Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Inevitable

So, it's happened and there is nothing I can do about it.  There's no denying it. That's right-I am fighting off the creeping crud.
I always get some kind of aching, coughing, shivering, fevering, thing every time I experience a prolonged period of stress. After every single Paralympic Games I got sick. The story was the same after  my final exams in university; I often would collapse under a blanket and stay there for a few days. I thought that perhaps I had escaped it this time around, but no such luck. The funny thing is, I'm so happy to be here I really don't care. I've just taken some flu/cold medicine this afternoon, drank a bunch of peppermint tea and water and slept. I am feeling much better than I was this morning, so something I'm doing is working.
Tomorrow we're supposed to go to the zoo, so I'm hoping to kick this crud to the curb.
So, with that in mind, I'm off to drink more water and get some more rest.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Adventure Continues

I don't really know where to start to tell you what has been going on. The last week and a half or so has been filled with a lot of walking and exploring. It's been wonderful. Glacier seems to be settling in to his new surroundings quite nicely. He has had to wear his Newtrix since we've arrived because he is just so excited to see/smell everything. Roscoe has had a bit of trouble with the transition. I think part of it is because he was attacked a few weeks before we left. He's had to wear a head harness as well to keep him in check. Today we did a bit more work on busy Princes Street and he did much better. We even passed by a dog who belonged to a homeless man and he behaved very well. Mr. K has contacted LDB as some of his behavior has been worrisome, but we are hoping that once we settle in a bit more, Roscoe will become comfortable and go back to being his reliable self.
We are still waiting for  news on the flat application we put in. I have been in contact with the Guide Dog Association and a representative and I will be meeting some time this week. He is going to work with me to learn the area we are in and also to teach me a bit more about the traffic patterns. It's been a bit unnerving to hear cars driving from the opposite direction than I'm used to. So, a little Orientation and Mobility lesson will be beneficial.
Other than that, we've been quite social. We've visited many coffee shops, tasted haggis, went dancing on the last Saturday night of the Fringe Festival  viewed Saint Giles cathedral from the outside and much more. This move was certainly difficult, but it was so worth it. As life settles into a more normal sort of pattern, I'll try to be a bit more descriptive. If you want to see some photos from our adventures thus far-including pictures from our few days in London-go to visit Mr. K's photo blog
Until tomorrow, good night from lovely Scotland. :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Other Side of the World

We've arrived.
That is such a small sentence that holds so much meaning. I think perhaps that I would add the word "safely" because in fact, we are safe and our trip went relatively glitch free. We ran into some problems in Boston when we were trying to check in for our connecting flight, but other than that everything has been great. We haven't had any problems with Glacier and Roscoe and even though we are still waiting to see if our application for a "flat" has been accepted, we are doing fantastic. We've pretty much taken over Tenie's bedroom as she has been kind enough to let us use her bed, but her and her roommates' flat is actually fairly spacious.
The boys have been out working every day since we landed on the 19th and they are loving it. Tenie and Carmen live across from a large park and we are able to run Glacier and Roscoe quite frequently. They were both a bit much to handle in the first couple of days as they were very excited, but both dogs have become more comfortable and are behaving more like guide dog should.
That is it for now as I must get my behind moving on job searching. I had interviewed for a job on Thursday, but received a letter today saying I had not been successful. I suppose that is life though-so I shall push on and find work.
Besides that small disappointment, Scotland has been everything I had dreamed and more. I think I have fallen in love with Edinburgh and we've only been here for a week. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Less Than Twenty-four Hours

Tomorrow morning we will walk out the door of our lovely little townhouse for the last time, with Glacier and Roscoe leading the way. We will board one plane and another and eventually land in London at about 2 AM Eastern Standard Time.
Can you believe it?
I can hardly breathe with excitement.
I can't really believe it myself.
I think, and hope, that everything is packed and that we're ready to go. We have had some amazing help in the last couple of weeks from some great people and we had a very nice farewell dinner with friends tonight. Very good Southern cooking to see us on our way.
Glacier and Roscoe got their flea/tick/tapeworm treatments this morning and everything was recorded properly.
So, besides actually getting on the road, I think we are ready to go.
The next time I type to you, I think I'll be in Scotland.
I will see "ya'll" in a few days. Don't miss me too much. :)
Oh, and if you think of it, send some "good flying" vibes our way to make sure our trip goes safely.
See you on the other side. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Can Uncross Your Appendages!

*Biggest Happy dance ever*!
I will be happy dancing for probably two days.
Our Pre-approval letter has arrived in my In-box. I can't say I've ever been so excited to see an email before.
So, with this letter, we are all set to take our boys on Thursday
Look out Scotland! Glacier and Roscoe are on their way! :)

Down to the Wire

We have just over 48 hours before we leave for London England. I can't believe how the time has flown by, both quickly and slowly.  One minute, we are sitting in a coffee shop making jokes about moving to Scotland and the next we are fitting our entire lives into three suitcases a backpacker's backpack, a box to be shipped later, a banjo and two laptop bags. It sounds like a lot when put like that, but believe me, it really isn't. I've downsized my wardrobe significantly, which I think needed to happen anyway. I had a few pieces I had been holding on to since high school and probably needed to be retired. We have given our dishes away, our small kitchen appliances, our queen sized bed and practically everything else. The only things we are taking are our Laptops, clothes, some shoes and two dog toys that I managed to fit in. I have also managed to find a good spot for my Tinkerbell coffee mug that has been my morning companion for quite a few years. When we arrive, there will be a few items we may need to replace, but for the most part we managed to fit what we wanted to bring.
Actually, what happened was: we had a huge space saver bag filled with linens and we emptied that out and refilled it with clothes. Then, we filled more space saver bags with clothes and everything fit. We had to unpack everything we had already done, but it was worth it in the end. I managed to fit one quilt that Tenie's Grandma made for Mr. K and I and the other quilt she made for me when I graduated from high school will just be shipped over.
In other ways, the time has dragged on. Some days feel like they take ten years to come to a close, but I'm glad we had the seven or so months to prepare. It allowed Glacier and I to go back for retraining; Mr. K and I had our fabulous wedding; and we were able to work out the glitches that come along with moving your life to another continent.
And how are the dogs?
Well, snoozing right now, but I know they're a bit stressed. They tag teamed my stuffed cow who was the mascot for the 2008 Beijing Games and tore her to shreds. They also grabbed a piece of old mail and ripped that into  bits as well. Normally, they do not behave this way, but I think they can sense the tension in the house and are concerned by all of the packing. There have also been a few people in and out, carting garbage bags full of our stuff out to Good Will and such things. So, in that regard, I think things are a bit confusing for them. I know they need a sort of outlet, but unfortunately, there really isn't anywhere for them to run or to get a good working session in; precisely why we are moving in the first place. I keep telling Glacier that give us a few days and things will get better. He'll be able to get out and work and explore new areas. He just has to deal with sitting on a plane for seven hours first. Our total travel time should take around eighteen hours. That includes the time it takes us to drive from our townhouse to the airport and the two flights we have to take.
As for our pre-approval letter, I am still waiting on it. I got an email back from the DEFRA vet saying "both are fine." The email was in response to me telling her what treatments we were using for flea/tick and tapeworm, so I think that is what she was referring to. I replied and gently reminded her that we needed the pre-approval letter in order to get on the plane on Thursday. I am hoping I hear from her soon. Either that, or I may have Mr. K call the woman he had been talking to last week to see if he can get some answers. I think we are good to go, but it would be good to have that piece of paper in my hand.
I am kind of in awe that we're actually doing this. It seems sort of like a dream, but I know when we board that plane in just over 48 hours, it will all sink in.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sweet Relief

