Cessna and Canyon had their second agility lesson on Tuesday. It was pretty sunny, so both were a little slower.

Cessna seemed to remember almost everything she’d learned on the weekend, so we started teaching her jumps and weaves, as well as, starting to ask her to do two jumps before being sent through a tunnel or shoot. Cessna and I learned jumps while taking lessons with Dogs In the Park, so it was nothing for her to start jumping 18 inches right away. We’ll raise the bar a bit further during her next lesson, but the Border Collie lady (Dawn) thought we’d start lower while we were teaching her what’s needed.

I didn’t need Huib’s help as much this time, so he took some pictures.

Cessna loves the Dog Walk and A-Frame, so even before I asked her to “walk on” or “climb” she was running towards the other end.

Cessna was a little warm by the end of her half hour, so she lazily walked through the tire.

Huib had to help me with the weaves, so didn’t get any pictures. For now, Cessna is just being asked to walk through a channel of poles that are about three or so feet apart. As she gets used to the poles, they’ll be brought in closer to one another. Dawn told me that her two year old female (Ruby) is just now starting to perfect her weaves after an entire summer of working on them four days a week, so she said we’ll take it slow. I think the weaves and teeter will be the main areas where Cessna and Canyon will need time and tons of practice before competing. They were both quite nervous walking along the teeter – I held their collars while they walked along and Dawn and Huib held the other end and slowly lowered it as we reached the other side. Cessna was the only one who didn’t try jumping off at the middle, she decided it was best to just get it over with and walk quickly lol!

Canyon didn’t have as great a session, he was really distracted!

He walked confidently along the A-Frame and Dog Walk. Loved running through the tunnels and shoots. And had no issues going through the tire and weaves, but he refused to go over the jumps and continually got off the teeter around the centre.

I really think I need to start using a leash with him when we’re in the arena though, he would do the piece of equipment I asked him to attempt and then run over to this place or that to “mark” or sniff.

Here are a couple of pictures Huib took of Canyon during his lesson.

Dawn is away for the next two weeks – attending a show in Sudbury with her younger dogs (Ruby and Tay) this weekend and then the agility regionals in Sault Ste Marie next weekend with two of her older ones (Gracie and Echo) – so we won’t have another lesson until the beginning of June. I think I’m going to try and build a makeshift jump for Canyon and Cessna to practice.

Before I go though, Dawn has asked me to come and participate in a demo she is hosting Canada Day weekend!! She thinks it is important for others to see how my disability isn’t deterring me from doing agility with my dogs. I know this could be seen as bad (you can insert whatever word you want here) to others, but I don’t mind being used for education – just weeks ago she didn’t think we could do it and now she wants us to show others we can, so this opportunity means a lot to me. I also found out that her sister is blind (or visually impaired) so I’m wondering if this is where a lot of her understanding and/or beliefs have come from. Maybe her sister isn’t as able or willing to participate in traditionally sight-oriented activities. I’m glad I’ve been given this opportunity to teach her that not all blind/visually impaired people are the same.

Another Fundraiser

Hi Everyone!
It’s Cessna and Phoenix here. Mom is a little busy so, we offered to take over and let you all know about a fundraising project our friends over at Dog’s Eye view are undertaking.

Jack is from Guide Dogs of America, so L^2 has decided to begin their fundraising project for their upcoming 6 month anniversary. If you’d like some more information about the project you can also visit this post. Both Phoenix and I are not from Guide Dogs of America, but think it is important to help out friends when possible. If you’d like to help L^2 and Jack with their project, please visit the links we’ve provided for instructions on how to donate.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Phoenix thinks we should tell you all about the wonderful toys Mommy and Daddy bought us and all about the treats they made.

