I Just Wanted to Enter

Let me begin by saying, I didn’t want to cause any problems for the Canadian Kennel Club, I just wanted the same opportunity as others to enter a tracking test with Rogue.

Over the past couple of months Rogue and I have ramped up our tracking practice. I have been trying to get us ready for the upcoming tests that happen in October and November.

I knew we wouldn’t be quite ready for October, so I had my eye on entering the tracking test being held in Guelph on November 8th. Not only do we live in Guelph, so the trip to the test wouldn’t be too long, but it also gives us a better chance of comfortable weather and more practice time.

I talked to my instructor, who also happens to be our area’s tracking rep, about my plans to enter the test. She said she would talk to other judges and see how the rules work for my situation. After talking to other judges, she suggested I talk to the CKC because there is a rule in the book that says people cannot have help on the track, so taken literally, this would mean I could not have a guide.

I called the CKC and the woman I talked to seemed quite willing to help me. She read through the rule book and also didn’t know what should happen. She suggested I talk to my area’s tracking rep and also gave me the email address for the Tracking Council.

I emailed the council and cc’d my instructor, so she was aware of what I had done.

It took a few days, but I finally got a response from the CKC rep for my area and he seemed to understand that it was against the law in Canada to discriminate based on a persons disability. He cc’d the head of CKC events in the hopes that she would be able to clear up the confusion.

The woman emailed back and said that “the issue” was on the agenda for the council conference call that was happening in early October, but then went on to say that she would let us all know if any decisions were made and changes implemented at their general meeting in December.

I wrote her back and said that I wanted to enter a test in November and asked if it would be possible for a temporary amendment to be put into the rules, so that I can be accommodated. She wrote back to say that unfortunately it was not possible because the rule book says no one can have assistance on the track, so it was up to the council to make the changes at their general meeting.

This response was not acceptable. The council cannot decide wether to accommodate a person with a disability, they need to accommodate them because it is the law in Canada.

So, I went to Twitter and Facebook, asking my friends and family to share our story.

Remember, I didn’t want to cause an issue, I just wanted to be given the same opportunity as a sighted person.

About two and a half to three hours later I got an email from the CKC.

After some digging, they located minutes from a 2009 meeting that put forth a policy allowing individual judges to make modifications when needed, such as for persons with disabilities. The policy was supposed to be written into the rule books of the various CKC events, but some rule books are still missing this policy.

The woman apologized and said that she would make sure the judge of my event is aware of the policy.

So, I went back on Twitter and Facebook, thanked my friends and family for their help and announced that I would be entering a tracking test on November 8th with Rogue.

Maybe some people would push this further, wanting to make sure the CKC does not do this to someone else, but I just want the opportunity to participate in dog sports like everyone else. I don’t want to cause any drama or problems.

Thank you friends and family for helping me achieve my goal, and thank you CKC for finding a solution to our dilemma.

8 days until we can submit our entry (fingers crossed we get in), and 47 days until Rogue and I try for Rogue’s Tracking Dog (TD) title.

Saratoga Springs: Conference Time

The dinner gathering on Tuesday night was a wash. The organizers really didn’t offer any food, just a few appetizers with drinks. People seemed to know one another, so it was a bit awkward for Huib and I. We stayed for a couple of drinks and then left to order pizza in our hotel room with Rogue and Canyon.

Brooke and Rogue standing in front of a metal statue. The statue is a memorial for people lost in the 9/11 attacks. Brooke is wearing a fancy white tank top that has silver trim with blue jeans, a white hat, black Oakley sunglasses and black leather sandals. Rogue is wearing her red guide harness.

Wednesday morning we had a bit of breakfast and then I went to the keynote by John Bradshaw, while Huib returned to the room to watch Dirty Jobs with Canyon.

The keynote was good. Bradshaw talked about anthropomorphism and how it can be both good and bad. I didn’t really agree with his belief that dogs lack higher levels of intelligence and the ability to feel some of the complex emotions, but overall I really enjoyed his talk. After he had finished, the floor was opened for questions. The most interesting question asked was by a woman who used to be a nurse in a hospice. She wanted to know how Bradshaw can explain the reaction dogs have to dying patients if he believes they do not possess higher levels of intelligence and feeling. I totally see what she was saying and I didn’t feel Bradshaw answered her question. I wish I had taken good notes, so I could actually explain what he was saying and how her question related, but of course I am a horrible notetaker.