*Knocks on wood*.
Today I received an email from the DEFRA vets in London saying that the paperwork for Glacier and Roscoe "looks good so far."
*Lets out huge breath that has been held since Tuesday*.
I think I read that sentence about three times just to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. I even made Mr. K read it.
The email continued on to ask us about the flea/tick/tapeworm treatments we would be using-since they were not listed because you cannot have those treatments done no less than 24 hours and no more than 48 hours before you leave-and I emailed her back to confirm that the treatment plans we had laid out with our vet was satisfactory. This particular DEFRA vet I am dealing with is extremely prompt with her responses and she told me exactly what kind of flea/tick medicine I needed.
Now I am just waiting for our vet here to open up so I can make sure they have the right brand and to check which Tapeworm product they are using. Confused yet?
Regardless, I think the "so far" part of that sentence referred to the type of flea/tick/tapeworm treatments that would be used and when and as long as all of that is done properly, we'll be good to go.
*Releases breath again*.
I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I feel like, once we have that "pre-approval letter"  in our hands, I can actually get excited about moving. I won't have to b worried about whether or not our trip has been postponed for another six months or whether or not we'd be going at all. If Glacier and Roscoe had not been approved, everything would have changed and something that was supposed to be exciting and one of the biggest adventures of my life, would have crumbled into dust.
But, by the sounds of it, this is not something we have to worry about. Please keep your fingers/toes/arms/legs/eyes/ears/paws crossed for us...Wait,that would mean you guys wouldn't be able to move anywhere...okay, well, hold that position until I let you know we have the pre-approval  letter okay? This is very important! ;)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Always Get a Second Opinion

Yesterday I was perusing the internet, looking for different dog training websites. I like to see what other trainers are suggesting and see if I can learn something from them; whether good or bad. I came across one website that boasted "1600 pages of dog training" information. It also had free podcasts and so I thought I'd check it out. When browsing the list of article topics I happened across one entitled "training with E-collars." I am not a supporter of E-collars and would never tell someone with a pet dog to use one. I was a little put off, but continued looking, thinking that perhaps this guy had something worthwhile to say since he declared that he had over 45 years of training experience. I'm a newbie; I could definitely learn a thing or two from someone with so much knowledge; or so I thought.
I found the list of his podcasts and clicked on the one titled "Marker Training." I do agree with "marker training," which basically means you are clicker training your dog. He suggests that you don't necessarily have to use a clicker, but rather a specific word. There were a few reasons for this, one of them being that most average dog owners do not wander around with clickers in their pockets. I agreed to some extent and also felt that he made a valid point since Glacier and Roscoe work just fine without the clicker. That said, I'm not here to debate the helpfulness of the clicker because I think it is a good tool, it just may not be practical for some people. Listening to this part, I thought that perhaps he did have something valuable to say, but as the podcast progressed, I became more and more horrified.
The trainer with 45 years of experience, started discussing food motivation and how to get your dog more motivated if they are not so interested in treat rewards. He pointed out that perhaps the food reward is not valuable enough for them. If that is the case, find one that is.
Okay, that makes sense to me.
He then said that if your dog is not food motivated there are two ways to increase that drive.
1. Put your dog in its crate, show it its food and then feed it to another dog. withhold your dogg's food...for the whole day!
2. Don't feed your dog for at least a day. According to this trainer/breeder, two days is okay as well. He says not to deprive them of water, but letting them go without food for two days is fine.
Whoa. Wait! What?!
If my dog is not food motivated, you want me to starve him? Pardon me? He didn't use the word  "starve," but that is what is happening. This is, in my books, abuse. Sure sometimes your dog has to fast due to a stomach bug or a surgery, but you are not teasing it by feeding another dog in front of it, all in the name of teaching it to sit. Not only is this abuse, but this causes competition amongst dogs and aggression issues. It could also cause food aggression issues. Also, how is your dog supposed to focus on training when you have food in your hand and it is starving? This technique/suggestion is completely inhumane and disgusts me. Why not find something that does motivate your dog? Toys work for some dogs just as well as food for others. Why I kept listening I'm not sure, but I clicked on one more podcast and it was after listening to half of the nine minute rant that I couldn't stomach anymore.
The next podcast I selected was called "Who Can Pet your Puppy." I have been reading a lot of dog behavioral/psychology books, so I thought this could be interesting. It was interesting all right, but not in a good way.
First of all, he says that no strangers should pet your puppy. He says that this keeps the dog from being distracted by other people and looks only to you. Okay, I guess this doesn't bother me as much as starving your dog, but it still bugs me. Never ever letting another person pet your dog can be problematic. Dogs will become suspicious and aggressive towards strangers if not socialised properly. There are so many examples of dogs who have to be focused on one person-hello, service dogs-but when they are puppies they are allowed to be pet by people. Sure, there are times when the puppy/dog may not be interacted with and if you are granted permission to pet the dog/puppy must be behaving in a certain way, but exposing these dogs to as many people and experiences make them who they are. Many of the studies I have read recently talk about how isolation and/or neglect causes damage that cannot be reversed. He said that even people within the family cannot pet the puppy, except for the person who owns the dog. Um, how are you supposed to tell your four year old daughter that she may not play with/pet the family dog? Why even have a family pet then? He says other family members can feed the dog, but cannot give commands. They can even bring the dog for a walk, but again cannot issue a command or play with the dog. apparently in his family, each member has their own dog and they only interact with that dog. What family can have a dog for every single family member? What if you have four kids? That is absolutely ridiculous. All of this advice is extremely counter-intuitive to me, but this is not what made my blood boil.
Further into this wonderful podcast he started talking about ways to ensure no one touches your dog. He tells his clients to make service dog vests for their puppies so that when they're out in public, no one will pet them.
*Takes a deep breath*.
This makes me so furious that I don't know if I can write very eloquently  about it.
What he is doing is not illegal, but it should be. It is because of people like this that Assistant dog handlers have  so many problems in public. He says that he tells his clients not to take their puppies in anywhere with the fake vest on, but how the hell can he guarantee that no one does that?! He is extremely ignorant of the working dog world, even though he claims he trains working dogs, and his ignorance makes other people's lives more difficult. Of course we are not informed of what kind of working dog he trains. Perhaps somewhere else on his site he states it, but I am not willing to go back there to find out. Apparently a disabled lawyer emailed him and expressed her anger about his advice. How do I know this? Because he states in his podcast, quite aggressively I might add, that he told her "to go pound sand" because she obviously "could not see that she was wrong." She's wrong? How does that work? She has a wright to be angry. Owning/working with a service dog is a privilege, as I've mentioned a million times before, and if some moron wants to falsely impersonate a puppy in training we have every wright to be angry. I think what makes me  the most mad is that he tells people to do this. It's not just something he does on his own, but he tells the average dog owner to make a vest and take their puppy out under the guise of it being a puppy in training so that no one pets it. This in itself illustrates how ignorant he is because if he really knew anything about service dogs, in training or working, he would know that they get pet anyway.
What happened to his mouth? It seemed to work well on his podcast. Can't he just tell people to speak up and ask the public not to touch their puppies and explain why?
I am sure there are more training abominations on that website that I don't know, or want to know about. I stopped listening after the "dress your puppy up as a service dog in training to get people not to pet it." Oh, and the extremely rude response to the lawyer's concerns. I didn't want his site to benefit from me being on it and watching the rest of his podcasts. Plus, I'm not sure I could have handled listening to anything else by him.
I had set out yesterday to learn something and at first I thought I hadn't, but in reality I did: I learned that there is a definite need for public education about service dogs and that there is a definite need for dog trainers who do not use cruel and inhumane training methods. I also learned that there is not any legal action that can be taken against this idiot, despite him defrauding the service dog system. So, I wrote this post instead in the hopes that someone else will read it and research their options before selecting a dog trainer. Ask questions about their training methods and if they seem shady, get a second opinion.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

International Assistance Dog Week: Dispelling Misconceptions

If you've been an avid reader of "At A Glacial Pace," for a while, I'm sure you will be familiar with posts that touch on this topic. That said, with it being the last day of International Assistance Dog Week, it wouldn't hurt to go over some common misconceptions about Assistance dogs.

1. As I mentioned earlier in the week, Assistance dogs are not super heroes. It may seem that way sometimes because of the work that they do, the physical tests they must pass, the temperament tests they also have to ace and a few other things, but they are dogs. Just like us, they make mistakes, they have good and bad days and sometimes the temptation of the mummified sausage under the restaurant booth is just too much to resist. I know people who aren't around Assistance dogs may not know this, but saying things such as, "I didn't think guide dogs did that" after your dog has crawled its way to a leftover hotdog bit on a mall floor, is quite aggravating. No, they are not supposed to, but they are dogs.