On Tuesday Daddy came home from work with a big box – I don’t remember there being toys at his work…guess they were hiding them on me! When Mommy opened the box, there were some really fun things: a Galileo Bone, a Nylabone Double Action Revolving Chew, a liver flavor Nylabone, a lime green Tough By Nature Good Cuz, a lot of squeaky Air Kong Tennis Balls,a yellow stuffed duck and white stuffed lamb that honk, an orange and black JW Arachnoid Ball and two new Kong Wobblers that Mommy says is for Aiden and Reece. Canyon really likes the JW Arachnoid Ball and Air Kong Tennis Balls, Aspen likes the yellow duck and Phoenix says he is a little too old to be playing with all that, but finds it fun to grab one and tease canyon – I actually like doing the same thing!!

Then this weekend we got even more surprises! Mommy and Daddy made us new cookies to share. They made some shrimp ones for me by grinding the leftover tails and shells into a paste to mix with some spelt flour and then made some banana/cinnamon ones for the goldens . Then for Phoenix, Daddy made some more dehydrated veggies – turnip, sweet potato and a really weird purple one.

Well that’s all for now, but Phoenix and I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you will try and help our friends sponsor a puppy.

Lots of Labrador kisses and tail wags,

Cessna and Phoenix

General Response

Today I received a response from the constituency e-mail address
of Ontario Health Minister Deborah Matthews. The message sender was not Ms. Matthews, but from one of her helpers. She told me that my message would be forwarded on to Ms. Matthews’ Queen’s park address and that I could always send my inquiry to the Ministry’s general address. I forwarded this message on to Christina’s Mom so she was aware of what I had heard so far and was told she had not gotten any word from the letters she had sent.

Well, this afternoon we both received identical messages from a man named Glenn Oldford, who I guess is in charge of sending general e-mails from some closet within the Ministry called Correspondence Services – our tax dollars hard at work!! I have copied the message below, not because it tells us anything, but because I think it’s important for the world to see how the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care spends our money and responds to a plea for life saving assistance.

Dear Ms. Sillaby:

Thank you for your e-mail message regarding a child’s care at the Hospital for Sick Children. While I cannot comment on the care of a third party, I would like to provide you with some information about hospital funding and operations.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care plays a strategic role in health care, but it does not intervene in the care of individual patients. This involves medical decisions that are best addressed by clinical teams.

The number of procedures that a particular hospital performs reflects the hospital’s decisions about budgetary and operational issues, such as the purchase of prosthetic implants and how to allocate operating room time.

Although the ministry provides funding for hospitals through Local Health Integration Networks, hospitals are independent corporations run by their own boards of directors. Each hospital receives a set funding allocation, and the hospital’s administration decides how to use this funding to best suit the needs of the community it serves. This is set out under the provisions of the Public Hospitals Act and other legislation. The hospital boards are directly responsible for the day-to-day management of their hospitals, including the quality of care provided to their patients.

The hospital administration is best able to provide feedback about a patient’s treatment and its own operations.

Thank you again for writing.

Glenn Oldford
Correspondence Services
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Thank you Mr. Oldford. I can see you put a lot of thought into your response and am so glad my tax dollars are being put towards the employment of such a useless position. I’m pretty sure my dog could have come up with a more creative way of saying “the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is a waste of tax payers money and we don’t care about critically ill children because we just hand out your money and leave it’ up to others to spend it.”

I think I will continue sending e-mails and letters each week on Christina’s behalf because there’s gotta be someone who actually cares out there…

Letters Sent

A week ago I told everyone about Christina Montada and her fight for life. Today I thought I’d post a copy of the letter I sent to: the Ontario Health Minister (Deborah Matthews), the Ontario Premier (Dalton McGuinty), Parliamentary Assistant to the health Minister (Liz Sandals) and the Halton MPP (Ted Chudleigh) on her behalf. I decided to send letters and e-mails to all of them because each one can make a difference in their own way and I chose Liz Sandals because she just happens to be the MPP for Guelph and someone I met through hosting the Purina Walk For Dog Guides before moving to Northern Ontario.

