Happy Thanksgiving!

This weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. My step-dad and sister came to visit. Huib has been working a lot this week, so it was really nice to have the company of family. Today we had turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, turnip and corn. It was absolutely delicious!

With it being Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share five things I’m most thankful for.

1. I’m thankful for Huib. He has been an important part of my life since 2000, and I couldn’t imagine being without him.
2. I’m thankful for my dogs. They bring me smiles and laughter each day.
3. I’m thankful for family. Even though we’re a little dysfunctional, I know they will always have my back.
4. I’m thankful for my friends. Each one has added something special and unforgettable to my life. Even those who have moved on, have left me with lessons I would not have learned without their presence.
5. I’m thankful for the challenges I’ve been given in life. I think that if I had not had to deal with some of the “special” circumstances in life, I would not be the person I am today.

If you feel like it, please share five things you are thankful for in the comments section.

Gone 13 Years

It’s hard to believe, that just thirteen years ago, my mom was still a part of my life.

I know I’ve written about the death of my mom before, but I don’t think I’ve ever told the story of who she was.

Denise was just 39 when Juvenile Diabetes took her away. She was the mom of two teenage daughters, and the wife of a man who to this day, has never stopped loving her.

During her short life, Denise was a devoted, caring RPN (Registered Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse’s Assistant) at the York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She worked on the geriatrics unit, and provided smiles and laughter for all patients and staff she encountered. To this day, her best friend, a fellow RPN, still misses her dearly.

In 1988, Denise injured her left foot while assisting a co-worker with transferring a patient from one bed to another.

It’s hard to think, that just ten years later my mom would leave us forever.

She was such an inspiration.

Such a loving person.

Even though my friends did not get a chance to know her as well as I did, her death still really effected them.

She loved to laugh.

Loved to tell jokes.

Loved to be surrounded by friends.

But, most of all, she loved her daughters.

It is for this reason, that Brandi and I still strive to keep her memory going.

And every day we hope, that we are still living up to her hopes and expectations.

Good Luck Dawsen

As of Friday, it’s been two weeks since my sister handed Dawsen’s leash over to a man who fosters for Golden Rescue. Dawsen was with my sister for seven months, but she just found it too tough.

Dawsen is a two year old, rusty colour, golden retriever with moderate epilepsy. He came to Golden Rescue at the age of 22 months, because his family just found his behavior to be too much to handle. According to the family, Dawsen had pretty much spent his life living in a crate, coming out for walks and short wrestling matches with their teenage sons. They said he had only had two seizures with them, but that he’d just gotten to be too much work. His first foster home taught him to sit, lie down and wait before getting his meals, but by the time my sister adopted him, Dawsen was still in the learning phase.

Over the seven months Dawsen lived with my sister, he learned to sit, lie down, wait, give a paw and how to play appropriately with other dogs. It was a bit of a struggle at first, but my sister stuck with it and Dawsen slowly settled into his new life as a beloved pet. As time went on though, there was one thing my sister was not able to break him of – his food obsession. As a result of the medication Dawsen receives for his epilepsy, he cannot control himself around food or anything that appears edible. Therefore, it was really hard for my sister to keep him safe and out of trouble, but for the most part she was successful. When he came to visit us though, he had to stay on leash or where a muzzle because it was impossible for me to feel comfortable enough with his behavior and safety.

Around the beginning of May, my sister learned that her landlord would be selling the home she was living in, so she began the search for a new job and home, in Huntsville, since she was really not happy in Kirkland Lake. She found a job almost immediately and then found a townhouse for our step-dad and her to share.

During the moving process, Brandi took Dawsen on trips to visit family and friends and found it almost impossible to keep Dawsen from stealing food and/or trying to eat anything that looked enticing. She moved in June, and Dawsen’s behavior got even more difficult to tolerate. She was really hoping that she’d be able to accommodate his needs enough to keep him safe, but This was not the case, so after a couple of weeks, she asked me to take Dawsen until Golden Rescue could find him an appropriate foster home. Dawsen stayed with us for over a week, but returned to my sister for a few days when we had to go “down south” for Rogue’s vet visit and the Red Labrador Retrievers’ annual reunion. It was really hard for my sister to be responsible for handing over Dawsen, but I also think it was important for her to meet the man who would be fostering him and see how easily Dawsen took to his pack – 2 golden retrievers, a boxer and toy poodle.

