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.

I Think We’ve got a Winner!

After e-mailing two more lab breeders and briefly looking at the flat-coated retriever as a possible guide dog option, I think we’ve settled on Red Labrador Retrievers. It seems as though most breeders are having litters arrive this spring or are taking a year off breeding completely, so we decided to go with RLR. They have two litters coming up between now and October and they are willing to work with us in finding the perfect guide dog candidate.

Both Huib and I really liked the flat-coated retriever and thought this breed would offer a new challenge, but after learning some more about them from Katrin over at By My Side we went back to the Labrador Retriever. Flat-coated retrievers are a wonderful breed, full of eternal youth and intelligence, but rarely will you ever find one who makes it past eight years of age because they all end up with cancer. The short lifespan of this breed is the same reason why I’m less than thrilled about Huib wanting to someday get a Bernese Mountain Dog. I just couldn’t imagine having to say good-bye at such a young age. Cessna turned 7 in October and I feel as though I have just started to scratch the surface of learning who she really is.

RLR will have a litter born in April and then another born in August, so we will soon meet our new family member and future guide dog hopeful. I didn’t really want to start the process of raising and training Cessna’s successor before the fall, but Huib and I think it’s best to have the option of a puppy from two rather than just one litter. I’ve asked for a small female who is energetic and willing to learn, but not necessarily one who’s eager to please. RLr has Anne MacDonald, an Animal Behaviour
Specialist come and assess their puppies before placing them with potential families. We’re supposed to get a copy of their aptitude test and the pedigrees of Cheyenne, Lizzy and Boomer in the mail, so I’ll do an update when they arrive.

I’m really not sure how to feel about these developments because things just seem to be moving so quickly. I feel guilty for looking forward to the new addition and the challenge of training Cessna’s successor. I worry that she’ll feel left out and kicked to the curb. I know I felt this way when Phoenix retired and I know he easily settled into his new position, but I still worry and feel terrible. I sometimes wonder if it would be better to wait until Cessna is ready to retire and then return to the LFC, but then I also think she could teach my new guide so many things and that I’d really like to see if I have the ability to train my own dog. I know these are probably emotions everyone goes through when deciding whether to retire their current guide and/or whether to start looking for a successor, but it still doesn’t make things any easier…

A Mishmash Of news

I haven’t really been posting any updates from our gang in a bit, so thought I’d better do one now.

Ever since we learned that Cessna is developing cataracts we’ve been discussing the option of raising and training her successor a little more. I am looking for a small yellow or black lab female who is energetic and willing to learn, but not necessarily please. So far we’ve been looking through the Labrador Owners Club website We prefer the more American style lab to the traditional English lines, so I’ve been getting Huib to look at the breeding stocks and letting me know his thoughts.

We’ve contacted:
Bluenorth Labradors
Cooperslane Kennel
Ironridge Labradors
MooseLake Labrador Retrievers
Pinebank Labrador Retrievers
Red Labrador Retrievers

Four of the six have already responded to our inquiry and I am liking Red Labrador Retrievers the most because not only is their stock the less common fox red colour, but they also do an aptitude test with their puppies to determine suitability for working, showing and/or companionship. I have asked them to send me a copy of their test and the pedigrees of their stock in an effort to learn even more. The other three who responded were not only asking about $200 to $500 more for their puppies, but their guarantees are only valid if we feed the puppy what they recommend. I am not in a huge rush to make a decision, so will continue sending out e-mails, because I don’t want to start the process until the fall or early winter when Cessna turns 8.

On another note, I have been in contact with a woman who has recently started an obedience/agility training program in Engelhart, which is about a 20 minute drive from our house. She has competed in agility for years with her boarder collies in the UK and has been competing in Canada for about three years now. Currently, she doesn’t have a building of her own, so she is renting a room in the fire hall for 3 hours, one day a week. Huib works a semi-rotating shift at the hospital so this sort of arrangement does not really work for us, but she has agreed to do a half hour private session after her classes every Tuesday. In the summer she will be setting up an agility course (when the snow leaves) so at that time I’m sure her availability will be a little more frequent. For now though, I’m going to meet with her every other Tuesday to work on some obedience with Canyon and then when the agility lessons begin, Cessna will join us. Huib and I are going to meet up with her for coffee on Thursday to learn a bit about her methods, but so far from reading through her website I’ve learned she uses clicker training. I’ll keep you all posted on how things go.

The rest of the news I have to share isn’t as interesting or exciting, but it’s got a cuteness factor. On Tuesday we drove down to London with the dogs so I could go for my lumbar puncture on Tuesday morning. We stayed with the same friends as our last visit and again the dogs had a good time. When we arrived it was pretty late, but we chatted for a bit before heading to bed and Jen told me the kids (she watches about 4-7 kids during the week) had gotten Phoenix a present. I wasn’t sure what to think, but when she came out of the kitchen she was carrying a little plastic teacup, saucer and spoon!! I guess she had taken a few of the kids shopping after letting them know Phoenix was coming to visit, so they asked if they could get him a present and showed her this little tea set – they’re so cute!! The following day while Huib, Cessna and I were away, Phoenix had his tea party and they even got pictures this time!

Here’s another cute little picture Jen got. She went into the play room to check on everyone and found Aspen curled up on top of a blanket with a teddy – I guess the kids thought she needed a nap…

On Thursday morning before we left I had to go see my doctor for the test results and the dogs again stayed with Jen. This time instead of cute pictures, I came hback to hear about how good my dogs had behaved. I guess she had gotten a new dishwasher delivered and while the repairman was going to grab some of his tools in the hallway by the elevator he left the door wide open and Jen just told the goldens to stay. When the guy returned he was amazed to see them still standing where he had last seen them. Then, just before we got back, she saw the goldens watching the crack under the door and noticed them following a shadow back and forth, so thought she’d open the door to let them see what was out there. Before opening the door she asked them to sit and stay. The landlord continued vacuuming for a bit and then stopped and commented on how well-behaved they were  I was so proud to hear this and was happy that they had listened to someone else giving them a command. Then to make our trip even cooler, before leaving for home, Jen decided to bring out one of her five bunnies for the dogs to check out. Cessna had been so interested in them the entire time, so my friend thought it was time to let them investigate. I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea, but am happy to report that Rue sustained no injuries or life-long trauma  Phoenix and Cessna followed her from room to room, while the goldens sniffed her and then lost interest. I think it would be really cool to have a bunny of our own, but am having trouble convincing Huib to say yes.

As you can see we’ve been pretty busy, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a little more time to update everyone on our adventures.