corners, but she followed her track well and found every single article!! Afterwards, I asked for Michelle’s opinion and she recommends I talk to her a bit less and also stop giving her so much line. I am going to work on this.

I liked having someone different lay her track because then she had an opportunity to follow another person’s scent and also work someone else’s track idea. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we sometimes lay tracks in our own ways, so it can become a routine that the dog can predict.

For fun Michelle laid a quick track for me to run with Cameron. I have never worked with any other breeds than my own, so it was fun. Cameron is an English Springer Spaniel, so a lot lighter and different from my retrievers. Maybe it’s just that Cameron is more experienced, but I found him a lot less frantic or crazed than my guys can be. He checked out the scent pad, then followed the short track to the glove, picking it up and bringing it over to me. Michelle told me not to talk too much and I could see how the quiet really helped him concentrate.

Nothing too exciting happened while I ran Cameron, but funny stuff did occur before and after. As we were walking over to the scent pad, Huib had to take me over and through a difficult path of snow and ice. My guys are used to my balance being off, so they sometimes get pulled in different directions, so I felt bad for Cameron, but he was a good sport about it all. After the track, Michelle gave me a container and asked me to open it and give it to him. I had heard her mention bringing cheese curds with us, so I thought that was what was in the container. After I took the lid off, I reached in to get the curds and found wet food!! I quickly removed my hand and both Huib and Michelle laughed…lol! SO gross!!

I am glad we had a chance to meet up with Michelle and Cameron. I hope we can do it again.

In the evening, we were all pretty tired, so Huib made some yummy salad and pasta for dinner. We then chatted about our days and went to bed around 10:00pm.

On Sunday Jess had a 10 kilometre run in the morning, so we slept in and then started packing up. I had two hard boiled eggs and a bowl of Smarties ice cream for breakfast with some coffee – I love being an adult!!

When Jess came back, she brought Jason. It was nice chatting with them before we left.

On our way home we planned to stop in at Arizona’s breeder, so we left around 10:00am. The drive to Anne’s place was quiet and pretty. Anne and Jeff live outside Perth in Tay County. They have a beautiful house beside a lake.

When we arrived, we let Arizona out to pee and then went up to knock at the door. Anne came and let Sitka and Teal out to greet Ari before we all went inside.

Sitka has the same dam, but different sire than Arizona. I have always loved Sitka, she is very loving and adorable. In August she had a litter of seven puppies sired by Teak, Ari’s sire. I wish we had known about the breeding because we would love to have another Teak puppy.

Teal is six months old and one of Denali’s puppies. Denali has the same sire as Ari, but a different dam. Teal is a very cute girl!! She kept climbing into our laps and giving us kisses while we were there.

Anne brought Denali and Abba out after putting Sitka and Teal away. She wanted the girls to get a chance to greet Ari separately.

Abba came over and checked out Arizona, letting her do the same. Abba is now ten or eleven years old, so has some old lady lumps, but looks pretty good. After she was satisfied with Ari, she came over to cuddle with me – I loved it!!

Denali was a bit more enthusiastic about greeting Arizona. She is just a year older than Ari, so definitely has more energy than Abba.

Arizona was a good sport about being checked out by everyone, but she did get a bit grumbly after a while. teal had her head inside Ari’s mouth a few times, so I can’t really fault Ari for grumbling. She never went any further than that, so I didn’t say anything. Huib just had her come over and sit with him and lie down by his feet so he could control things a bit.

The only girl Arizona didn’t grumble with was Abba. I think Abba is a lot calmer and more respectful when greeting, so she didn’t annoy Ari.

I think this was probably the longest we’ve ever spent just chatting with Anne and Jeff. It was great!! I didn’t come right out and ask Anne about breeding rights for Ari, but from some of the things she said, we think she knows we want them. We are going to start getting Ari’s health clearances done, starting with her eyes and thyroid.

After a bit, Anne let Sitka and Teal back out and for the rest of the visit, we had all five girls together in the living room.

It was really interesting to learn about the personalities of each. Sitka and Ari seem to have the same independent-mindedness, which we think comes from Abba. Denali and Ari have the same crazy nature, but willingness to learn, so we think that must come from Teak. Anne says she never really knows what to expect at a test or trial with Sitka, and that Denali always makes life interesting – we all know who that reminds us of…lol!

Anne showed us her training room and had Sitka and Teal demonstrate some of the things they can do. It was fun to watch little Teal work, she’s such a smart girl!! One thing Anne uses, that we don’t feel comfortable doing ourselves, is use a prong collar when teaching the heel. She said her trainer suggested it and that she finds it works well.

Anne told us that she is hoping to start training for utility with Denali, but that she is done with obedience with Sitka because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy it. I asked her if she had any suggestions on how to get Ari in the game with obedience and she suggested using a puppy sized bumper as a reward, since it works really well with Sitka. Huib and I are going to find one and try it out.

Sitka will be trying for her senior hunt title this summer, but I’m not sure what Denali is working towards.

Before we left, Anne gave us a couple of goose wings and a few ducks for training. I am looking forward to seeing what Ari thinks of the goose wings.

Our drive home was nice. Huib decided to take the long way, since we weren’t in a hurry and we needed to make a stop in Aurora anyway. When we got home, Cessna was SO excited to see us!! She loves staying with Dad, but I think she also likes when we all return.

It was a great trip, but an exhausting one. Now I must get back to work, preparing my PhD application and a mini presentation for Friday.