Since leaving my sister, Dawsen has begun to learn off leash recall and has made really good friend’s with the man’s 2 year old male golden retriever, Octane. He has already sent us a couple of updates and has complimented her on the level of care and training she provided. I’m really hoping Dawsen will find his forever home soon, but in the meantime, I know he is having a blast with his new pals.

My sister still cries about the decision she had to make, but I personally think it was the best one for both her and Dawsen because, in order for her to keep him safe, she would have had to either crate or muzzle him when she wasn’t able to be right by his side. I tell her that she isn’t a bad person, that maybe Dawsen needed her to teach him the valuable life skills he’d need to find the family of his dreams, but she still finds it hard to think about.

If we get any further updates on Dawsen, I’ll post them here.

Puppy news & Other Randomness

We got an e-mail from Karen of Red Labrador Retrievers to let us know that she thinks there are two females who might fit our needs. She said that she could be wrong, but from observing the litter, she thinks “ruby” and “pinky” will be a good fit – they name the puppies according to their collar tags. She describes “ruby” and “pinky” as being “very social, happy-go-lucky’s…middle of the road in the hierarchy, brave without being aggressive…they are all (entire litter) quick learners like both their mom and dad…all (entire litter) are happy to please, of course some more than others and they (“rudy” and “pinky”) are middle of the road their also…” We’ll have to wait for the test scores, but at least we know that there is most likely a puppy or two for us to choose from.

Sadly, Karen hasn’t had time to post updated pictures though…

In other news…

We got some very sad news from our friends, the pawpower pack. Mr. Pawpower’s golden companion passed away unexpectedly. Here’s some more details. I haven’t had the experience of losing a beloved companion, but know from losing both my mother and grandmother, that it can be heartbreaking and the wounds will take time to heal. Our thoughts go out to Mr. Pawpower and the rest of the Pawpower Pack. Rest in peace Rudy, you will be sadly missed.

I’ve been doing some research on courses I might want to take through the University of Guelph or McMaster University. I haven’t been able to find work and am tired of sitting around doing nothing, but training with the dogs and housework. I’m thinking that I’ll take a course or two each semester via distance education through one of the above universities and then hopefully re-apply for masters or occupational therapy when we move closer to London (Ontario) in a couple of years. Huib’s contract with the Kirkland & District Hospital is over in a year and if we can get rid of a couple more debts between now and next fall, I think we might look at moving back to southern Ontario, closer to friends and family. It’s been a wonderful experience living here, but it’s just not home.

My sister found out that the woman who owns the house she is renting wants to sell this summer. She doesn’t really like living here and thinks she will try and find work around Orillia or Gravenhurst. She’s going to visit some friends next weekend in Aurora, so has asked me to help her re-design her resume so she can hand some out on her way down. I’m excited to know she will be moving closer to her friends and a place she loves, but am secretly sad that she will be leaving. I know she can be frustrating, but I will really kind of miss having her so close.

I got an e-mail from Judi of Ramblin Goldens this weekend. I had sent her an update on Canyon since she owns his sire and brother. She told me they got their new female golden retriever puppy, Emmie, a couple of weeks ago and are really enjoying her. She hasn’t yet found a new home for Phoenix, Canyon’s brother, but has also not been looking too hard. She wants to work on some of his obedience before sending him off. I really love having Canyon and wish we could invite Phoenix to live with us, but I’m really not sure Huib will go for that lol! He is quite patient with my love of dogs, but has told me that he thinks five is a good number 