2. Not all handlers mind if you pet his/her dog. That said, it is very individualistic and is dependent on the dog's personality, what the handler is trying to accomplish at that very moment, what environment he/she is in Etc. The best rule is ask and don't ask while you're reaching for the dog; stick your hands in your pockets if you have to, but ask with your hands in your own personal space. This is for a couple of reasons: A. the handler does not want his/her dog distracted and a person reaching for the dog is a distraction. This can be very dangerous. and B. The handler is probably more likely to oblige, if he/she is in the habit of having his/her dog petted, if you are respectful of his/her personal space. And yes! The dog is our personal space. Asking before petting is probably a good rule for even pet dogs you may encounter on the street. You don't know that dog's history, you don't know if it has been trained to guard. Asking takes all of thirty seconds, so please, just ask.

3. No! My dog does not read street signs or know if the traffic light has changed! We work as a team and I ask my dog to "forward" if I think it is safe to cross the street. As a totally blind person, I know it is safe to cross the street if the traffic going in the same direction I am, is moving. If there is traffic driving across the front of my body, it is not safe to cross. I know this by listening. If, for some reason, I ask my dog to "forward" and it is unsafe, he is taught to ignore the cue. This is called "intelligent disobedience." He is also taught to stop, and in Glacier's case push back if a car drives in front of us and we are already moving. Dogs are colour blind to certain colours, so Glacier probably couldn't tell the difference between red and green. He doesn't read maps either.

4. At home my dog is allowed to be a dog. Some dogs do a lot of work at home, such as a hearing ear dog, but once home Glacier is off duty. He is only on duty when he is wearing his harness. Even if someone has a dog who works at home, that dog has time where he/she is allowed to play and just be a dog. Life can't be all work and no play.

5. Contrary to popular belief, our dogs are not starving. I don't care how cute he looks at you, he is well fed and there are a million reasons why a person should not feed a working dog. First of all, you shouldn't feed anyone's dog without asking. I always made sure that when at the dog park, I asked the dog's owner before handing out treats; the dog could be on a diet to lose weight, maybe it has a wheat allergy or perhaps it has food aggression issues. Working dogs are most often fed at specific times of the day in order to ensure the handler will know approximately what time the dog will need to relieve. This reduces the potential for accidents. Feeding a working dog is distracting and as we already know, distracting a working dog is dangerous! It could make working dogs think that eating people food  whenever and wherever it feels like it is okay. So, just don't do it. Most working dogs get fed better than a lot of pet dogs.

6. When the dog is wearing his/her coat/harness/vest or whatever it is that the handler uses to signify the dog's working status, it means that it is working. Even if it is  just lying at his/her handler's feet. As long as that working signifier is on, the dog is working. Sometimes I will heel Glacier just on a loose leash when he is still in harness and people will sometimes think that he is no longer working. I guess in part they are right in that he is no longer guiding, but he is not off duty. That means, for me, no petting/feeding/talking to/making googoo eyes at Etc Glacier. All of these behaviors are distracting and-let's say it all together-distracting a working dog is dangerous.

7. This is not so much a dog myth as it is about a specific disability, but I thought it fit. People who are  considered to be legally blind are able to work with a dog. You do not have to be totally blind to have a guide dog. In fact, the majority of the visually impaired population is low vision (possessing some usable vision) as opposed to completely blind. That is not to say that low vision people do not need guide dogs because there are probably times where they may need the dog more. Some people are light sensitive, for example,  and being out in the sun plays tricks on their eyes,. So, the dog comes in handy. It all depends on the person and their need. Someone who is low vision and gets a dog, is not any less in need than a totally blind person. Simply put, they  are not taking a dog away from someone else who needs it more.

8. In both Canada and the United States, all service dogs must be spayed or neutered by law. I think that is pretty self explanatory. We can't have dogs going around in public marking territory or looking to make a family.

9. Assistance dogs can be, by law, asked to leave a public place if it is misbehaving or filthy. Now, it gets murky because one person's version of "misbehaving" is not another's. So, if you're thinking about kicking a service dog out of your store, I'd think about it really hard first. It is illegal, other than for the two aforementioned situations, to kick a service dog out of a public place. That includes rental properties. If the property has been advertised publicly I.E., billboard, housing list on the internet or magazine Etc. that rental property has become a public place. People with service dogs cannot be denied access to public property, goods and services and cannot be charged an extra "pet" or "cleaning" fee. The laws are based on the person with the disability, not the dog, so that means puppy raisers can be legally asked to leave a public place. That said, I really hope business owners do not deny puppy raisers access as they are performing a vital service to us blind people who need our dogs to be well socialised. Whew! That was a long one.

10. Service dogs do not bite! Sometimes I want to say "yes" to this question because I know the petting will start after I say "no." I don't because I'm a horrible liar and because I feel that owning a service dog is a privilege not a wright and if I misrepresent my guide dog school, I am doing them an injustice. But that is my own personal feelings and one of these days when someone asks "does your guide dog bite?" I think the right person will say "yes." Service dogs could not be out in public if they are aggressive. A lot of program dogs are "career changed" (become someone's very loved pet, or even find new work), if they show aggressive tendencies. Walking around with a guide dog that bit little children would probably be frowned upon. So, no, they shouldn't bite, but that doesn't give a person license to pet. (Refer to number 1).

With that, International Assistance Dog Week comes to a close for 2011. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about Assistance dogs as much as I have enjoyed writing about them. Know that the opinions expressed here are my own and other handlers may feel differently. The best thing is to ask.
I also want to say thank you to all of the volunteers, trainers and other staff that work at the service dog schools. Without these people, many of us would not travel with the confidence or excitement that we do with our dogs by our sides. Thank you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dog Treat Recall