Here’s a picture from our 2009 walk. If I’m not incorrect Guelph city Counselor, Gloria Kovak, is standing to my left and Liz Sandals beside her.

If you’d like to help Christina, don’t hesitate to leave a comment with your contact information and I’ll make sure not to post any personal information since comments here are moderated.

Dear (Name of Person)
My name is Brooke Sillaby and I am writing to ask for your assistance in helping my friend’s daughter, Christina Montada, receive the lifesaving device called the Vegas nerve Stimulator.

I have known Christina’s mother, Monique Lee-Montada for just over two years and have come to love her daughter as if she were my own. I came to know Christina through my work with an organization called Autism dog Services and even though I no longer raise puppies, I continue to keep in touch with her family. Christina is only nine years old, but has overcome more challenges and health scares than any adult I know.

From a young age, Christina has had an ongoing struggle to live. Around the age of seven months she was given a gastro tube for nutrition because she was not meeting the appropriate developmental milestones. Due to the long period of time without sufficient nutrition, Christina has been left with delays in all areas of development. She is not independently mobile and does not have any formal method of communication, so finds it frustrating to get her needs across. In addition to all of this Christina was recently diagnosed with Cardio-Facio-Cutaneous Syndrome and Tonic/Clonic Epilepsy.

CFC has been a tough diagnosis to accept, but christina’s family is finding it even harder to deal with watching their little angel struggle to survive the numerous seizures that are taking a toll on her little body. Christina has tried several different medications, and is currently on a Ketogenic Diet, in an effort to provide some relief, but nothing seems to work. Recently, her family was informed of a lifesaving alternative, the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, but their excitement was short lived because they were told Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital is only able to perform 8-10 procedures a year. This is not because they do not want to do more, but because OHIP does not cover the units and the money must be taken out of the Hospital’s own surgery budget.

I do not understand why such a device would not be covered when approval for something as trivial as a new computer for someone with a disability (like me) is given with just the okay of a “certified” assessment person. I am not saying my assistive devices are not important for me to live comfortably, but the Vegas nerve Stimulator is often the last alternative children like Christina have for any sort of life at all.

I hope you will read this letter, along with letters from others whose lives have been touched by Christina Montada and take it upon yourself to make sure she receives the device that will save her little life.


Brooke Sillaby

Advocating For Christina

In an earlier post I briefly mentioned Christina and her former autism service dog, Spencer. I’m now going to share the story of this little angel and her ongoing fight for life.

We first met Spencer (now retired), at an Autism Dog Services puppy training session in Waterloo with a 3 or 4 month old Aiden. At the time, Spencer was staying with the program trainer in order to learn what he needed to do for Christina. I remember being given a chance to walk with Spencer and thinking about how lucky this little girl, I did not yet know, was to have him in her life. He was so attentive, confident and wanting to learn.

Fast forward 9 months or so and I got a chance to meet Monique, Christina’s Mom. From the moment I met her, I knew we’d become friends and stay in touch. Monique is an amazing woman. She wants what’s best for her daughter and isn’t afraid to make things happen. When we first met she asked a lot of questions about how we could raise a puppy knowing it would someday leave us for a new family. She listened to what we said and tried to understand why we were doing this. Throughout the outing she’d come over and comment on how well-behaved Aiden was and how she’d love to trade him for Spencer – he liked to give Monique a hard time. We met Monique a few more times and began keeping in touch.

Christina is 9 years old and has Cardio-Facio-Cutaneous Syndrome, in addition to tonic/clonic epilepsy. She was originally diagnosed with Noonan’s Syndrome, but after a few years of doctors scratching their heads and finally more thorough tests it was discovered that her seizures were the one symptom which separated Noonan’s from her actual diagnosis of CFC. CFC is a rare genetic condition that usually affects the heart, facial features and skin. Children with this diagnosis may possess the following features –
• relatively large head size
• wide-spacing eyes which may cause decreased vision & acuity
• Sparse eyebrows
• Curly hair
• Areas of thickened or scaly skin
• Small stature
• Heart defect
• Varying degrees of learning difficulty & developmental delay
• Feeding/GI problems (failure to thrive)
• Varying severity of neurologic conditions (seizures, cognitive impairment, etc)
(CFC International, 2010)
Several of the above characteristics are also present in the diagnosis of Noonan’s Syndrome, so it is understandable that it took doctors time to figure out Christina’s true diagnosis of CFC.

