Anniversary

On Friday (February 4th) Huib and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it was 5 years ago that we said our vows in front of family and friends at the Waterloo Inn and spent the evening celebrating. We’re still paying off the wedding, but it was a memorable day for everyone.

Huib and I have decided to mark this anniversary and every tenth one after (15th being our next) by creating a slide show of pictures from our years together. This one will include pictures from our full ten years together, but the ones following will only include pictures from the last slide show up to the current year of the anniversary. If I can figure out how to do it, I will post the slide show here and on Facebook for everyone to view.

Being Huib’s wife has been an indescribable experience. He’s one in a million and I’m blessed to have him all to myself. I know I write about how amazing he is all the time, but you really have to know Huib to understand that I’m not exaggerating. He’s extremely caring, overly loyal and wants nothing more than for me to be happy. Whenever we’re out and he sees something I might like he’ll show me and if I even smile, he’ll say we should buy it or tell me we’ll get it when it goes on sale. When at work he e-mails if I haven’t already to see how I’m doing or calls during his breaks just to hear my voice. When his co-workers ask him to come out for a drink after shift or invite him over for a party, he’ll either tell them he has to get home or ask if he can come later with me. I’m not sure people understand our relationship at times, but from day one Huib and I have always tried to include one another in everything – not because we have to, but because we want to.

I love you Huib with all my heart and could never imagine life without you by my side. We’ve made it this far, let’s try for a lifetime!!

Raising Reece

Today (December 20th) Reece turns 2. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year and a couple of months since we gave him up. As everyone knows, Reece was washed from the Autism dog Services program in October of 2010 because of his elbow. It was a really hard decision to forgo adopting him, but with the diagnosis of an ununited coronoid process we knew that it would be unfair to take him and not be able to afford the surgery he would almost certainly require. In addition to this Reece had given us a run for our money and caused a bit of a rift between Huib and himself – he will be forever known as our $5,000 puppy! Huib did not have the opportunity to really get to know Reece, so did not have the bond I had with him. I spent many hours working on skills with him while Huib was at school or work and when Huib left to begin working in Kirkland Lake Reece and I developed an even stronger bond. But, there was still that underlying distrust of whether he might decide to chew something while confined and the fact that Cessna just couldn’t bond with him, so we made the decision to let ADS place him and hope that we would get a chance to keep in touch with his new family.

Reece was adopted around the end of November by an ADS family and shares the house with their foster puppy who had also been washed from the program. Urban is also a chocolate lab, but was disqualified for digestive issues and over activeness. At first Reece’s new family wasn’t sure they could handle the two boys, but within just a short period of time they noticed Reece was a positive influence on urban, teaching him to calm down and relax. Reece and Urban have become the best of friends and will often be found napping together.

We have been lucky to see Reece on a semi-regular basis. He lives in Kitchener and we see him almost every time we visit Waterloo. Reece has not had any real elbow issues since becoming a pet and the orthopedic surgeon told his family that at this point he wouldn’t benefit much from the corrective surgery. During our last visit to Waterloo we got together with Reece. It was so wonderful to see him, he looks great and was super excited to see us. I wanted to post some updated pictures of him, but Huib was distracted and forgot to take some. Hopefully in January or February we’ll see them and get some pictures to share.

Happy 2nd birthday Reece’s Pieces! You were a little terror at times, but you have left a paw print on my heart that will never be forgotten. You have grown up to be such a handsome and wonderful boy and I look forward to keeping in touch with your family for years to come.

“Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

Has It Really been a Year Already?

On December 18th, 2009 Huib, Cessna and I drove to a small Mennonite farm about 20 minutes from Hanover to pick up a 6.5 month old male golden retriever. It had been just over a month and a half since we decided not to adopt Reece and I was really finding the house a little quiet, so I decided to check out a golden breeder’s website. After a couple e-mails back and forth we set up a pick-up time and date for our new bundle of gold.

When we first met Canyon (formerly Sparky) he was wet, dirty, smelled like a barn and was pulling his breeder’s 6 year old son across the yard to greet us. I remember thinking, “what are we getting ourselves into?”