When the keynote was over, Huib came back to go with Rogue and I into the ball room where the posters were set up. The people who had posters were asked to stay by their poster for an hour each day of the conference to answer any questions.

I had a number of people come by. I’m not really sure why, but people really seemed interested in my project. I had a couple of people comment that my poster had too much writing, but otherwise I had a lot of compliments and questions regarding my research findings. Even though I am still in the beginning stages of my project, I was able to answer most questions and I don’t really think anyone noticed that I haven’t really started my research, lol!

The morning sessions weren’t overly interesting to me, but I did like the presentation on veterans and service dogs. The research seemed to tie in well with the research paper my thesis supervisor wrote last year for Veterans Affairs on the benefit of service dogs for veterans.

Lunch was good, not only did I get some pizza, but they also had some good salads.

In the afternoon there were several different presentations relating to service dogs. A woman from the UK did a research project looking at the psychological benefits of guide dogs to their blind handlers. It was interesting to listen to her findings because one of the conclusions I made in my short literature review was that there is a lot of research looking at the benefits of therapy dogs and companion dogs, but no real studies looking at the psychological benefits of service dogs. There was also an interesting study looking at the activity level of blind people with service dogs compared to blind people without dogs. She found that guide dog users tend to be more active than blind individuals without a dog.

Canyon lying in front of a black horse statue that is decorated in beverage containers.

I can’t really remember what the second afternoon session was about, so it probably wasn’t overly interesting.

Dinner was at a local restaurant. It was pretty fancy stuff. We had steak with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. They also served some good salad and tasty bread. We could have also had dessert, but we wanted to get back to Canyon and we both weren’t overly hungry anymore, so we passed on the desserts.

On the final day of the conference we had to leave the room by noon, so I only went to the morning sessions. There was a keynote on zoos that was quite interesting. Did you know that giraffes are quickly nearing endangered species status? Did you know that there is no real value in conserving the Giant Panda? I didn’t know either.

There were a variety of presentations in the morning session. There was an interesting presentation by Hal Herzog, on the problems with studies looking at the value of animal-assisted therapies. He argues that most studies do not actually prove anything because often they are too small sample-wise and lack controls.

The next couple presentations were on activity dog programs at a couple of different universities and a rehabilitation centre in Switzerland. I really liked the prevention by Sandra Barker, evaluating the program her university runs. Not only do they have dogs, but they also have cats, rabbits and a chicken. Could you imagine? A therapy chicken?

Other than finding it hard to stay in a down during the afternoon sessions on Wednesday, Rogue did quite well. I got a lot of compliments on her work and about how quiet she is. I do need to work on her staying in a down for longer periods of time, but in her defence, Wednesday was a pretty long day and she did well until the last few presentations.

Once Huib and Canyon had loaded the car, Huib came to get Rogue and I. We then set off to visit Cyndy and Uschi from the blog, Gentle Wit.

It was a pretty short visit, but a good one. Such really liked playing with Canyon. We spent most of the time just hanging out at their house, letting Uschi and Canyon play with the tennis balls Cyndy brought out and spread around the living room. Rogue isn’t an overly social dog with other dogs, so she spent most of the visit hiding on the couch or trying to walk along the back of the couch to see where Huib had gone. Other than watching the dogs play and talking, we went to pick up food at the Cheesecake Factory and had breakfast at a yummy little diner before leaving for home.

I have been sending packages to Cyndy’s place for months, so we also picked a lot of stuff up during our visit. We got Swamp Cooler vests for the goldens from Ruffwear, a bright pink front attach harness and pacific blue front attach harness from Ruffwear for Arizona and rogue, some JW chew toys for Ari, some new black leather leashes for a couple of friends and for the labs along with matching black leather martingales for Rogue and Cessna. I also finally got my new purple iPhone case and Huib got a black one for his phone. Oh, and I also got Cessna’s new supplement I’m trying out with her that is made from the shell membrane of eggs. This new supplement is supposed to be better than Glucosamine, so even though Cessna isn’t showing any arthritis yet, she is making some clicking noises when she walks up stairs, so I’m hoping this new supplement will help her out.

