Determined

I am determined to get back into blogging.

It has been an extremely busy summer for all of us.

Here are some highlights:
In June, Rogue tried for her UTD (urban tracking dog) title, but wasn’t successful. We learned some important things at the test and we met some new people.

In July, Arizona entered the Maple Leaf Kennel Club’s UKC conformation show and got a group 4th on the Saturday. There were eight different breeds, so it was quite an exciting win for us.

Every week we have field and tracking classes. Arizona is progressing well with field, but she’s still hesitant to pick up any smelly or floppy ducks, so that’s been a bit frustrating. Rogue is doing well with tracking, working on both urban and field stuff. Arizona has also started tracking and is very slowly progressing. She has the ability to do it, but we never know what she’s going to give us at any given moment.

August 8th was a pretty sad day around here. Our long-time feline friend, Logan, unexpectedly passed away. We saw her Saturday, but weren’t too surprised when we didn’t see her or Laya on Sunday because we were moving stuff around, but on Monday morning Huib searched for her because only Laya came out for wet food. Logan loves canned food, so when we couldn’t find her, we were concerned. Huib found her behind a couch. He said she looked really peaceful, as though she had passed away in her sleep. Since her body was still stiff, our vet believes she probably had a heart attack in her sleep and we most likely discovered her within 8 hours of her passing. It was such a shocker!! We had no idea she was unwell 🙁

September was a pretty busy and exciting month for us all.

On the 9th, Arizona tried to earn her WC (working certificate), but instead of performing the drills, she decided to be the class clown – we’ll try again next year. In the land retrieves, she ‘marked’ perfectly, ran straight up to the duck, sniffed a couple of times, and then ran back to me. The judges asked me to resend her, and she ran two perfect land retrieves. When we attempted the water retrieve, she ‘marked’ beautifully, took a couple of steps into the pond, and ran right back. Huib thinks she didn’t like the smooshy bottom. We did finally get her to do a water retrieve, but we didn’t end up earning the title. We had a good time at the test though, meeting a lot of interesting people, so it was worth it.

On the 10th and 11th, we helped out at the Oakville & District Kennel Club’s conformation show. It took place at the International Centre, so it was a pretty big deal. I ran the Meet the Breeds Booth, getting to check out a number of breeds I had never heard of. Rogue worked, while Canyon and Arizona hung out in a crate when it wasn’t their turn to volunteer. Even with the long days, everyone seemed to have a good time.

On the 20th, I successfully defended my thesis. I now have a Master of Arts in Health and Aging degree. My convocation is on November 17th, so that should be fun.

What’s coming up for us?
On the 16th, Rogue will try again for her UTD title. We have tried to practice every couple of days, working in as many challenges as possible, so I’m hopeful we’ll succeed.

On the 30th Cessna will turn 13. It’s hard to believe my spunky little black lab is really a senior citizen. She still goes for 2 or 3 30 minute walks a day with my step Dad and wants to play with the others in the house from time-to-time. She has some health conditions, Hypothyroidism, mild incontinence, some tiny cataracts, mild arthritis, and some lumps, but overall Cessna’s a pretty happy and healthy old gal.

I will sign off for now, but hopefully I will be back sooner than later.

Update on Tracking

Our winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as most, so we did get some opportunities to track. We didn’t really do any field tracking, but focused more on urban tracking.

In urban tracking the dog is learning to follow scent on short grass and pavement and in high traffic (or highly contaminated) areas. We tend to practice in school yards, on the University of Guelph campus or in local parks.

Rogue is loving it! And, she’s doing fabulously. We try to lay a track a few times a week and then we attend a private Friday or group Saturday tracking session, depending on Laura’s schedule.

If all goes well, we will be entering an urban tracking dog (UTD) test in June that is taking place in London.

I am trying to get Rogue to spend more time exploring the ‘scent pad’ by putting more food on it and by introducing a start cue “are you ready to track?” in an excited voice, and then once she looks at me, “FIND!!”

Some people ask their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before releasing them to start, but Rogue is usually quite revved up and she really doesn’t enjoy either of those cues. I know, you’re wondering how a service dog can succeed while disliking ‘sit’ and ‘down,’ well it’s because I try not to ask her for them unless we actually need to seriously do it.

So far we’ve done 2 to 3 hour old tracks between 200 and 300 meters long with a variety of surface changes and different numbers of turns. Rogue seems to be struggling with wind, with harnessing her enthusiasm, and, at times, with highly contaminated areas. We have a couple of months to go before the test, so we’re going to try and practice at least a few times a week, in different places, on different ages and lengths of tracks.

I really think Rogue can get her UTD this spring/summer, and then we’ll work towards possibly getting her TDX (or Tracking Dog Excellent) title in the fall.

Arizona has also started to track. We are practicing on short grass and pavement for now because it’s convenient, and it will help her in the end when she actually starts training for her TD, which is the first level of field tracking.

Arizona has a bit of trouble starting, but once she gets into the zone, she’s awesome! Huib has chosen to track with her on his own, and says she seems to be a more methodical tracker than Rogue.

The club here in Guelph hosts TD and TDX tests in early November, so I think we are going to try and enter both Arizona and Rogue.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so stay tuned for more tracking news.

Article Indication

In the TDX test, Rogue will need to indicate three articles and follow the scent across a surface change.

Laura laid four different tracks for Rogue: two were quite short with a glove at the end, one was her usual TD track and the final was a short track that went across a driveway.

Rogue overshot the article at the end of the first track, but indicated the article at the end of the second one better.

She did the third track perfectly and indicated the article well.