Dog Treat Recall

International Assistance Dog Week: Never to be Left Behind

Here we are just six days away from mine and Mr. K's adventure across the big pond. It has been an interesting, exciting and stressful process to get us, all of us, ready to enter the UK. Almost six months ago, we headed into our vet's office and had them perform the preliminary work to prep the dogs to enter England. This included an International microchip, a Rabies vaccination and a blood draw. The blood sample was to be mailed off to the University of Kansas in order to be tested for the boys' levels of Rabies antibodies present in their bloodstreams (AKA a Rabies tider test). It is imperative that steps are taken in order and performed correctly. If one element is not present or was done incorrectly, our dogs would not be granted permission to enter and stay in the UK.
Tuesday of this week, we had Glacier and Roscoe checked over by their vet, had the paperwork we needed stamped and signed and then took it over to the USDA office. Luckily for us, the USDA office is right in the city we live in, so that was one thing that went smoothly for us. However, it was at the USDA office that we realised just how fragile this process really is.
"You won't be able to get in."
That phrase rings in my ears even three days later. Sitting with Glacier sprawled at my feet, unaware of the chaos ensuing around him, I felt like I was going to throw up.
"Well, you could go," the vet amended "they just wouldn't let the dogs enter."
I felt the tears coming. I forced them back. Getting all emotional and having a breakdown wouldn't fix the situation. The problem was that the  Rabies vaccination the boys received nearly six months ago had not been documented. The USDA vet said he had spoken to our vet's office and they were adamant that they had not vaccinated the boys. Without this vaccination, despite them having received the shot just two months prior, they would not be allowed to go to Scotland with us. It didn't matter that their Rabies Tider test came back stating that they did not have and could not contract Rabies. None of this mattered. It only mattered that the vaccination had not been given on the correct day. Do you ever wish you could turn back time? Just grab a hold of a huge handle and turn it, watching a clock's hands flying in reverse?
All I could say was,
"she did!" over and over again. I knew she had because I had been holding Glacier on the waist high, stainless steel table trying to keep him from jumping off. When you have a 75 pound dog trying to lunge off of a table because he is not happy about being poked and prodded, you remember.
Mr. K said he'd call her and insisted that they had vaccinated Glacier and Roscoe. He told her that he remembered because he kept telling them what order to do the different procedures in because we were paranoid; turns out, we had a right to be.
I also remembered them giving the vaccinations because at that point we were taking Aria and Baloo with us. Baloo always has reactions to Rabies vaccinations and so we had taken some medicine home with us to make sure he wouldn't swell up. Aria is also quite vocal and let us know that she did not like getting poked with a needle; poor little peanut that she is. Mr. K called the vet's office and, of course, they were out to lunch. He told the receptionist the issue and that we needed to talk to the vet right away. She said she'd get a hold of them and within fifteen minutes, Mr. K's phone rang. It was one of the longest fifteen minutes of my life. The whole time I kept running my hand over Glacier's side, willing them to find the vaccination record.
How could I possibly move to another country without a guide dog? How could I possibly move away without this dog I had worked so hard to form a good working relationship with? How could I possibly leave this dog behind that I am completely in love with?
I'm not sure what we would have done if the vaccination record had not been found. We may have just stayed in the United States. I could not leave Glacier behind. He is not only my working partner, but my safety net, and we have bonded in such a way that is difficult to explain.
Thankfully, after some assertive talking by Mr. K, the vet Tech remembered the vaccination did happen. They had not charged us for the shots, which we greatly appreciate, but because of that, they had not been recorded; bad time not to record things. She set about making new vaccination records and faxing them over to the USDA vet so that he could put his stamp of approval on the documents. The only slightly worrisome thing is that this particular Rabies vaccination is not recorded on the Tider records from the University of Kansas because it had not been recorded before that document was sent off. We have spoken to Animal Reception in England and explained the situation and have also made them aware of the discrepancy on the paperwork. We are not trying to fool them. The woman Mr. K talked to at Animal Reception in London, assured us that everything should be fine as long as everything was there. Guide dogs are kind of a special case as well, so all we can do now is pray that everything goes as planned and that we will be leaving next Thursday; all four of us.
To me, leaving these guys behind is not even an option. They are such an integral part of our lives that I don't know if my heart would ever recover if we just decided to go even if they couldn't. I know we've sunk a lot of money into this move, but you can make more money, you can't replace the guide dogs you have been working  with for nearly three years.
This experience lends itself well to  our celebration of Assistance dogs, since it is International Assistance Dog Week. These dogs will do anything for you , and you as a handler, will do anything for them; including canceling your plans of moving across the world. That said, let's hope that will not be the case.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

International Assistance Dog Week: Supporting a Good Cause

When I found out about International Assistance Dog Week, I really wanted to use it as an opportunity to promote assistance dog related matters. So, here are a few links to wet your interest.

1. L^2 over at
A Dog's Eye View
is currently holding an online auction to help raise funds to sponsor a puppy from Guide Dogs of America. L^2 and I were at Leader Dogs for the Blind together to get our first dogs and she is now working with a chocolate Lab from Guide Dogs of America. Please support this worthy cause. More information about her puppy sponsorship and the auction can be found at the link above.

2. I'm going to post this again just in case someone out there accidentally finds my blog. If you are at all interested in raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind please visit
their website
and learn more about their program and how you can become involved. Puppy raising is one way you can contribute, but there are so many other volunteer opportunities and all of the information  can be found at the link above. Also, if you are unsure, just contact LDB and ask for more information. You are not going to be forced into puppy raising just because you enquired about further information. I promise! :)

So, that is it for now. See you tomorrow as we continue to celebrate International Assistance Dog Week. :)

International Assistance Dog Week: Our Finer Moments

There's no denying it, these dogs who make it to be an assistance dog, are pretty special dogs. But they are just that, dogs and I think it is very easy for people to forget that. I've been handling guide dogs since 2002, almost ten years, and I have a tendency to forget it. It's easy to think that your service dog is a super hero when he/she stops at curbs, hands you your wallet when you're buying his/her food, tucks up under the seat of an airplane and no one knows he/she is there and so on and so forth. But what about those moments when they are "off duty?" What about the time when they do dog things, whether wanted dog things or not? That sort of thing happens as the rest of this post will demonstrate.

Glacier Should have Been a Plummer
When you are first issued your guide dog, at least at Leader Dogs for the Blind, you are instructed to take him/her everywhere with you. There is a "tie down" in your room where you can attach your dog when you cannot supervise him/her; like when you are taking a shower for example. I took this "take your dog everywhere you go" advice very seriously and would even take Glacier into the bathroom with me when I had to "park" myself. I figured he'd have to go into bathrooms with me in public, so why not get used to it now? I did this with Jetta as well. I never thought a bathroom break would lend itself to practising "leave it."
If there was a bit of toilet paper dangling from the roll, Glacier would very craftily lean over, take the tip of the paper into his mouth and start unravelling it. If I wasn't paying attention, he could get quite a bit pulled off. I learned two things from this experience:
1. You never know when you will run into a training opportunity
2. bigger guide dogs required a  whole different set of skills because they could reach things your smaller dog could not.

Jetta Says "NO!"
There have been many times where I have chosen to not listen to my guide dogs. More often than not, they are right and I am wrong and that leads to an interesting experience. One winter, after Jetta and I had been working together for a few years, we were out traversing the snow covered sidewalks/streets of where I attended university. It had been a particularly bad year for snow and the banks were almost as tall as I was in certain places where it had been shoved by a plough. Traveling through snow always comes with its own problems-the snow muffles sounds, it hides landmarks that you can usually feel with your feet Etc-and so I was a bit on edge as we muddled our way to a nearby restaurant. I was supposed to be meeting a guy for a date and so I think I was already a bit nervous.
We came to a street crossing that we had done a million times, but hadn't been down that way since the ploughs had been out. I asked Jetta to "forward," the cue that asks your dog to walk. She refused. I listened for traffic and heard nothing. I asked her to "forward" again and she still stood there. I felt like she was ignoring me.  As I've mentioned before, Jetta was and still is  a very stubborn girl. I thought she was mad at me for making her wear her boots; because let me tell you, she hated  wearing her boots. She used to walk me as close to a wall and then pull away every time I put her boots on.
Frustrated by her perceived misbehavior, and worked up about needing to be somewhere on time, I dropped her harness handle, walked myself across the street and clamored up on to the very high snow bank on the opposite side. It was a quiet street and even though I'm totally blind, I can keep a straight line, so I wasn't worried about crossing the street. Jetta excitedly hopped up on to the snow bank with me and I said,
"See? What was your problem?" I took a few steps forward and realised what her problem had been. Normally, when snow banks are built up like that, you can step up on them and down the other side. There will usually be a cleared sidewalk waiting for you to walk down. Not this time.
I took three steps ahead and once we got off of the packed snow, instead of stepping down a man made hill, I sunk up to my waist in soft, fluffy snow. So much for me being right and Jetta being wrong. I went to my date with snow covered jeans and a good story.

"A Stinky Mess!"
Roscoe, Mr. K's Black Labrador who is also from LDB, is a stellar example of an outstanding guide dog. His work is usually right on and he loves doing it. He equally loves having some down time. In the summer of 2009, we headed up to a friend's camp for a couple of days for a much needed break. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time indoors as it rained a lot and that brought the mosquitoes out in full force. During one of the breaks in the weather, we took Glacier and Roscoe out to have an off leash run. They raced in circles around the camp, flinging wet grass and mud into the air. They were both filthy, but the mud was nothing in comparison to what Roscoe decided he should get into next.
Both boys being Labradors, they ran down to the lake and romped about. Glacier would run into his ankles, splash around and then run right back out. Roscoe was having a great time, splashing and rolling in what we thought was just lake water. When we called them back up onto the deck to get toweled off, we were horrified by the stench that came off of Roscoe. Turns out it was not lake water he found so fun, it was dead, rotting fish. Need I say more?

