Thirteen years

Today, Phoenix and I celebrate our thirteenth year of partnership. Thirteen years ago, Phoenix’s trainer, gave me a 21 month old male yellow lab weighing just 66lbs.

Today, that yellow lab is three months shy of his 15th birthday and still showers me with the unconditional love he first showed me on July 23, 1998. He’s a lot slower now. And, no longer hears my voice. But, he’s still the deviant, independent minded boy, I’ve always loved.

Thank you Phoenix, for 13 wonderful years.

You’ve been my constant companion through the good times and bad.

You’ve made me smile, when all I saw was rain.

And, you’ve stayed true to your unspoken promise of being my forever, loyal friend.

I’d say, let’s make it 14, but you’re starting to show signs of slowing down.

So, Old Man, let’s just enjoy every minute of the days, weeks, months or years we have left and stop wishing for things so far away. I’m really not sure what life will be like without you by my side, but I do know you’ll always be watching over me.

But, please grant me this one last wish, and start eating regularly so, we can celebrate your big 15.

The Birthday Girl

Today Aspen turns eight. It’s hard to believe that our golden princess is already considered a senior by some standards. She has always been really laid back and calm, but over the past couple of years, we’ve noticed her coat becoming lighter. It seems as though she has white or silver streaks throughout her coat. It looks really nice with her lighter coat colour, but it also makes us sad because the difference signifies her aging.

For her special day, we first shared our Kraft Dinner. Then she got to lick out the spaghetti sauce pan. And now, we’re baking some mini vanilla cupcakes for both her and Canyon, that are also gluten free so Phoenix can also have some. We’re making the cupcakes for both Canyon and Aspen because we didn’t get a chance to celebrate his 2nd birthday earlier in the month.

These cupcakes are actually from a gluten free mix we bought a month ago in the clearance section of the grocery store.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, we got her some new fleece material stuffies that squeak. There’s a monkey, a giraffe and a tiger, that have the fleece braided into a rope style for a body and then regular stuffie heads and limbs.

Happy 8th Birthday Aspen!!

You’ve been with us through the good times and the bad. You’ve made us smile when everyone else just causes pain. You’ve given us a reason to laugh daily. And you’ve been a loyal friend to Phoenix.

Thank you Aspen for being you.

We look forward to many more years of smiles and laughter.

Guess Who’s Two?

Happy Birthday Canyon!!

To commemorate your birthday, here’s 6 (June is the 6th month) things I love about you:

1. I love your puppy face! – I can’t help smiling every time I see you.
2. I love your lust for life – you’re always eager to GO!
3. I love the way you “tease” us – offer the toy and then turn your head as we reach for it.
4. I love how you challenge me – constantly require me to learn new ways of training.
5. I love your cuddliness – you’re always willing to climb onto the bed or couch for a snuggle.
6. I love that you have an “on” and “off” button – eager to go, but also willing to chill.

There are tons of other things I love about you, but I think we’ll save those for another day.

Happy 2nd Birthday Candy Man!

Thank you for being you and for continuing to provide us with a never ending supply of golden hugs and kisses!

We’ve Made It Six years!

As of 10:00am today, Cessna and I have been together for six years!!

I will always remember her class. I was one of eleven students, ranging in age from sixteen to sixty-eight. I was 25 at the time, but just happened to be the second youngest. I’m not sure why, but I really didn’t seem to socialize much with the other students. Maybe it was because I had to go away for longer than a day without Phoenix for the very first time. Or maybe it was because the other students just weren’t overly interesting to me.
Here’s our first team picture

It seemed as though the students had their groups and I just didn’t fit into their
neat little clicks.

I don’t ever remember my experiences with the students in Gryphon and Phoenix’s classes being this way. I actually still keep in touch with one of the women I met during Phoenix’s class. Darwin was her first dog and we were the same age, so got along amazingly well. Sadly, Darwin passed away around the age of 10, which just happened to be a couple of weeks before Phoenix retired. Janell ended up waiting a year and a bit before receiving her next dog, a medium sized female black lab named Cyder – who just happens to have been fostered by K9 Crazy small world eh?

I remember the first time I met Cessna. I had already tried out various dogs, all were too slow for me, so when they finally brought out Cessna, I just knew she was the one. She was eager to meet me. Wanted to check out the other dogs and peple. Wouldn’t settle right away or even acknowledge my requests for a sit and/or down.

Cessna just had this air of self-confidence and love for life that I couldn’t help wanting to know more about this little ball of energy.

Over the years, Cessna and I have had our ups and downs. She had some fears that we had to work through as a team. She had a lust for life that needed to be tamed. She had trouble controlling herself around other dogs and small animals.

Here’s a picture from Cessna’s days as a therapy dog for St. John’s Ambulance

And, I had to learn that Cessna is Cessna, not Phoenix.

Our six years together have gone by quickly. We work amazingly well together. I no longer have to give her every little cue and if I screw up she seems to know what I really want. Looking back, I never would have thought we’d get to this point. She’s so different from Phoenix and I think it took time for me to embrace the change.

Cessna, you’ve made such a deep impression on my life that I don’t think I can ever forget you.

this is our most recent picture together, sorry for the repost

I look forward to spending another year or two working with my stellar partner and fellow adventure seeker!

It’s Been Six Years

Today, Phoenix celebrates six wonderful years of retirement.

On Friday, May 13th, 2005, a trainer from Dog Guides came to assess Phoenix. He had begun to slow down and showed very little desire to work. It only took five minutes of walking with us for the trainer to tell me I was right and it was time. She told me that he didn’t seem ill or anything, but that she felt he would completely stop working by the fall. I knew this is what Phoenix wanted, so asked when the next class would take place. Phoenix started staying home more often than coming with us from that day and I left just over a week later to get Cessna.

I’m glad Phoenix was able to tell me he wanted to retire.

I’m glad we’ve had a chance to enjoy one another without the demands of a working relationship.

I’m glad he’s been able to get to know Cessna and teach her some of his unofficial skills.

But, most of all, I’m glad he’s given me six fabulous years as a stellar friend.

I’m not sure we’ll be able to celebrate another full year of retirement, but I hope Phoenix knows how much I appreciate the work he did for me and the unconditional love he continues to share.

“The gift of true friendship is that it takes us by the hand and reminds us we are not alone in the journey.”

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