Over the past year Canyon has:
• Learned all of his basic obedience commands & is working on loose leash walking
• Learned to swim, dive off the dock & retrieve a toy or stick
• Learned to give 5 & is working on give 10
• Visited residents in long-term care homes
• Visited a friend’s daughter in Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital
• Been to Toronto numerous times
• Stayed at a hotel in Sudbury
• Attended both Summer and Winter Woofstocks

This year has been one of learning important skills, experiencing new environments and preparing for the future. Our smelly, disobedient puppy has been replaced with a well-mannered, good looking stud and future obedience champion.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” – Martin Buber

The Monkey Man’s 3!!

On December 23rd Aiden (our first foster puppy) will turn 3. It’s crazy to think it was almost 3 years ago since we began fostering him for Autism Dog Services. I’m so glad we were given the opportunity to raise him and am so happy he was placed with such a remarkable family.

Picture of a 10 week old Carmel coloured lab.

Picture of puppy Aiden looking down at little pieces of shredded toilet paper.

Aiden lives in Lindsay, Ontario with a middle-age couple and their two sons with autism – Kamaran and Matt. aiden is Kamaran’s autism service dog and attends school each day with him, along with other outings in the sometimes overwhelming world. We have had the chance to visit with them a couple of times since he was placed back in June of 2009 and are overjoyed with how well he is doing.

Picture of Aiden watching Kamaran on the slide.

Picture of Aiden at the top of a blue slide.

Picture of Aiden as he slides down.

In September we took Canyon and Cessna to meet with them for lunch at a park in Lindsay. Aiden was beside himself with excitement as he realized it was us who pulled up in the truck beside them. As he was getting out of the van he ran directly to the back and put his paws on the tailgate to see who was with us. We had a quick McDonald’s lunch (Kam’s favourite) and played a short game of fetch. Kam thought it was great to watch the dogs wrestling and told us about his future plans of being the next Dr. Phil. It was funny to hear about what he planned to wear and how Aiden would be his side kick. His mom told us they had really begun to bond over the past few months and that Kam had actually started to call aiden when he wanted his attention. Near the end of our visit canyon decided it was a good idea to lay in a stinky mud puddle. Kamaran thought it was so funny and wanted Aiden to also join in, but he wouldn’t – I think Kam wanted Aiden to join Canyon so they wouldn’t have to return to school for the afternoon.

Picture of Aiden from our visit in September.

We get almost daily updates on how Aiden is doing through Kamaran’s mom and pictures on a pretty regular basis. Seeing the pictures make us miss him, but we know he’s doing what he needs to do and are so proud to have been his puppy raisers.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday our little carmel friend and Look forward to seeing what the future brings for you and Kamaran.

She’s A Scorpio

On October 30th, 2003 a litter of 9 black Labrador puppies were born to Belle and Pippin at the Lions Foundation of Canada. When these little bundles were passed onto their puppy raisers everyone had high hopes for each of them. Fast forward a year and it is recall time. The family of one little spunky female takes her for one final walk before passing her leash onto an excited kennel staff member who will take her into her next stage of life. Tears are shed, but they know that little Cessna is about to begin training so she can change someone’s life forever.

I know astrology is full of crazy claims and it’s probably just a silly game, but reading through the description of the scorpio I can see so many qualities and characteristics in my little bundle of black fur. According to many astrologers Scorpios are strong-minded, full of mystery, never age, but grow in maturity and their primary characteristic is endurance. to me this is a perfect description of Cessna.

From the first moment I met Cessna I knew there was more to her than I could possibly imagine. She wanted to become familiar with me, but she also gave me the feeling she needed her space. Unlike the other dogs in our class she refused to give me kisses or roll over for a belly rub until she knew she could trust me – this took over 2 weeks. When I would take her out for walks, she’d pull like crazy and persistently move towards things which interested her like small animals, birds and other dogs – she even figured out ways of making it seem as though she was being cautious when really she was working her way over to a distraction. No matter what I threw (not in the literal terms of course) at her she never let me down, always rising to the challenge with enthusiasm and far exceeding my expectations.

It has now been five years since we were matched and she still meets every challenge with enthusiasm, but makes sure to do it in her own way – taking her time when needed or getting the job done, but maybe not always doing it the way she was taught. Cessna doesn’t look even a week over 2, but has become so mature and wise in her five years of service.