Finally, I have been in contact with a woman who runs a program that helps people train their pets to be service dogs. She used to work for the Lions Foundation of Canada as a Special Skills trainer, but has been working on her own program for about five or more years. The program is called Encouraging Paws Service Dogs and their website can be found here. The Director has informed me that her fees are $12,000 for assistance from puppy hood through to certification and follow-up help. This is a little out of our price range, so we have asked her how much she would charge for just help with certification. She said that her price is $5,000 for certification which is ten hours of assessment. To pass, she says that the dog must meet the standards of “the Blind Dog Act Federation” but I think she means the International Guide Dog Federation. She also informed me that her fee for advice and/or consultation is $500 an hour or $8.33 a minute. I’m not sure if we’ll end up going with Encouraging Paws, but at least we know there is someone willing to certify and/or provide consultation during the training process. I have some other contacts who have offered to give me advice and information when needed, so I think we’re finally ready to officially raise and train Cessna’s successor!!

Seminar & Other Stuff

This weekend, Huib, Cessna and I attended a breeding seminar with Amy from Me And My Pups. the seminar was being hosted by The Labrador Owners Club so of course their were several lab breeders in attendance, as well as, a table of West Highland White Terrier breeders, a Duck Toller breeder, a couple Wheaten breeders, a man who breeds Old English Sheepdogs, a woman who breeds golden retrievers and some others that I can’t remember.

Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a breeder, lecturer, researcher and author of “Breeding Dogs To Win”, was the presenter for the two day seminar. He taught us an easier way of understanding the pedigree of dogs through the introduction of “stick dog” figures, and a “symbols” pedigree. By using these two methods, breeders are better able to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of their females in order to find a stud that will help alleviate some of their weak traits or compliment their strengths. I found the seminar to be a bit on the more visual side, but also found it educational. Huib and I are not looking at getting a breeding female until Phoenix crosses the rainbow bridge, so have tons of time to collect pedigrees and learn all we can about the “missing” pieces of a traditional pedigree – such as the health concerns and structural traits of the ancestors.

On Sunday we began our journey home and experienced some problems with the truck around Oshawa. Luckily Amy was still with us, so we called CAA and had the truck towed to a dealership near her parent’s place. We stayed the night and had the truck examined the following morning. I was pretty frustrated by the lack of attention the dealership gave us, but was happy when they finally called to say we could pick it up around 5:30pm and head north. Phoenix, Aspen and Canyon had stayed with my step-dad and sister while we were away so I was eager to get home and pick them up. My Dad and sister are great with the dogs, but for some reason Aspen was stressed and having issues with her incontinence so I was pretty worried about her and annoyed that we would be delayed in returning. Aspen has had issues with incontinence since she was young, but for the most part it doesn’t happen often – just when she’s had too much water or when she is feeling stressed. While with my sister, she had about two or three incidents a day, which is unusual, so I really wanted to get back to her. Since we picked them up Monday night, she has not had an issue…

On Sunday I also sent an e-mail to the breeder who owns Canyon’s sire and brother to see how Phoenix’s (brother) clearances had gone. Judi was taking Phoenix to have his clearances done that morning, so I was eager to learn about his eyes. Well, it turns out that Phoenix also has scarring on the retina of his right eye in addition to folds. As far as I know, retinal folds are an issue common in the collie breeds (not so much in golden retrievers), but in Phoenix’s case, Huib is wondering if it might not be related to whatever caused the scarring in the two brothers. He is thinking that maybe Phoenix had the infection or whatever slightly worse in his right eye, causing inflammation that left the folds. I think it would be interesting to find out if their sisters also have the scarring, but since they are most likely just pet dogs, I don’t think we’ll ever know. With this news, Judi has begun the process of finding Phoenix a new home because it is not possible for her to keep a dog who cannot be in her program. I really wish we had known this a few months ago because I know Brandi would have adopted him for sure, but she now has Dawsen and doesn’t think she could handle another dog at this point.

Here’s a picture of Dawsen from one of our many walks in the winter.

Yesterday Canyon and I had our fifth training session with the Border Collie lady and again it went well. Brandi came along to watch so she could see what we were learning and if she would like to do something similar with Dawsen. We did some “lefts” and “rights”, practiced the “heel” position a bit more and worked on his “fronts”. Then, we started teaching him to “go around” so that in the summer he will be ready for Flyball lessons. I thought he would be too big for Flyball, but the Border Collie lady thinks that his obsession with balls will work well in this sport.