Jetta Has Expensive Taste
When in Greece we stayed at a hotel with a lovely patio area. There was a pool and an outdoor bar made out of marble. Often, we would sit by the pool side and just hang out. We had been staying at this particular hotel for quite some time and the owners said it was okay for Jetta to roam free. It wasn't peak season and there were only a few of us staying there. So, I thought it would be good for her to walk around and socialise. This area was closed in by a huge wall and you could only enter by a door, so we weren't worried about Jetta escaping. As soon as she was let off of her leash, she ran laps around the pool and went to greet everyone that was sunning themselves enthusiastically. Once she had burned off some energy she set about exploring the little patio. Everyone kept an eye on her and I could hear her tags jingling, so we knew she was safe. At one point we noticed that she had been spending an awful lot of time in one particular corner near the wall and Tenie went to investigate. When she reached Jetta I heard her exclaim sharply a word that I won't repeat here and then proceeded to chase Jetta away from the corner.
Apparently, there was  an olive tree that grew on the other side  of the wall whose branches reached into the patio area. The olives had grown to size and had been plopping on to the tiled floor below and Jetta had made a buffet of the fallen, slightly unripe olives. We frantically checked Google to make sure that olives wouldn't hurt a dog and then invested in a big roll of poop bags.

Glacier's Oral Fixations
Since the day I got him, I thought Glacier should have been an assistance dog who used his mouth to help instead of a guide dog. He liked/likes to pick things up and carry them around with him. He doesn't usually chew/destroy the objects, just presents them to people proudly. A few days after getting Glacier at LDB, I was headed down to the dining room for lunch. It was a Sunday and I had worked out  earlier in the day and had left my gross gym clothes on the bathroom floor. Glacier was on leash with me at all times, or on tie down, so I wasn't worried  about him ingesting  a sock or something. Before going to lunch, I stopped in the bathroom to wash my hands and then headed out. Glacier was particularly excited to be off to lunch. He was prancing along beside me tossing his head around and just generally being silly. About half way to the dining room I realised that this prancing was not normal, so I stopped him and had him "sit." He sat and I heard something hit the floor. I searched the floor with my hand and found my gym bra, soaked in slobber lying close to Glacier's paws. I promptly reversed our direction and returned the bra to my room and put it safely into my laundry bag, along with any other clothing articles Glacier may take for a walk with him.
To this day, if someone comes to the door Glacier feels it necessary to pick something, or maybe a few somethings, up in his mouth and trot/prance happily around, showing the new visitor his prizes. Sometimes he stuffs two toys and a shoe in there. How they fit I will never know. Just the other day, when I was packing up  some stuff to send to the women's shelter, Glacier came into the living room carrying his bowl and a plastic dish I was donating as a result of our move to Scotland. Both dishes are quite large and I was astonished that he managed to get them both in his mouth. The good thing is, I've taught him to bring me such things now and drop them, instead of racing around playing "keep away."

Grumpy Bear Had To Go
In June of 2009, Mr. K and I spent 6 weeks apart because he was applying for his passport. Canada and the United States had just decided that in order to cross the border, a person needed to possess a passport. The process took longer than we thought and we spent quite a long time separated. Trying to think of something to cheer us both up, I found a three foot Grumpy Bear Carebear and sent it to Mr. K. I have always teased him by saying that he's my Grumpy Bear and so I thought the gigantic bear would be a funny surprise. Mr. K laughed when he got it and left it on his bed to use as  a pillow. Roscoe was having none of it. Before we got married, Roscoe used to sleep with Mr. K and he would get up in the bed and shove the Grumpy Bear off. Mr. K once caught him carrying Grumpy Bear away in his mouth. No matter how many times Mr. K put the bear back, Roscoe would push it off. This went on for a year until I moved in with Mr. K for a month in July of 2010. Grumpy bear was put up in a spare bedroom, ready for us to take with us when we moved to SC. There were a few times when I or Mr. K would find Roscoe dragging the bear around, but we would put it back with the other things we had packed for our move. I came up into the living room one day to find gobs of stuffing strewn across the carpet and there standing in the carnage was a panting Roscoe and Glacier.
All we can figure is that one of them-I blame Roscoe since he had a hate on for the bear-went into the room, stole Grumpy Bear and the two of them played tug-of-war with the plush, three foot bear until they tore him in half. Bits of bear were everywhere and I'm pretty sure Roscoe was grinning.

So, as you can see, these dogs are dogs. They are dogs with gifts and a lot of training, but at the end of the day, give them a roll of toilet paper, a bra, three foot Grumpy bear or something smelly to roll in and they will take every opportunity to be a dog. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We Were Featured Again!!! (Thank you sooo much)!

In keeping with our "International Assistance Dog Week" theme,another doggie post is up over at
Plays With Puppies.
This blog revolves around a puppy raiser from Leader Dogs for the Blind
and her experiences raising beautiful and well rounded puppies. She generously gave me the opportunity to write a post about my feelings towards puppy raisers.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and as I have said a million times, it was a post that should have been written a long time ago-you just gave me the platform to allow it to happen.
Please go over and pay her a  visit. The blog is highly entertaining and full of adorable Leader dogs in training. :)

PS: The post I wrote was quite sentimental and I definitely needed a tissue or two when writing it.
PPS: I apologise for my lack of replying to all of your comments. I am reading them, but with the move looming, I just don't have the time to reply. I want to thank you for reading, commenting and also for those of you who just started "following" us. We have 32 followers now and I am completely in awe.