Tomorrow Cessna will turn 7. This is a bittersweet birthday because it marks the beginning of her middle years where we will enjoy one another thoroughly (without the stress of puppy antics), but it also worries me because Phoenix did not work much past his 8th birthday and that’s not far away for my little girl. I know she isn’t like Phoenix, she’s more energetic, more aware of my feelings and needs, as well as not having to work in such a chaotic time of my life, but I still feel sad because I absolutely love working with her and can’t even imagine having to start all over.

Here’s to hoping for another good couple years of service and adventure with my little Scorpio!

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

A Milestone

I decided to look up the name Phoenix and see what Google came up with. It is amazing to see how many different meanings there are for Phoenix. Here are a few I’d like to share.

Phoenix is the state capital and largest city in south central Arizona. It was formerly a desert, but with the help of irrigation has become a thriving agricultural area.

A mythical sacred firebird that was thought to burn itself to death and rise from the ashes as a new Phoenix. According to many legends there was only one Phoenix living at one time and it was reborn about every 500 years.

A minor constellation in the southern hemosphere. It is named after the mythical bird and is very faint with only two stars within the constellation that are brighter than magnitude 5.0.

There are several other not so interesting meanings of Phoenix, but seeing the above definitions has made me even more aware of how special my floppy-faced yellow Labrador retriever is.

Now it’s my turn to give my definition of “Phoenix”. Phoenix is an intelligent, independent-minded, devious yellow lab who is full of love and will forever be a part of me. Our 12 years together have created many memories that will be forever etched in my mind. From the second week of being together Phoenix showed me a friendship and loyalty that I could only dream of finding in a human. He has always made sure to let me know when I am being unreasonable or selfish and to this day continues to give me his unconditional love.

In a week Phoenix will turn 14 years old!! This is a milestone I want to celebrate as best I can. To start off the day we will give him a little extra food with some roast beef drippings. Then we’ll make pumpkin spice cookies for him to share with his friends – Cessna, Aspen & Canyon. I’m sure he would rather eat them all on his own, but I will explain to him that he has to share, since they give him some on their birthdays. Huib has to work nights so we’ll have an early dinner with my sister and step-dad coming to help celebrate Phoenix’s birthday. We’re going to make pizza, Phoenix’s absolute favourite. One will be gluten-free with various veggies, apple and pepperoni – this one of course is for the dogs  The second will be for us, so won’t include the apple and will probably have more toppings. We’ll finish our early dinner with some cupcakes, the dog ones being gluten-free with peanut butter icing. I think Phoenix will thoroughly enjoy his birthday and I know for sure the others will too.

Thank you Phoenix for allowing me to share the last 12 years with you. You have taught me the true meaning of friendship and how important it is to live life to the fullest. I hope we get to spend at least another great year together, but just in case you need to leave me sooner, I’ll make sure to cherish every minute we have left.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

4 Months Away


I have had a pretty busy few months so haven’t had the time to blog. Now that things have slowed some I’m going to try and post more often.

Canyon turned a year old on the 3rd of June and got some new toys to share with everyone. He is 23 inches tall, 22 inches long and just 70lbs. We had him to the vet for his heartworm test and the vet said we could continue feeding him puppy food and add in fats that might entice him to eat more. She says he should be closer to 80lbs by now and will get up to 90lbs by the time he has fully filled out. His coat has grown in nicely and he seems a bit darker than he was before his coat fell out. His obedience is well on it’s way and he has already started being able to play fetch with the girls in the yard. He still isn’t the greatest at heeling, but we got an easy walk harness in June and it seems to help redirect him easier than the newtrix, gentle leader or martin gale. We took him to Toronto for Woofstock with Cessna and he was fantastic! He was quite interested in all the different dogs and smells, but listened pretty well. We were with a bunch of puppies in training, so Canyon fit right in.

Aspen turned 7 on the 18th of June and was given the special task of cleaning out the lasagna pan. We also made some banana cinnamon cookies for her and Canyon to share with the others. She’s been swimming tons and playing fetch in the yard every chance she gets. Her and Canyon are obsessed with the game and will grab a toy as they walk out if you’re not watching.