As an aside, I’m sort of getting the impression that she isn’t sure I will be able to be successful in agility with my dogs since I won’t be able to run the course with them. I’ve tried to explain that I could stand in the middle and direct them, but I’m not sure she sees how it is possible to be successful…so I guess I’ll just have to show her how it’s done. Does anyone else know of a blind or visually impaired person who has done agility with their dogs?

After the session was over, we talked a bit about the seminar I had attended on the weekend and she really thinks that we should show Canyon even once for the experience. So, Huib has said that if the Temiskaming Kennel Club has their show in new Liskeard this summer, that he would be willing to show Canyon for me – could I be rubbing off on him? Then, just before we were leaving the Border Collie lady asked my sister if she had a dog and Brandi told her about Dawsen. After listening to the concerns Brandi had, she asked if she would be interested in attending some obedience classes and Brandi said she’d love to. So, Dawsen will be starting his classes next Thursday!! Brandi wants me to come along, but Huib and I both told her that we think it would be better for her to do this on her own with Dawsen because part of the issue is that she worries about what others think and relies on us to help her, so it’s time they did some real work together and develop a more respectful relationship. I’ll keep you all posted on how their classes go…

Before I end this post, I thought I’d let you all know that our potential puppy is due on Monday (April 18th). Cheyenne is the dam of this litter and her breeder feels that one of her girls might be a good fit for us. They tend to be a little more independent minded and she finds them a little harder to place in homes because they need more experienced handlers and more stimulation. Our ideal puppy is exactly what she has described, so we’re quite eager to hear about the litter and to find out how well they score on the aptitude test. We’re still waiting for the pedigrees and clearances the breeder was supposed to send us, but are hoping that this delay isn’t a sign that we should be looking elsewhere. I think I’ll e-mail her again and give her my sister’s address in addition to the hospital’s fax number and my e-mail address in the hopes that it’s just our mail service that is the issue.

She would Have Been 52

On Sunday (February 6th) my mom would have turned 52, but in September of 1998 diabetes decided she should forever be 39.

When Mom first passed away, I found it hard to think of Christmas, Mothers Day, her birthday, and the day she left us (September 25, 1998) without getting teary or feeling generally miserable. I would get moody or easily upset without warning weeks beforehand. I found it hard to listen to friends and other students talk about what they’d be doing with their mothers on Mothers Day or what they got them for Christmas. I felt as though the world should know Mom was gone and therefore no one should be talking about their mothers. Well, it’s been almost twelve and a half years and I’m noticing the days now sometimes pass without thought.

I still think about mom when I’m having a bad day or when something exciting happens. I think about her when I visit my sister and see my step-dad. I think about her when I’m not feeling well and wish she could be there just to offer a finger to hold – something I always did as a kid. I wonder what she would have thought about Huib and where we’d be now if she was still alive. Would we be living in Northeastern Ontario? Or would we be living closer to Aurora because that’s where her and Dad live? Would Brandi be the way she is? Would she still have that feeling of entitlement and expectation that I be there to catch her every time she fell? Or would Mom have made her grow up and make something of herself sooner than we were able to do so? All of these thoughts and questions move through my head whenever I think of Mom and what life would be like if diabetes had not decided she would forever be 39.

Even though you’re no longer with us Mom – Happy 52nd Birthday!!