International Assistance Dog Week: The Yellow Fellow

I don't remember the exact date Jetta retired. I know it was around August 10th or so of 2008. I never really clung to that date because I think I had so much going on to distract me from the fact that she had just walked out my front door. I didn't really write anything from that time period, so I don't really have anything concrete to go off of, but I know that I was pre-occupied with getting ready to leave for China and compete on the international stage for the last time.
Our flight left Beijing China on September 18th and I was at my parents' for a total of two days before I boarded another plane and flew to Leader Dogs for the Blind for the second time. I always got sick after enormous competitions and so I was sitting in the airplane battling a fever and a head cold. I kept willing myself to get better because if you are too ill to work with your dog, the instructors will send you home until you are better and then reschedule your training class. I did not want this to happen. Despite feeling like my face was going to explode from the pressure built up, my mind was whirling;  a million different questions.
"Would I get a boy or girl?"
"What breed?"
"I had asked for a big dog...would he/she be big or small?"
The flight took just over an hour, but it was all I could do to sit still.
Upon arrival, I was met by an instructor and was seated to wait for other students. Once a few more had arrived, we piled into a van and were off to LDB. Again, I sat quietly and listened to the other students talking around me. For most of them, this would be their first dog and their excited chatter filled the hour drive to the campus.
The first thing I noticed when entering the LDB building was how different it was. They had built a completely new residential building, complete with revolving door to practice with your dogs. I was shown to my room and I was immediately impressed at the single occupancy set-up. The beds were a double as opposed to the single I had stayed in the first time and they were incredibly comfortable. There was a door at the back of the room that lead out to the dogs' park areas. This was a nice improvement. The first time at LDB, we had to line up in the hallway and go out the front door to the park areas. It was chaotic and noisy. It was probably a bit stressful for some people and dogs; not to mention, very time consuming.
I spent that first day tucked up in bed, only getting up to eat lunch and dinner. I fell asleep at 7 PM and didn't wake up until 6 the next morning, feeling good and ready to go.
The next couple of days went the same as my first experience at LDB. We did "Juno" walks, had lectures and just generally got comfortable on the campus and downtown training centre. On one of our Juno walks my instructor asked me if I thought I could handle a big dog. I said of course and she asked me to give a correction to demonstrate my strength; turns out I was too strong because I corrected the harness right out of her hand. This happened twice more when we were practising leash corrections and she was pretending to be distracted by a squirrel. When we got back to the centre, she said something about me being small and soft spoken and that was deceiving. From then on, she didn't ask me to do corrections anymore.
On September 24 2008, I met my new partner. We did Juno walks in the morning and after lunch our instructors sent us to our rooms, collected our dogs' leashes, told us our dogs' names and went off to get/deliver each dog. I remember sitting on my bed, shaking with nerves and excitement. I heard other people getting their dogs; including the woman next to me who was a first time handler. I pressed my ear to the wall just to hear her reaction and to catch what information I could about the new dog-I was so excited for her and the waiting was driving me nuts. I was the last person from my training team to get my dog. My instructor knocked and asked if it was all right if she entered. I said yes and she informed me that another instructor was with her. A, my instructor, had not trained my dog and the woman who had wanted to see him issued. Of course I said yes. I was standing in the middle of my room and A told me to call Glacier. I did and this gigantic oaf came bounding into the room, paws sliding on the slippery floor. Once he reached me, he stood up on his back legs and planted his paws on my shoulders; standing like this he was almost as tall as  I was. He gave me three huge kisses on the cheek and then plopped back on to the floor. A and the other instructor laughed and I think, but cannot be sure as I can't see, Glacier's trainer got a bit misty. I think he was "teacher's pet." I knew right then that I loved him. My love for Jetta was not that instantaneous. I don't know if it was because I was younger or if it's because of Jetta's personality, but Glacier and I fell instantly in love. I knew I would do everything I could to make things work with this big goof.
The next three weeks went by quickly and at one point I asked the instructors if they thought Glacier and I would be all right. We had a few diagonal street crossings and he seemed to lose his quick pace. We also took a bit to gel and I was worried. I think part of my worry was because I was used to working with a seasoned dog. Glacier's movements were totally different, considering he was 25 pounds heavier than Jetta. He was also quite youthful  and although it made me laugh, it concerned me. Once, stopped at a curb waiting to cross the street, he started hopping in harness because he wanted to chase a scuttling leaf. They assured me we would be fine and I went home, loving my dog but worried about my working partner.
We struggled at home too. His obedience routines were great, his recall was fantastic and he followed me everywhere in the house. Our working was a bit spotty and it made me a bit nervous, but I remember having problems with Jetta in the beginning too so I let it be. I hoped it would get better with time. There were times where we made improvements, but something still was not meshing. He would shut down if I leash corrected him and we'd stand in the middle of the sidewalk completely still. How was I supposed to get to where I was going if my dog refused to guide me? The hardest part for me was when Glacier was on, he was on. He was a great worker when he was working and I felt confident with him guiding me along. He made me laugh and he was the sweetest guy. He loved to play and he was amazing at "down stays" while I was massaging classmates or clients in the school clinic. I didn't even have to attach him to anything. A lot of changes happened in the last couple of years and I think it contributed to mine and Glacier's rocky start. I made some choices that compounded the issue, but life also just happened and that caused things to decline.
In the middle of March of this year, I realised that Glacier and I were not safe. He walked me out in front of two cars and no longer watched out for me when we were working. He jumped curbs and walked me into people. Knowing that we were moving to Scotland, I contacted Leader Dogs for the Blind in the hopes that we could do something to rectify the problems we were having. I wanted to travel abroad with this big yellow guy with me. Our move was set to happen in August and even if they had retired Glacier, it would not have given me the time to get a new dog due to the travel restrictions placed on animals traveling into the UK. I did not want to end up in a foreign country guide dogless, but I also needed to do what was safest for both Glacier and I.
On April 12th 2011, Leader Dogs for the Blind welcomed Glacier and I back on to the campus for a twelve day retraining excursion. I didn't know what to expect and I was very afraid I'd leave without Glacier. My flight into Detroit was much different than the first two times. I was nervous, but because I may not have a guide dog anymore. I may have to give up the dog I had loved from our first meeting. I had two meetings within the first 24 hours of arriving at LDB, basically to determine what our problem areas were and to let me know that there was a very real possibility that Glacier may need to be retired. I knew that, but I was willing to do everything I could to make things work.
I learned a lot in those twelve days, which I wrote about the whole time I was there. I learned that Glacier is much more sensitive than I thought and leash corrections are usually not necessary. I learned how to trust him more and to read his body language better. He learned to trust me again and to love working again. The structured environment was great for both of us and brought us back to the basics. We were paid very high compliments from different instructors and with five days left, the trainers knew Glacier would be going home with me. I had a few tests I  wanted him to pass, traffic checking (stopping me if a car pulls in front of us), and working in doubles (working with another guide dog user) and staying focused and responsible for my safety. Glacier proved trustworthy and reliable in the last five days we were there and when we headed home, I felt confident and excited about our future.
It's been almost four months since Glacier and I left LDB for the second time and I have to say the improvements I saw in him, and myself, have been maintained. I have a whole new way of handling and I am incredibly grateful that the instructors at LDB put their faith in me and made me a part of the retraining process. I learned so much and have a lot of new tools to use when we reach Edinburgh, just in case Glacier or I have an adjustment issue. We even have a representative of the guide dog program in Scotland meeting with us to introduce us to Edinburgh. I think this will help with the transition and ensure that Glacier and I are still a competent working team. I am excited to walk the streets of Edinburgh with my big, Yellow Fellow leading the way.
What is the point of all of this rambling? Well, first of all, it's to honour both of my guides and to thank them for their patience and for what they have taught me. It is also to let everyone know that there are ups and downs in guide dog/handler relationships like there are in every relationship. It's also to remind myself of the pledge that I have made to Glacier, to be a better handler so that we can work together for many more years. It's also to raise awareness about assistance dogs and the important roles they play in people's lives.
Tomorrow International Assistance Dog Week continues and so will my stories about my guide dogs. Perhaps we will visit some of the funnier things we have experienced together. :)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

We've Been Featured! (Thank You)!

Jen over at "Paws for Thought" asked me if I would be a featured blogger on her blog. I was very excited and honoured as I love her posts. After a few scrapped copies, I sent her the finished product this morning and she already has it up. She is prompt!
You can find the post
Please go over and check it out. And  not because I wrote it, but because Jen's blog is truly interesting and very well written.
Thanks Jen for this opportunity. :)

International Assistance Dog Week: Round Two

Yesterday I told you about my first experience at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Of course, what I wrote does not even come close to what I experienced or went through, but it gives you a bit of an idea of what it was like working with my first guide dog, Jetta.
I left off telling you that in 2008 Jetta started showing signs of not enjoying her work anymore. She would walk  very slowly leaving our house when in harness, but zoom on the way back. She did not do this when only going out for a walk out of harness. There was also one incident where she made a movement like she had to "park" (AKA do her business), so I took the harness off and let her leash out to give her some room and she just sat down in the grass. She was also making small mistakes that she had never made before. When crossing a street, instead of stepping up on the opposite curb, she would take me to the grassy edge and try to walk on that. She also just did not seem happy. Outings were stressful for her and competitions and training camps seemed to torture her. Jetta used to be ready to go and greet the world, take on anything that came her way, but in those last few months, her zest for adventure had sort of died out.
I can't say I blame her. She flew all over  the place with me and experienced things that most people do not have the opportunity to. It wasn't that we were unsafe traveling together, but I knew she needed to retire. Asking her to continue on when she just didn't want to would not have been fair. A lot of people have asked me how I knew. It's not something I can explain, but when you spend 24/7 with a being, human or not, you start to understand them in such a way that is not easily put into words. Jetta made it easy for me to make the decision to retire her. She always worked because she loved it, not because I wanted/needed her to. I think the last few months she did it because I needed her, but up until then, Jetta did what Jetta wanted; and for six years she wanted to work.
In August of 2008 my parents came to get her and she went back to my home town with them. I was glad they had agreed to take her because that meant I knew where she was, how she was and I could get frequent updates. Originally, I had thought to keep her as a pet, but a few things stopped me. First, I was moving to a new area and starting a new college, I didn't know I would have enough time to give both Jetta and my new guide the attention they would need. Also, just because she retired herself, I wasn't comfortable putting a harness on another dog and leaving her home alone for eight hours. She wouldn't understand. At least at my parents' house, if they left, she would be home with another dog and my parents wouldn't be leaving the house with their new set of eyes. She also refused to walk on the right hand side. The majority of guide dogs are trained to work on the handler's left. This is because the majority of the population is right handed and need that hand free to open doors, carry bags Etc. A handler can request to have a dog specially trained on the right if they need. The problem with her refusal to switch sides was an issue because my new guide would have to walk on the left, thus, I would not be able to take them for walks. So, off to Grandma and Grandpa's Jetta went.
I didn't really have a strong emotional reaction. I think it's because it was something I had been preparing for. I remember being at a three week training camp, the last Jetta would ever attend with me, and I was reading Marley and Me. I cried then. I hugged her and snuggled on the bed with her, but deep down I knew the decision I was making was the best for both of us. When I went to Leader Dogs for the Blind just over a month later, I cried then. We had been there for a night I believe and I sat on my bed and thought about Jetta and our experiences together and I cried. But, it was tears of gratitude and love, not of pain. She was happy and so I was happy. I missed her and still do, but I knew my parents were giving her what I was not equipped to give her at the time. Plus, I had to get myself together to welcome my new partner in crime into my life. If I didn't go into our meeting with an open mind, our working relationship could be quickly doomed. I wasn't sure how it was possible to have such a close bond with one dog and have to form one with another. If I had any doubts, they were erased when Glacier came bounding into my room. And when I say "bounding" I quite literally mean "bounding."
My love for Jetta has never gone away or diminished. We just have a different relationship now. I don't have to be the enforcer. I am not in control of her any longer and that is kind of nice. Sure, she still has to be a respectful house dweller, but I can give her a small piece of cheese or a carrot once in a while, which I never did when she was working for me. I don't have to make her go out in the rain and I get to take her to the dog park and let her be a complete nut. It's also nice to see how she has bonded with my parents. She's loved and we both know it. That is what makes retiring and rehoming her doable.
So, where does this bring us now?
To Meeting the big guy who has also changed my life forever.