Cessna and I celebrated our 5th year as a team on May 27th. She has really made a mark on my heart and I get sad thinking about the fact that she will be turning 7 in October. She has matured tons and become such an amazing companion. She spends almost all her day watching out for me and the other dogs. She will defend Aspen against Canyon when he’s being a bully and not allowing her to bring the toy to Huib or I, she will run to me and make sure I am okay when walking down the steps in front of our house and just always seems to be watching over everyone. I’m really not sure I’ll ever be able to find a dog good enough to fill her shoes. It’s been a long road, but we’ve gotten here and I hope she’ll work another couple years for me.

Phoenix is still the same old, happy go lucky, boy we’ve loved forever. He can’t hear or run, but he still makes sure to keep the younger ones in line. We started him on a new anti-inflammatory supplement a month ago and it really seems to be making a difference in his ability to get around. He doesn’t seem as stiff after lying in one spot for too long and he doesn’t seem to hesitate at the top of the stairs before going down to the grass. He’ll be 14 in October and I think he is doing amazing!

As you can see, lots has changed and been happening for us all. Canyon is becoming a man, Cessna is becoming a wise middle aged woman, Aspen is finally able to play, and Phoenix is moving smoothly through his golden years. I look forward to getting back into the whole blogging thing and sharing our lives with you all.

A Wonderful Week Away

On Monday morning we set off for Waterloo. We picked up my sister in Kirkland Lake and then dropped her off in Huntsville before continuing on our way south. We arrived in Guelph around 7:00pm and did a bit of running around before we met up with a friend for coffee at William’s Coffee Pub. I sure do miss my latés living up north. We arrived in Waterloo around 10:00pm and headed straight to bed.

On Tuesday we took Jasper (an ADS foster who’s almost ready for training) and Cessna to Costco for a bit of shopping and then went to meet up with a friend for lunch. Lunch was great. My friend and I decided to share two dishes we both enjoy, a wonderful decision seeing as we both couldn’t decide between the two and would not have been able to eat two full meals ourselves. After lunch we ran a few errands and then went into Cambridge to visit with Jess and Glacier. Glacier was excited to see us and was happy to have Jasper to play with. Before taking Jess to horseback riding we went for dinner at a little Mexican restaurant near her house. It was pretty yummy, but not completely worth the money in my opinion. When we got back to Waterloo, Jasper and Cessna were exhausted so slept while we played Dog-opoly with Karen. My sister bought me the game as an early Christmas present.

On Wednesday we went to a couple of appointments in Guelph and then met up with Kelly and Ace another foster puppy from ADS. The dogs had fun playing with Ace and were all ready for a nap by the time we returned to Karen’s. In the evening we went to a puppy outing at Fairview Mall where there were 5 other ADS families with their puppies(Chester, Finnley, Cooper, Urban and Ace), not including us with Cessna and Karen with Jasper. We had a good outing and ended it all at Crabby Joe’s for a drink and appetizer. It was great to see how much some of the puppies have matured over the past month since we saw them last. Ace was still as well-behaved as usual and Cooper continued to outshine many of his older puppy buddies.

On Thursday Huib finally got his hair cut and we ran a few more errands in Guelph before heading to Etobicoke to visit with Phoenix’s puppy raisers. Alice (his foster mom) is improving everyday and is now walking a bit with the use of a walker. It has been neat to see how determination can overcome negative odds. She had a stroke in January of 2009 which left her in a wheelchair, unable to use her left side or eat solid foods. Now she is eating and drinking anything she wants and moving her left hand/arm more each time we visit. She is able to lift herself into a stand position and walk a bit with the walker. If her determination to go home continues to be this strong then it may be very possible that it could happen  We took Phoenix in to visit and then brought each of the other three (Cessna, Jasper & Aspen) one by one in order not to take up too much space in the small sun room. Thursday evening was pretty laid back with a bit of moving furniture and then playing a bit more Dog-opoly.