When we got back to my friend’s place to pick up Cessna and Arizona, Ari told Huib how much she disliked the fact that we had left her for so long. She was extremely vocal about it and held onto Huib’s arm for along time, taking him from place to place in the yard, lol! My friend said both girls were great and Ari had a good time playing with her daughter’s foster puppy, Sully. When she dropped Sully off at her daughter’s place, he didn’t even greet Kelsey, he just went over and laid on his bed, lol!

Looking Back

The topic for this round of the assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “regrets.” I chose this topic because in exactly one month it will be 17 years since I was partnered with Phoenix. For new blog readers, Phoenix was officially my second dog guide from Dog Guides Canada, but to me he was my first, and the dog who started it all.

On July 23rd, 1998, I was matched with Phoenix, a 21 month old male yellow lab. He wanted nothing to do with me at first, he just wanted to be with his trainer. Around the two week mark of class, a switch turned and he was mine forever. From that moment in time, Phoenix and I ruled the world together. Even when he retired 7 years later, he was still my constant shadow. No matter how much Huib tried to win his affection, Phoenix would have none of it. When I was home, Phoenix was stuck to me like glue.

We finished my final year of high school together. We completed five years at the University of Guelph and walked across the graduation stage side by side. Along the way Phoenix taught me about unconditional love and the value of true friendship.

It’s true, I’ve had several dogs since getting Phoenix (not all guides of course), but no matter who has passed through my life since July 23rd, Phoenix had and will always have a big piece of my heart.

You’re probably wondering how this all relates to the topic of “regrets.” Well, looking back I have many regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about clicker training and that I had not used the choke chain and the harsh corrections that went along with it. It’s true that I stopped using all of this a year or so after getting Cessna, but I still have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about feeding a raw diet sooner. Yes, Phoenix ate raw his final eight months with me, but it took me over 12 years to finally figure out how to end his constant fight with ear infections. It’s true that I figured out his allergies by the time he was seven, but he still got painful ear infections off and on, so I have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known the end was near. It’s true he was just two months shy of his 15th birthday when he passed. It’s true that I was not in school or working, so I spent every hour of the day at home with the dogs. It’s true that I fed him all of his favourite human foods, such as pizza, french fries, Kraft Dinner and beef jerky, when he’d eat for me. It’s true that he progressively ate less and less, while sleeping more and more the last month of his life, so I should have known the end was near. But, I have regrets.

I wonder if he would have stayed longer if I had not gotten Rogue. I wonder if he wouldn’t have started to give up if I hadn’t left him with friends for a few days while I took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to Rogue’s breeder’s reunion. I will probably never know the answer for certain, and he probably would have still passed away, but I have regrets.

According to dictionary.com, regret means to: “feel sorrow or remorse for an act, fault, or disappointment.”

This definition seems fitting. I feel sorrow for the training methods I chose, which caused me to act poorly towards Phoenix. I feel remorse for not acting sooner to stop his ear infections. And, I feel sorrow for possibly causing him to pass away sooner than he might have if I had not chosen to get a puppy.

It’s true that I shouldn’t feel bad for these things, but I still have regrets.

Coursework

Now that my final grades are in, I am officially done the coursework portion of my masters degree!!

It was a tough semester, full of migraines and times when I didn’t want to write, but I made it through with some great marks.

My thesis supervisor would like me to consider taking two more courses just in case I decide to forgo the thesis and just do a major research project. I know I want to do the thesis so I’m sticking to my decision not to take more for now.

Since my thesis topic is heating up in the media and on the web, I need to rethink my methods for gathering data. I think I will spend the rest of May reading about research methods that use social media and blogs. Then once I feel really comfortable with my new methods, I need to write something up for my presentation in July.

Oh yeah!! I haven’t told you all.

I have been accepted to do a poster presentation at the 24th Annual Conference of the International Society of Antrozoology. The conference will take place in Saratoga Springs, New York July 7th to 9th. I could have waited to see if they had room for me to do an oral presentation, but since I did one in March, my supervisor and I agreed this would be a good opportunity to learn about doing a poster.