Again, I just want to make everyone aware of how important these dogs are. There are many guide and service dog schools all around Canada and the United States. If you have some extra time, find out if they need volunteers. Some people can go in on the weekends and walk/groom dogs in the kennels who are in their advanced training. If you have the time and sense of adventure for a larger commitment, look at their puppy raising programs. I said it yesterday and I'll say it again, without puppy raisers there are not any guide dogs and without guide dogs, a lot of blind people would not have the opportunity to be independent and travel with confidence. Of course, I will tell you to go to
Leader Dogs for the Blind's
website as that is where both of my dogs were from. I know that they are really in need of puppy raisers right now. And if you can't do it, spread the words to your friends and family. The act of kindness that is done  when a puppy is raised is something that can never be repaid.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Happy International Assistance Dog Week!

Technically, International Assistance Dog Week started yesterday as it runs from August 07 to August 13 2011. More information about International Assistance Dog Week can be found
In honour of IADW and my guide dogs, this week's blog posts will be dedicated to them and other assistance dogs. So, let us start from the beginning.
In November of 2001, I made the decision to finally put in my applications to various guide dog schools. I had wanted a guide dog for as long as I could remember, but due to my swimming training schedule, I had not been able to go and get one. I was still in high school and leaving during the summer would have been the only time that would have not interfered with school, but the swimming season really picks up in the summer and so I had resigned myself to wait. Knowing that I would be graduating in June of 2002 and would be heading off to university, I picked independence and safety over swimming competitions and mailed my applications off. I had selected two schools and it took some waiting before I heard back from either of them. Leader Dogs for the Blind was the first to respond and the first to send a field representative out to test my orientation and mobility skills.
The field Rep videotaped our session and asked a lot of questions. Normally, LDB is a little hesitant to match a dog and a handler during the first year of university as the dog tends to turn into a glorified pet. It is quite easy to be in social situations and use your dog as a conversation point or let some of the rules slide because it makes interacting easier. I can say that, because I was in that situation more than once and had to make quick decisions to be a responsible guide dog handler. I'm not saying I was successful every time, but I really tried.
After realising that I had a lot of responsibility as a competitive athlete, the field Rep said that  he'd put a good word in for me. He didn't want the selection committee to judge me based only on my age and the fact that I was off to university.
The call came in April that I had been accepted. I remember being overwhelmed with gratitude to the field Rep and with excitement. I set about getting ready way far in advanced because I was so excited. I'm pretty sure my suitcase was packed at the end of that week. Those few months felt like I had to wait forever. I kept going out with friends to the mall or to coffee and thinking
"My new dog could sit here," or "fitting a dog into this change room will be interesting." My thoughts were completely consumed with the prospect of my new companion.
July finally arrived and LDB flew me to Detroit where I was met by a trainer who was to drive me to the campus located in Rochester Michigan. There were other students packed into the van and I sat quietly listening to everyone chatting. I was the youngest in the van by far and was a bit shy. You'd never know it by reading my blog, but if I don't know you, I am usually very quiet on first meetings. I had so many questions, but I kept them to myself and just listened. Many of the other students were asking them for me as they were first time students as well.
In 2002, LDB still housed their students in the old residence building, which is now torn down and has been replaced by a much more modern and spacious building. I was told I would have a roommate and I was a bit nervous about that. I was 18 and everyone in the van had been over 60. Not that there is anything wrong with people over 60, but when you are 18, you tend to wan to socialise. Thankfully, my roommate turned out to be a very cool girl who was probably more shy than me. We have stayed in contact over the years and you can find a link to her blog
The first couple of days there our trainers took the time to get to know our voice inflections when giving commands, our walking speeds and the type of travel we  would be doing when back in our home environments. We also attended lectures about meeting our new dogs and how the dogs may be feeling and information about our harnesses and other equipment. We went on walks called Juno walks where the trainers held the front of our empty harness with us holding the harness handle. Our leashes were fastened to a D-ring on the side of the harness and we walked along, the trainer acting as the dog. We practised commands this way and corrections too. This particular activity is probably the most important for a trainer to get to know your working style.
Finally, on July third, three days after our arrival, we were issued our dogs. I've talked before about Jetta's first reactions to me, so I won't go into those details, but I do have to say that July third 2002 changed my life forever. It sounds so cliche or insincere when I put it that way, but there is no other way to describe it.
We didn't do our first harness walks with our dogs until the next day and I was so nervous and excited, I didn't know what I was feeling. I was so flustered I tried to put Jetta's harness on wrong. She stood patiently, waiting for me to get my head on straight and consequently her harness. Jeorge, mine and Jetta's trainer, hooked his leash to the side of her harness and we headed out. The instructors often do this the first few times you are out to ensure control is maintained and that both the dog and handler feel comfortable.
The first curb Jetta stopped at was a magical moment for me. Jeorge had told me to ask her to
"find the curb" and she stopped abruptly at the curb's edge. I praised her like crazy and we continued around the block. I knew the instant we got back to the downtown training building that I would never go back to using a White cane again.
Jetta and I had a six year working relationship. It was filled with ups and downs and a lot of crazy adventures. Practically every memory I have from 2002 to 2008 have Jetta in them, or me wishing Jetta had been with me. It was extremely rare that I left her behind. When she started showing me signs in March of 2008 that she no longer wanted to work, I contacted LDB and started the process of applying for my new working partner. I knew that I couldn't get a new dog until the end of September as I was attending my third and final Paralympic Games. I wasn't going to take Jetta with me because the rules and stipulations China had put on bringing guide dogs into the country had made me nervous. I had a strong feeling that if I came back after a month of being gone that Jetta would not want to work. Perhaps if I had not attended the Games, Jetta may have worked for another six to eight months, but the month apart solidified for me that she wanted to retire and I did not feel badly entering Leader Dogs for the Blind's newly built residence centre on September 21, 2008.