CFC was a tough diagnosis to accept, but christina’s family is finding it even harder to deal with watching their little angel struggle to survive the numerous seizures that are taking a toll on her little body. Christina has been put on several different medications and is currently on a Ketogenic Diet in an effort to provide some relief, but nothing seems to work. Recently, they were informed of a life-saving alternative, the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, but their excitement was short-lived because they were informed that Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital is only able to perform 8-10 procedures a year. This is not because they don’t want to do more, but because OHIP doesn’t cover the units and the money must be taken out of the Hospital’s own surgery budget. This news does not sit well with Christina’s Mom, so she has taken it upon herself to begin writing letters to Ontario’s Minister of Health, hoping something can be done to rectify the situation. It’s hard to understand why a life saving surgery wouldn’t be covered, but something like a Gastro Bipass would be approved without a second thought. I’m not saying the Gastro Bipass isn’t important for some people to live a long and productive life, but the VNS is often the last chance these children have for a life at all.

Christina may not be like other children, but she is just as entitled to living a long and happy life with her friends and family. She has had to climb an uphill battle since a very young age and could teach us so much about what it really means to live. She may not be able to get around on her own. She may not be able to enjoy a home cooked meal like the rest of us. And she may not have any formal method of communication, but she has feelings and she knows what’s going on around her.

I know there’s not much I can do for Christina, but I’m hoping that by sharing her story and letting everyone know about the struggles she must overcome each day, maybe someone will stumble across my little place on the worldwide web and start bringing about change. There are so many children out there like Christina, but as of today they’re no longer alone in their fight for life because they have Monique on their side. Christina’s Mom is a strong woman and I know that she will never give up on her daughter because she believes, just as I do, that everyone deserves a chance at life. If you’d like to join us in writing letters to the Ontario Minister of Health, please leave your e-mail address in the comments section and Monique or I will contact you with the details.

I’ll finish this entry with a poem I found on the following website – – I hope the author doesn’t mind me re-posting it here…

The Misunderstood child
by Chelsea-Louise Perry
I am the child that looks healthy and fine
I was born with ten fingers and toes
But something is different somewhere in my mind
And what that is nobody knows.

I am the child that struggles at school
Though they tell me I’m perfectly smart
They tell me I’m lazy, can learn if I try
But I don’t seem to know where to start.

I am the child that won’t wear the clothes
Which hurt me or bother me too much
I dread sudden noises,
Can’t handle smells and tastes,
There are few foods that I will eat.

I am the child with a broken heart
Though I act like it don’t hurt inside
For I am the child that needs to be loved
And accepted and valued too.

I am the child that is misunderstood
I am different, and I understand that too
But for me to fit in and be accepted
Is totally up to you.

Please help us advocate for Christina and children like her because if we don’t, no one will.

Some Great news!

I had to share this link because it is welcome news and hits home for me not only as a person with a disability, but also because I see myself as somewhat of a “side lines advocate” (for lack of a better phrase).

My sister works for Community Living and during a recent staff meeting was informed that they would now need to take extra care in documenting all bruises, injuries and complaints of clients since the police could be called to investigate at any time. My sister is worried about this because bumps can happen without notice, but she also takes comfort in knowing her clients will now have a voice and will be watched more closely. I’m guessing this policy has been implemented because of the changes mentioned below.

Rolling Around In My Head: By God Finally A New Year: “It should be a given. People with disabilities have a right to be safe in care. Organizations and the governments that fund them need to ens…”