I will try to update everyone on my research progress as I go along.

ENGAGE 2015

On the 14th, I was invited to present at a student conference at the University of Guelph.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Making the Familiar Strange in the Social World.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Thomas McIlwrath.

The various presentations were broken down into sessions of four or five presenters. The morning and afternoon had two sessions of three choices.

I was the fourth presenter in my session and had another student follow me. When it was my turn, Huib set up my computer for the powerpoint and Rogue came with me to the podium.

I was SO freaking nervous!!! I was honestly on the verge of tears, so thankfully no one told me to speak louder or I would have probably started blubbering. I’ve never been so nervous and I didn’t even know you could be nervous enough to cry.

the talk went well. I spoke clearly and didn’t miss anything. Huib said he could hear the quiver in my voice, but that he felt I did really well. I had to keep repositioning Rogue throughout, so Huib suggested I stop next time and fix her so that I’m not having to do it over and over. In Rogue’s defence, I think she sensed my nervousness and wanted to take me back to where Huib was sitting. The only other thing that went wrong was that I got disoriented in where I was supposed to look and even though my body faced the group, I was looking towards the wall, lol!!

My powerpoint consisted of pictures of my dogs as puppies and in their working gear. I had pictures of Cessna, Aiden, Reece, Rogue and Arizona. I also had various screen shots of recent media coverage of service dog issues.

I memorized my entire presentation – it was just over 12 minutes long. I introduced myself and explained why I was interested in the topic. I gave a brief introduction of animal-assisted intervention and eased people into the world of service dogs. Then discussed my research questions and methods.

Once the presentation was over, I was asked questions from two different people. One person asked me about the methods I have chosen and how I planned to get participants for my interviews and focus groups. The other person asked me about the theory I planned to use as a guide for my research. I answered the first question pretty easily, but the second was tougher. I am planning to use critical disability theory. I understand the theory itself, but I didn’t know how to expand that knowledge to answer the person’s question regarding why I chose that theory.

Even though I was really stressed out about this conference and about presenting, I’m glad I did it.

For anyone who is interested, here is a copy of the long program for the conference. It gives you the abstracts of the various presentations. Mine is in the session titled Grab Bag.

Engage Program 2015_Long

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.

Grrr

Says Arizona…

The Wild child has a new game.

It’s not a game that most dog owners would like their puppy to play, but it’s okay with us as long as she plays by our rules.

She thinks it’s great to grab your arm or hand and take you for a walk while wagging her tail wildly and making growly noises.

I’m not sure if it’s a side effect of me teaching her to take and hold a bumper or if it’s just something she decided to do on her own, but it’s helping her training anyway.

she has always been a vocal puppy, but with the addition of holding arms or hands, it’s pretty entertaining.

We are teaching her to hold gently and that the game stops when we ask or when she hurts us. She is still learning the soft hold, but it’s coming along. As for the stopping when we ask, she is actually quite good about it.

Are there any games your dog likes to play that you don’t mind, but others might not approve of?

Time for a Break

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a break from blogging. I’m talking about a break from school.

As everyone has probably noticed, I’ve been adding some long-awaited updates on a variety of things we’ve been up to. Sorry for the back dating, I just want the blog to sort of be chronological.

I handed in my final assignment for the semester yesterday afternoon and finished marking all of the papers for my two tutorials, so it’s time to start my Christmas break!

It has been a VERY busy semester. Part of it was me trying to figure out how things work as a graduate student, but most of it was the marking and assignments. I’m not complaining though, I loved it all!

I think I did pretty well this semester.

last week I had to hand in a proposal to request permission to do the 2 year thesis option. I’m still waiting for a response. I hope they like my idea.

Hmmm, what else can I tell you.

Next semester I am signed up to take a policy course and another class that will explore the world of animal therapy, so I’m pretty excited about those.

Well, that’s it for school updates. I’m off until January 5th, so I hope to do some work on the blog and post a little more often.

I hope everyone is doing well and I look forward to sharing more of our adventures.

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.

3 Months Already!!

Our little golden girl is now 3 months old.

Arizona sits on a big rock.

Arizona has experienced a lot of new things over the past two weeks.