Friday was Cessna’s 6th birthday. We got her a couple new toys over the week – a fox wubba and a toy called a Flappy (a long rubber stick shape covered in colourful canvas that has tail like pieces sticking out from either side). Her auntie Jess bought her a stuffed squirrel toy and liver treats which she loves. We packed everyone into the car after a run in the baseball diamonds near Karen’s house and headed to Lindsay. In Lindsay we met up with Aiden’s new mom and followed her to their house which is about 25km from town. Aiden took about 20 seconds to realize it was us, but then the wiggles started and he almost couldn’t control himself. He looks fantastic and seems so happy. We gave him his new toy, a fox wubba and he ran around squeaking it and throwing it to us for another toss. Aiden’s new mom told us about how he has been doing and how much he has changed her son’s life. Aiden passed his public access test just over a week ago and will soon be attending school with Kamaran. We were there for about 3 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Aiden has not changed at all. He is still full of beans and loves to give kisses and play fetch. For the last half hour we played fetch with Aiden and our dogs. Before leaving we gave Aiden a rawhide ball and he has it broken open and the middle eaten before we were in the car. It was nice to see that he didn’t mind us leaving – something I also see with Cessna and Phoenix when they visit with their raisers.

We met up with a fellow puppy raiser for dinner along with my uncle before heading home. It was great to see both of them. Our drive home was uneventful. We saw a wolf crossing the road just outside New Liskeard, but nothing else too exciting. Now that we are home, we have begun to unpack the car and will probably do a bit of cleaning before Huib returns to work on Monday.

Just a short update on Reece. He has been diagnosed with ununited coronoid process and has been released from the ADS program. He requires a very expensive surgery to correct the problem, but in the end will most likely develop arthritis by 5 or 6 years of age. We are not able to afford this surgery so have had to pass on adopting him, but hopefully soon the program will find a permanent home and family willing to cover the cost. In the meantime he is staying with the other foster mom and will go for a few x-rays to determine the true extent of his condition and a decision will then be made as to what exactly needs to be done and when it will take place. We will keep you all updated as we find out more about him.

First Birthday Already!


Today is Aiden and Libertie’s 1st birthday, where did the time go? I remember when we got little wrinkly faced Aiden at 10 weeks of age and now looking at him I wonder where those days went. He has grown up to be such a handsome young dog, with such a patient and loving personality. With this milestone though comes the knowledge that soon he will go for training and we will no longer wake up to his nose and tongue in our faces – eager to get the day started. He is so much like my old boy Phoenix that it makes me sad every day to think about his upcoming departure from our home.

Libertie has now been with us for a month and a couple of weeks. She has learned so much and has pretty much settled into the routine of living in our home. She has mastered: sit, down, come, and is wonderful about waiting for the “ok” command before going to eat her meals. She has learned to take treats gently and is well on her way to learning how to stay and settle down (with the use of a tie down or crate, but soon she will no longer need these either).

I am not sure why our personalities seem to clash, but I find myself often wondering whether she really likes being here. I will give her a command and she will keep walking and when I make her obey she will stare at me with her sad eyes because I guess in her mind I am a mean person not allowing her to do what she desires. When her sister Amber was with us for a short time she would often give me that same look. I wish I could allow her to do what she wants, but I also cannot stand having a dog who ignores authority. Maybe in a little while she will begin to understand that I am not being cruel, but only trying to teach her what I know will help her become the dog I know she can be. My sister and her seem to have a wonderful bond with one another, maybe it is because Brandi does not force her to obey all of the time, but seeing this relationship helps me to see that she will have a great home for life if she does not stay with us.

Aiden and Libby had a great day playing with their buddies and with their new presents. Aiden absolutely loves his stuffed monkey with rope arms and legs that squeaks and Libby loves her new cow hoof filled with rollover. Soon they will have even more new toys to play with as Christmas is not far away.

She’s Five!

A week ago today (October 30th) Cessna turned 5. It is hard to believe we’ve been together for three and a half years now. She has matured so much in the past year, I guess females matured later than males because I remember the “light bulb” turning on a lot earlier for Phoenix. Cessna has been a wonderful companion for me and I know our next few years of working will only bring us closer.

Cessna has been doing advanced obedience classes and has been excelling in her lessons. Her work has improved tons and she seems to be enjoying the lessons. She is doing so well that the dog trainer I am working with asked me to inquire about getting a copy of her Canadian Kennel Club registration papers. I wrote her program head and today was given the green light to begin competing when I feel ready to do so. I was quite nervous about asking, but am absolutely thrilled with the answer. I think Cessna will like the challenge and that she will not only get better in her primary job, but also excel in her competitions.

I don’t know many dogs who have this continuous desire to learn, but no matter what I ask of her, Cessna continues to step up to the challenge with her usual excitement.

“… it takes a strong-minded human to appreciate a strong-minded dog!”