A New Perspective

Last Wednesday I woke up with a migraine. This is a semi-normal occurrence so I wasn’t worried at first, but then I went to turn on the lights because it was on the dark side and I realized something was wrong – I couldn’t see… I decided to take some medication for my headache and just chill on the couch, hoping my vision would clear with the pain relief. Well…it didn’t improve, but I still wasn’t worried because I thought of all my friends who get migraines and tell me how their vision is all distorted when they have a really bad one (I have a high pain tolerance so don’t actually recognize the true level of pain I’m in), so I thought “maybe that’s the problem.” Huib got home in the evening from work and I told him about my vision and he said we’d just watch some TV together and see how things are in the morning – it wasn’t any better…

I called my sister Thursday morning and asked her if she was working. She wasn’t, so we headed to the hospital in Timmins to see if they could help me out. When I arrived they had me into the emergency department within an hour and I had a CT scan just a few hours after checking in with triage. The CT scan came back clear, but the doctors were still concerned about my vision and headaches so they wanted to admit me so I could get an MRI done within 24 hours rather than the usual 2-3 weeks. I really didn’t want to stay in the hospital, but my sister convinced me to do it and stayed the night so I could keep Cessna as well. Huib arrived the following afternoon and I was told I would need to stay another night because there was no room in the MRI schedule until the following morning. Brandi went home late Friday night and Huib stayed with me and Cessna (she was amazing, just sleeping on my bed the whole 48 hours). I had my MRI early Saturday and was discharged around 3pm after the results came back. The doctors are still not sure why my vision has deteriorated and whether it will return, but for now they are just treating the symptoms of the headaches.

I’m so glad to be home and out of the hospital. It’s amazing to see the varying level of care you can receive from different nurses. I’m so thankful that Brandi and Huib stayed with me the whole time because I’m not sure I would have survived on my own. My evening shift nurses were great both nights I stayed, but the day shift nurses on both Thursday and Friday were horrid!! My Friday one was a male and he was so stupid and lazy, I think Huib wanted to slap him a few times – he (not Huib) is an example of why some people don’t like male nurses. I think the worst thing he did other than to just cancel my call bell when I rang without coming to see what I wanted, was when he told my neuro-ophthalmologist in London that I was no longer at the hospital and must have been discharged. He was my nurse and I was literally two big steps from the nurses’ station!! Luckily my ophthalmologist and I were trading e-mails back and forth so when he told me what the nurse had said, Huib went over and clarified with them that I was indeed still admitted and that my doctor wanted to speak to the E.R one in charge of my care. My neuro-ophthalmologist was amazing and made sure to get the Timmins doctor to do all tests and send him the results as soon as they came in. even though it was a weekend, he still checked in via e-mail with me and gave me updates on what he was hearing from Timmins. Thankfully I had someone taking good care of me since my neurosurgeon in Hamilton really didn’t seem to care about what was happening, but that’s a whole other story and the conclusion is I’ll be getting a referral to a different one that my ophthalmologist has recommended.

It’s been an interesting 5 days. I’ve gone from seeing very little – through only 3 pin holes in my right eye – to seeing barely anything – sometimes even nothing. I’ve told some friends through facebook about my ordeal and called my aunt in London yesterday, but I’m not sure what to tell everyone. In the mornings I wake up and it’s almost complete darkness, I can’t tell if the lights are on or off and when I’m outside with the dogs I can’t tell if it is sunny or cloudy. At some point through the day though, not sure if it is related to the level of pain, my vision clears a bit. It’s like looking at the world through a not yet defogged car window I guess… I can see things around me, like the TV, the opening to our bedroom, the fan on our ceiling, motion on the TV, etc, but I can’t always tell people exactly where it is I see it (my hand-eye coordination is off or something) and at times I’m not even sure I’m seeing what I think I am – could it be my mind seeing what I know should be there? I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I ended up losing the rest of my sight and I guess I’m getting that glimpse or could it be forever…?

I guess time will tell, but for now I’m trying to move on and figure out how to do some of the things I enjoy.

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…”

Christmas 2010

This year my friend and her son came to visit for the holidays. Caleb came on the 17th and is staying until after new Years, but his mom arrived on the 23rd and left on Monday. It was an eventful few days, full of memories and first time experiences.

Here are some pictures of Caleb posing in different kid’s rides during our visit to the North Bay mall for some last minute gifts.