On the 8th, we met up with our friends Karen and Spark at waterloo Park. When we arrived there were a couple guys playing drums, the noise didn’t phase Rogue or Arizona. We walked around the various park animals; peacocks, llamas, ponies, donkeys, pigs, ducks deer and chickens. Rogue was really interested in the animals, but was able to still guide me safely – which is a huge improvement from her predecessor, who couldn’t ever work in a park or around other animals. Arizona was interested in all of the animals, but really liked the ducks. after touring the animals we walked along the various paths and over bridges.

Arizona has become really confident on leash, so it’s definitely time to buy her a harness, so she doesn’t get into the habit of pulling on her collar.

On the 9th we went to Kira’s trailer. this was Arizona’s first opportunity to try out swimming. Because of the rough water I decided to have her wear a life jacket. she took to water so quickly that you’d think she has always been swimming.

Arizona runs down a cement boat ramp towards the water. She's wearing a pink camo life jacket.

While at the lake Arizona met several people and got to play with two poodles and a shepherd mix.

Arizona swims towards our friend Kira. You can see her little tail straight out behind her.

After swimming we hung out for a while and had dinner with Kira and her mom. Arizona dug up Sam’s garden – BAD PUPPY!! – and got to see a campfire for the first time.

Side view of rogue on a dock looking out at the water. She's wearing a red with black life jacket.

Rogue swam a bit more than previous years, but still felt more comfortable when she wore her life jacket.

On the 10th we went to visit Phoenix’s foster mom, alice, at her retirement home. Arizona found it a bit warm there, but finally settled on the tile after being pet by over a dozen people. she had wheelchairs and walkers pass her while she napped, but she didn’t even care.

After leaving Alice we went to my Aunt Dawn’s place where Arizona had a chance to meet my Aunt’s three little dogs, as well as, my cousin and her two kids. Arizona had no issues with my Aunt’s dogs and she played well with my cousin’s kids.

the only thing she did at one point that wasn’t so good was when she tried to pull the 3 year old’s shorts down, lol!

On the 13th Arizona had her first vet appointment. Bianca says she is a really healthy puppy and thinks she will be tall and slim. Arizona is just over 20lbs and got boosters for both Parvo and distemper. Bianca wasn’t sure about what the breeder’s vet gave the puppies, so decided to go with the boosters in order to make sure Arizona didn’t miss the important period of full immunity. She said her fecal test came back fine and that she doesn’t feel Arizona needs to go on Revolution this year. She says we’ll give her the rabies vaccine around a year of age like we did with Rogue, so we won’t need to bring her back until the others come for their annual check up.

On the 14th we went to Kira’s final soccer game of the summer. Arizona was busy mowing the lawn and exploring the area around our chairs the entire game, so when we got home she was absolutely exhausted.

On Friday night Arizona didn’t want to sleep, so I ended up having to go downstairs and sleep on the couch with her so that Huib could sleep for work. We had a really rough day on Saturday, which might also have been related to my horrible migraine, so when Huib got home in the evening I had a complete breakdown. I told him that I regret getting Arizona and that I feel as though she’s too much for us. I told him that I wished I had returned her after a week so we could get our money back, but that I knew that wouldn’t be happening now. I told him how frustrated I was about her mouthiness and vocalness and how I believed she was rude and mean to the other dogs.

Huib patiently listened to me while holding my hand and then gave me a big hug, and took over caring for Arizona for the rest of the night.

On Sunday we went to Pet smart and I bought Arizona two new crinkly Skinneez toys, a giraffe and an alligator, and then picked out a Mickey Mouse collar and harness. the collar is black and the harness is red with each of them having a ribbon sewed on it with Mickey’s head shape in red, yellow and blue. My description probably doesn’t make the most sense, so I’ll try to get a picture of them soon.

the past two weeks have been really challenging.

Arizona is extremely smart and devious, so we’ve really had to keep a close eye on her and make sure to use every moment as a teachable one.

I’ve continued to work on recall, ‘leave it’ and sit, and have begun introducing down and hand targeting.

I really hope my migraines calm down soon so that I can work more regularly with Arizona on these Level 1 behaviours, but in the meantime I am just trying to do at least a couple training sessions a day.