Archives for October 2010

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

Phoenix’s Birthday

Cupcakes are ready!

Doesn’t she have a cute little nose?

Cessna sure wants one of those cupcakes…

Happy 14th Birthday Phoenix!!

Watch you don’t burn your nose on the candles…

Good thing we have Auntie Brandi to blow those candles out for you…

Look at those poor dogs behind bars.

Sadly we forgot to take a picture of the pepperoni pizza he shared with his buddies – it was gone before we thought about it. But, we’ll try and remember to post pictures after Cessna’s birthday.

A Tribute to those Dogs Who Were Loved & Lost

After posting my entry to commemorate Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I began thinking about all the dogs I have known who have joined their friends on the rainbow bridge and decided to take a moment to recognize them. If I have forgotten anyone’s dog please send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I’ll make sure to add them.

Whitney & Madison
I met these two wonderful goldens for the first time when I went to pick out Aspen at her breeder’s home in Hanover, Ontario. Whitney was already retired from breeding, but Madison was pregnant with her final litter and due in just over a month’s time. They were such friendly souls and loved having us come into their home. Whitney passed away about 4 or 5 years later at the age of 12 and Madison passed on about a year or so ago at the age of 12. Both girls passed away during the day while they napped in their favourite spots on the front deck in the sun. Doris wrote me a month or so after each of them passed on and to hear her sadness made me realize how special these dogs were to her.

I met this wonderful boy for the first time when he was about 12 or 13 (not completely sure). Nelson was a hearing Ear Dog who devoted his life to serving and unconditionally loving his handler. He went absolutely everywhere with his handler and when he became ill, she did everything possible to keep him well. Most dogs tend to retire after the age of 11 or 12, but nelson was a trooper and continued to work until his illness got to be too much for him. Nelson’s handler was so distraught when he passed on, but she always knew he would watch over her and began the tough process of getting a new partner.

I never got a chance to meet Pockets, but through windows messenger became good friends with her handler. Pockets was a Hearing Ear dog like Nelson, but instead of being a smaller dog, she was a medium sized black Labrador retriever. Pockets became ill pretty suddenly, having developed some lumps that were found to be cancerous. She lived for about a year after her terminal diagnosis and worked the entire time. Pockets was also a loyal and devoted friend, even when she wasn’t well she insisted on helping her handler in any way possible. Pockets passed away in her handlers arms, they had gone to visit a family member and while trying to walk to the house she just laid down on the lawn and fell asleep in her handlers arms forever. Hearing this story made me cry and hope that Phoenix will leave me in a similar manner – on his own terms.

I met Luther about a year after his handler first brought him home. Luther was a big, goofy yellow Labrador retriever from guide Dogs for The blind. Luther and his handler were inseparable, they taught one another so much about life. He knew many skills that weren’t taught in school and gave his handler an unconditional love that would never be forgotten. I got to see Luther throughout his working years and was amazed to see the bond him and his handler possessed. Luther retired around the age of 10 and a new guide was brought in to take over his duties. Luther and his handler still maintained their bond, but sadly a year or so after his retirement Luther was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after.

Darwin and his handler graduated with me and Phoenix in 1998. Darwin was about a year and a half older than Phoenix, having been with a handler previous to our class who became ill and could no longer use him. Darwin and his his new handler were perfect for one another, the woman had not had a dog before so Darwin’s experience gave him the confidence most of the others in his class did not yet have. I remember being given a chance to walk with Darwin and giving him back to the trainers with a big no because he had a sway to his walk that made it hard for me to walk and I just found him to be too slow. His handler had a gait that most of the other dogs found to be difficult, but Darwin took charge and they became a team. Darwin was not the greatest dog for his handler, but at the time he was what she needed – a loyal companion who would teach her what he could and guide her safely through life. Darwin became ill around the age of 10 and was diagnosed with throat cancer. His handler tried to do everything possible to make him better, but he passed away pretty quickly after being diagnosed. It took his handler about a year and a half before she decided it was time to return to Dog guides for a new partner. She was matched with a wonderful female black Labrador retriever named Cyder, who her handler thinks was sent to keep her safe by Darwin.

I met Nutella for the first time in May of 2006 when we went to pick up Amber and teal from their breeder’s home. Nutella was a big female chocolate Labrador retriever who had to be the centre of attention. I got to see her a bunch more times over the next couple of years as we became friends with Catherine, aiden’s breeder. I will always remember how Nutella would continually bump my hand or arm to be petted, even if I had already been petting her for half an hour and just wanted to take a bit of a break. She would always be at our sides and tried her best to keep up when we went for walks in her favourite places. Nutella was stubborn and independent-minded, but she was Catherine’s loyal companion. Nutella lived to the ripe old age of 14. She began slowing down around the age of 12, but with the help of anti-inflammatories and supplements she kept on trudging along until it got to be too much. Catherine finally made the tough decision to let her go, but before heading to the vet she made a stop at Nutella’s favourite spot. They spent a while there together before getting back into the car and heading to the vet, Nutella fell asleep forever in the back seat. A small memorial was held in the backyard that evening and she was laid to rest in one of Catherine’s many gardens.