Taz isn’t much into the whole Christmas thing so instead of buying her a gift we took her and Caleb dog sledding near Timmins. Dog Sledding Adventures is run by a man named Shane who has about 21 greyhound like huskies. I cannot totally remember the breed or if they are actually husky greyhound crosses, but if anyone knows from the pictures please let me know. Shane started his dog sledding career in Whistler as a guide and instantly fell in love with the sport. When he decided to move from Whistler back to the Timmins area where he grew up, he made an agreement with the company owner and brought about 6-10 dogs back. The snow conditions on Friday were on the faster side so Shane only hooked up 7 dogs to our sled. We had – coconut (leader), Shooter, Mr. Penguin, Dora, Doughnut, Madison, and Mr. Deeds – most of our team were from his Adam Sandler crew. The dogs were extremely excited about the upcoming run so barked and whined constantly until they were hooked up and told to go. It was amazing to see how focused they get and then as the run goes on how tired they become from the concentration. Each of us got a chance to ride in the sled while Shane directed the dogs and taught us all the necessary commands and features of the sled itself. Then Shane stood off to the side and let us take one another for rides during the next 45 minutes. In total we spent 2 hours with the dogs and it was amazing! Shane told me that the next time I came to bring Cessna and Canyon and he would hook them up with his dogs to the sled and I’d see how well they took to the exercise. It wasn’t overly expensive and I had so much fun that I will for sure be returning later in the winter.

My sister and step-dad came over that evening and we had dinner and opened presents. Brandi had to work all weekend so we had our Christmas get together a little early. At first Brandi wasn’t in a great mood, but as the evening progressed her mood improved. Dinner was delicious and dessert was even better – Caleb and I made both a plain and a toffee chip cheesecake.

This year for Christmas from Brandi I got a Tassimo coffee maker, season four of Dexter, a Glee calendar, Starbucks coffee, and an I.O.U. for pajamas. I absolutely love my coffee maker and can’t wait until we get some cappuccino, hot chocolate, and latte pods for it. Dad gave both Huib and I a hundred dollars and Taz bought us the game Rock Star Life. Huib and I decided not to buy one another gifts since there tends to be more sales during the weeks after Christmas and it’s more fun to go on shopping sprees.

We didn’t do too much during the weekend, but enjoyed one another’s company and exercised the dogs. On Saturday we took everyone for an hour and fifteen minute walk and then yesterday went for a two mile walk in the opposite direction. Taz really enjoyed seeing our home and the areas around where we live. Right now it’s beautiful up here – tons of snow and animal tracks everywhere.

We really enjoyed having Taz and Caleb here for Christmas and hope they’ll join us again next year.

My 31st Birthday

On Monday, (the 29th) I turned 31. A lot of my friends and even my sister complain about getting older, but I don’t see a problem with it. I’ve had an interesting life so far and am excited to see what the future holds.

A week before my birthday Huib and I went shopping in timmins and he bought me a new white winter vest along with four long-sleeved shirts – poppy red, dark brown, plum & teal. My sister knew I needed a new watch so when we went to Toronto during our trip to take Phoenix to the vet she bought me one from the cnib – where we had stopped to look around and buy some Braille playing cards & a slate with stylus. This year for Christmas I want to Braille a message in our cards along with the print above it (which will of course be done by Huib).

On Friday, (the 26th) we piled Cessna, Canyon and our stuff into the truck for a trip “down south” as my sister likes to say. Phoenix and Aspen stayed home with my step-dad and the cats. We did tons of shopping and visiting with friends. On my birthday we attended a puppy potluck – a bunch of friends got together with each of our respective dogs for a play & social gathering. We were responsible for bringing dessert so Huib agreed on a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard cake from Dairy Queen. I don’t think anyone actually knew until just before that it was my birthday so it kinda just worked out that we were able to bring a cake of my choice to celebrate. When we arrived everyone acted as though nothing was special, but when it was dessert time they gave me a cool homemade sailor’s hat to wear and sang Happy Birthday to me – it was so unexpected! I absolutely loved the blizzard cake and am delighted to share that this year I actually didn’t have to pretend to like a cake I didn’t!!

Overall my 31st birthday was a great one and now I can’t wait for Christmas to come!