Laura wasn’t sure how she would do on the final track since she had never done surface changes, but Rogue was not phased, she followed the scent without hesitating and immediately found the article across the driveway.

I am not sure how much longer we will be able to track in the fields before the snow begins, but I think this was a pretty good lesson.

Success!!

She did it!! Rogue passed her tracking test!!

She is now RLR Babe In Total Control TD CGN.

The test went REALLY well. Rogue was extremely revved before and during the test.

A gentleman asked me if my dog was ready for the test and I told him “I don’t know.”

It’s true, I didn’t know. Just like humans, dogs have their good days and their bad. I didn’t know what sort of day this was going to be for Rogue.

Well, it was a good day. Together, we made history. As far as I understand, I am the first blind person to track at a Canadian Kennel Club event.

Our track was 410 metres long and we finished it in just over 6 minutes. Huib and I were dying by the end, Rogue was freaking flying!!

I am SO proud of my little red girl! She has been a great friend and training buddy. Not only does she work well to keep me safe each day, she also works hard to impress me with her intelligence and willingness to try anything.

On Friday morning we are going to start training for the next level, TDX. If it is not too snowy or cold this winter we may also start training for our first urban tracking title.

**There are pictures from our tracking adventure, so I will see if Huib can help me post them in the next week or so**

19 Days

Rogue and I have 19 days left to practice before we do our first CKC tracking test.

Over the past month we have been practicing at least a few times a week.

We have also been playing a “find the glove” game in the house to reinforce her “indications.” In order to pass the test, Rogue needs to clearly indicate that she has found the glove because the judge needs to know it was her and not me who found it.

We had a mock test on Thanksgiving Monday, but we completely bombed it!!

Rogue seemed excited to track, but Huib said that from the start she seemed unsure, and as the track went along she got more and more insecure. I also became frustrated, so near the end, I got her to come close and we walked together to the end.

After I’d calmed down, I was SO embarrassed, we assessed the situation. We realized that the track was over an hour old (to that point, she’d only been doing 40 minute old tracks) and it was extremely windy.

Despite being unsuccessful, the experience was also useful because it gave me an idea of what things we need to work on before the actual test.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been doing 3 tracks, with each one being 10 minutes older than the last. She seems to be doing well and I think we’ll continue this up until the test.

In the meantime, I need to remind myself that even if we fail, we learned something and we can always do it again next year.

In the News: Using the Canine Nose

In the United Kingdom, Tui, a flat-coated retriever is being trained to search for harvest mice.

Researchers are hoping Tui will be able to help them better estimate their numbers because it is believed that their population is on the decline.

You can read more about Tui and the reason for her mission here.

In ruled by paws news…

Rogue and I had an excellent tracking practice this morning, so this article was a great one to share.

We ran a CKC regulation length track in just over 8 minutes without difficulty.

We need to practice corners a bit more and work on Rogue’s article indication, but those are very minor problems.

I think I will break out the clicker and work on teaching Rogue to come “touch” me and then return to the article.

The countdown is on, 46 days until our tracking test.

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.

Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

Progression in Tracking

Brooke and Rogue waiting for their tracking lesson to begin. Brooke is wearing jeans with a navy blue tank top, a white Roots hat with white Oakley sunglasses and white running shoes. Rogue is wearing a pacific blue harness from Ruffwear and has a black tracking line attached to the front which is held by Brooke.

Rogue has had two more lessons since her not so hot one. Now that we do not let her run free before the lesson her attention seems more focused on the task of tracking.

Huib is no longer tracking with her either, he is just acting as my guide, so maybe that is also why things are progressing. One thing with tracking is that you need to trust your dog and allow them to work things out, which is also a big part of having a successful partnership with a guide dog. I trust Rogue with my life, so why wouldn’t I also trust her in tracking? I also can’t see what is coming up, so she really has to do the work, I can’t direct her to the correct direction when she comes to a turn, even if there is a flag so it’s all up to Rogue and her nose.

Laura is pretty impressed with our teamwork, and says we are progressing well.

Maybe if we keep progressing we’ll be able to enter a trial in the fall… It would be nice to have an actual title on a dog.

Not So Hot

Today was Rogue’s second tracking lesson with Laura. It has been quite warm, so we were glad the lesson wasn’t until the evening.

Since Rogue tends to be a bit on the excited side when she first arrives, Laura suggested we go for a short walk around the property before starting. Rogue had a blast running around and checking out various smells. After about 10 minutes of running free, we attached the tracking line to Rogue’s pacific blue Ruffwear harness and took her up to the “scent pad” to begin.

I think Rogue ran too much before starting to track. She was all over the place and at times Laura said it looked as though she was on a walk with Huib instead of following a track.

When Huib and Rogue were finished the first track, Laura had us give Rogue some water and then put her into the car for a short rest. She then got her male lab, Tenner, out of the vehicle and suited him up. She wanted to show us how a more seasoned dog tracks. It was neat to watch him and to see how smoothly he works.

Rogue’s second attempt went better near the end of the track, but she was still not as good as other times. Huib and I are convinced she was too warm and that allowing her to run free beforehand wasn’t a good choice.

Hopefully next week will go better.

On another note, Laura was telling us that she has posted a few messages on the tracking email list she is a member of to see if anyone has any suggestions regarding how things will be handled at a trial if I choose to handle Rogue. She said that a few people have responded and all of them seem to think that I will not be able to trial in tracking with Rogue.

So, guess what? I’m going to prove everyone wrong and from now on, I’m going to handle Rogue at the lessons, not Huib. Laura is totally in favour of having me track, and is eager to help me show the others wrong.