I met Annie in the summer of 2006 when we took Cessna to visit her puppy raisers. Bob and Velma do not know how old Annie truly was, but she joined their family a few years before they fostered Cessna when she wandered onto the beach at their cottage. They had put up flyers and asked neighbours about her, in case her owners were looking for her, but no one called or came so they welcomed her in. annie began slowing down around 2007, but with surgery to remove her lumps and anti-inflammatories she was able to comfortably live another couple of years. Bob and Velma had to finally make the tough decision to let her go in the summer of 2009 when Annie began having too much trouble getting up and down and when her lumps were coming back even worse. On her final trip to the vet, they gave her an extra dose of Metacam and the vet gave her the injection in the back of the truck where she fell asleep on her blankets and pillows that had been laid out for her.

I met Baron for the first time in 2004 I think, when he was first beginning his service training. I met him again in 2007 or 2008 when I began volunteering with K9 Helpers. At this point Baron was just about 10 and due to health issues was beginning the retirement process. His handler was finding it hard, but she began working with her new partner in the winter of 2009. Baron came to meetings once in a while, but his handler was careful not to let him overdo it. I’m sure he would have stayed by her side day and night if he could, but his heart was not good so she needed to be careful. Sadly Baron’s heart gave out one evening in 2009 (I think) and he crossed the rainbow bridge to join his friends.

I only had the chance to meet Bear a couple of times, one of them being in 2004 at a Dogs In the Park square dancing demonstration. I do not know much about Bear and his life, but knowing his owners I’m sure he had the life of a king. Bear was about 15 (I think) when he passed away from old age.

Jazz was a big male black Labrador retriever hearing Ear dog. I only got to meet Jazz a few times, but will always remember his spirited personality. Jazz got ill suddenly around the age of 7 and passed away within a week. Shortly before his death his handler learned he had a tumor that was causing a blockage in his digestive track and could not be safely removed.

I met Cooper when Phoenix was about 3 years of age. Cooper was a dual Hearing Ear and Special Skills dog. I didn’t really get to see much of Cooper after our first couple of meetings, but saw him a year before his death when he attended our first Walk for Dog guides in Guelph with his handler. It was so amazing to see what she had taught him and how much he had matured over the years. She had him take his own saddle bags off and give them to her before I could give him attention and then had him put them back on before they left. He was spoiled and loved by his handler, she actually wrote a beautiful memorial for him that we read at our third Walk for Dog Guides. Cooper passed away in his sleep a few days before our second Walk for Dog Guides in 2008. As far as I can remember Cooper was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and had gone through all the available treatments, but he just couldn’t get it to leave his body.

If tears could build a stairway
And memories a lane

I’d walk right up to rainbow bridge
And bring you home again

Rest In Peace our canine friends, you are all missed and will never be forgotten…

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

Canyon Update

We are still waiting for canyon’s CKc paperwork to arrive, but are hoping it will come soon so we can enter our first obedience trial in November – if Huib’s work schedule allows for that to happen….

Each day I’ve been spending time with Canyon to try and decrease his response time – at this point he’ll sit or lie down immediately if both a verbal and hand signal are used and as long as nothing more interesting is happening around us. I’ve been trying to do a lot of my training during games of fetch – since he’s much more toy motivated than food – getting him to sit, lie down stay until another dog retrieves the toy or stand before I give him the release command and throw the toy. He does well at the staying in a down until Aspen or Cessna brings back the toy (my attempt at teaching him a little self-control), but we still need to work on his immediate obeying of sit, down or stand before being released to play. Since we tend to play fetch for about 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a day, I think Canyon’s obedience response times will soon become immediate rather than occurring after sometimes being asked several times. I know I should just wait him out, but he’s almost just as stubborn as me so after a minute I give in and ask again…

We had Canyon at the vet last week for his rabies vaccine and discussed future breeding. Our vet told us to continue what we’re doing for now and she’ll refer us to the Ontario Veterinary College in June since they would rather not perform health clearances until he’s 2 years of age. This gives us tons of time to make our final decision as to whether we’d like to breed him and to work towards an obedience title or two. We haven’t heard anything from the professional hanlder we wrote a few weeks ago, so at the advice of an acquaintance I’m going to pursue alternative avenues for help with Canyon’s confirmation.

It is really an exciting time for me as I can actually begin to see myself entering an obedience trial with my handsome stud muffin