If you have time, go over to Leader Dogs for the Blind website found
and browse the information they have. Currently, LDB is looking for puppy raisers and the application and information about being a puppy raiser can be found on their website. As I've said to someone recently, without puppy raisers there would not be working teams. I am incredibly grateful to the two people who made the decision to raise puppies for LDB because without them, I would not have Glacier, or have had Jetta.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more "tails" from my life working with guide dogs in honour of International Assistance Dog Week. :)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Testing the Waters...

or should I say, food dishes?
If you've been a reader of "At A Glacial Pace" you will probably have figured out  that I can be a little, persistent, bugger. When I get an idea, I run with it and try to figure out if it's feasible or not. Recently, I've had a few such ideas, but the one that I have not laid to rest is the idea of feeding Glacier and Roscoe something healthier. Glacier doesn't seem to be bothered by what he eats. In fact, he once ate seven Brillo pads and threw them up three weeks later in a compacted ball of steel wool. Yes, I was freaking out. Needless to say, Glacier is not only Mr. Jaws of Steel, but Mr. Stomach of Steel as well; quite literally. That doesn't mean that he doesn't deserve a good diet though.
As for Roscoe, I cleaned out  his ears yesterday as is  our routine and I pulled little bits of dried up ear wax out of his ears. His ears also smell quite badly and his fur is still coarse and falling out as if he were blowing his coat. Since we are moving in less than two weeks across the world, I am not going to do anything drastic right now because that may upset both dogs' systems even more than the stress of moving will. That said, I've decided to do a bit of experimenting and this morning was my first step in feeding my boys a healthier diet.
First of all, since returning to SC Glacier has not been eating Orijen because there are only two places in the entire state of SC that sells the food and of course, they are nowhere near us. So, he's been switched back to a middle ground food that he was eating before we left. The only difference I have noticed is that his bowel movements are much larger and that his coat may be a bit coarser, but I am not entirely sure. As I've mentioned several times before, Roscoe's ears/breath stinks, he has an over production of ear wax, he drools like crazy and he's shedding like it's spring time. Yesterday I furminated both dogs and was completely blown away at the amount of fur that came off of Roscoe. It was this brushing that got me to thinking; why not try to improve the quality of commercial food they are ingesting by sprucing it up a bit?
I wouldn't say I'm starting them on a raw diet or that what I fed them was a raw diet. I would call it an improvement diet. I didn't have a protein source that would be good for the boys, so I still fed them their kibble, but added in a few extra tasty tidbits to hopefully help Roscoe battle his allergies.
First thing's first, I know dogs do not need vegetables or fruit, but I also know that it won't hurt them either. Fruit and vegetables can add vitamins and minerals to your dog's diet that they otherwise would not get. A lot of what I have read has also said that dogs do not digest vegetables to the full capacity unless they are slightly boiled or blended into oblivion. So, I busted out the rice cooker, put a bit of water in the bottom with about a cup of carrots and set that to lightly boiling. I then cracked an egg into each dish. I had thought about adding the egg shells as they are an excellent source of calcium, but I didn't have a grinder and so wasn't sure if the shells would cause tears in the dogs' esophagus or intestines: it seems highly unlikely, but I am not taking any chances. Something for further research. I also cored and  chopped up half of an apple into tiny pieces and added them to the bowls. Once the carrots were "lightly boiled" I scooped them into each dish and poured the water over the mixture. Boiling can leech some of the vitamins out of the vegetables and so I figured the water couldn't hurt. Plus, it's so hot here that any kind of hydration would be good for Glacier and Roscoe.
Once I had my concoction in their dishes, I dumped a cup of their regular kibble over it. This isn't ideal as it does not eliminate the food that Roscoe is reacting to, but it reduces the amount he is eating with the added benefit of the other foods that I mixed in. I was going to use a bit of cottage cheese for calcium/protein/vitamins and blueberries for antioxidants,  but the cheese had gone bad and I couldn't find the blueberries in the freezer.
In the grand scheme of things, it's a very small step as the protein source and elimination of commercial foods/treats seems to be the stress of the raw feeding regiments, but I think it's worth a shot. Perhaps I can pick up some canned salmon and plain yogurt the next time we are at the grocery store to add to the mix of healthier options and the kibble. If this small change can make a difference for Roscoe's allergies, then I think it's sustainable. I'm still a bit squeamish about handling raw meat and feeding it to the boys (we have no idea how big our flat is going to be and so having a crate they can have dinner in may be out of the question), so for now, I'll keep experimenting and hoping that less kibble and more other tastiness will give Roscoe some relief from his itchy, smelly ears.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Blog of Interest

If you have an interest in Paralympic sport-running to be exact-then one of my good friend's blog may be of interest to you. Incredibly articulate, amusing and informative, the blog chronicles his experience as an active elite athlete, preparing for the 2012 Games to be held in London England. Some of the blog may seem like jibberish since he talks about the sets he is running and such, but for the most part a person without an athletic background could appreciate what he is talking about. So, if you have some extra time and would like an interesting read go over
and check it out.

Saying Good-bye to The South

Last night Mr. K and I went out with a few friends for supper and it got me to thinking about our move. Actually, we hardly do anything these days without me thinking about our move, but a few outings have made me think about the things that I will miss about living in The South. Despite my complaints of inaccessibility and other things, certain parts of The South are charming. So, here is, in no particular order, a list of things that I will miss about living in South Carolina.
1. Sweet Tea: there's nothing like it and there's no way to really describe it, but that it's sweet and tastes fantastic on a hot day-and since it's nearly always hot in The South, it is an appropriate drink.
2. How a grown woman will still call her father "daddy" and the grown men call every strange woman "ma'am" as he holds the door open for her.
3. The locus singing at night. The South have some scary bugs, but some of them sing so nicely when it's hot outside-it's very comforting.
4. The food: you get so much of it and nine times out of ten it is so delicious you can't stop eating.
5. The smell of the air at night, just after the sun has gone down. It's weird; I can't really explain it, but it's sort of sweet. You'd think living in such a car dependent city that everything would stink of pollution, but it doesn't.
6. A particular kind of Southern accent: the deeper into the state you go, the prettier the accent is. When we had our tour of the historical house last weekend, our tour guide's accent was quite enjoyable. One of our friend's grandpa's the same-when they talk, it's what you think the old guy sitting on his front porch, enjoying the sunset in the South should sound like. If that makes sense at all. :)
7. All of the different birds that live down here. Half of them I couldn't tell you what they were by their song, but others are common up North as well like the Blue Jay or the Mourning Dove. It's just so interesting to me that so many different species can live in the same geographical location and yet still thrive in a completely different environment elsewhere.
8. The history: everywhere you go, there is something historical that happened there. That said, I am moving to a  place that is even richer in history since it is way older. But, it's a different kind of history and it is very interesting.
9. The little expressions that make it The South. I.E., "cut it on;" this means to turn something on like the car or AC. "Cut it off;" obviously means to shut the object off. "Up in;" in reference to something being in somewhere. Basically, I hear
"there's a dog up in the mall."
Of course you can't escape "ya'll." Mr. K has even started saying it. And many, many other phrases that are unique to the South-or at least I think they are because I am from Canada and don't know any better. :)
10. The strength of the people here. It's more of a feeling you get than any one experience you can point out, but any population who can live in 100 D.G F weather for three months and still smile are "some dang strong" people if you ask me. :)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fun Fact Friday

A while back I mentioned that I've started a small business/ complete with website. I was not going to tell you about it yet as  it is still under construction and there is not an accessible format. It is built entirely through Flash and that will make a screen reader very angry, but I did want to tell you about it and see what you have to say. So, I do apologise to my screen reader user friends. There will be an accessible form designed since that is something I do feel strongly about.

Fifteen Facts About My Mystery Business

1. It is called Furdemonium. Yep, that is the title. Be forewarned that the website  is not done yet.
2. The idea came to me as I was browsing the internet reading about different rescues and the animals' surrender/rehoming stories. It dawned on me that often people get pets they are not prepared for or know nothing about and need a resource to assist them to make it easier for both them and the animals. This also stems from my own rehoming experience.  I hope with my services that I am able to reduce the amount of rehoming/surrendering that happens by being proactive instead of reactive.
3. So, what is this business? I am a Pet Consultant. Yeesh, it sounds silly putting it out there like that, but my main service is providing people with information about different kinds of pets and whether or not that kind is right for them. I.E., dog VS. cat, Labrador VS. Collie.
4. I have been spending a lot of time on the internet as of late trying to make contact with people I could refer my clients to-when I get some. I am always surprised at who doesn't respond and then who does.
5. We want the Welcome  photo to be of Glacier sitting under Big Ben.
6. I would like to feature an animal weekly who is in  need of a home-kind of like how a lot of the blogging community does. I haven't heard back from any rescue organisations so far.
7. I thought Mr. K would say no and tell me I was crazy, but he actually built the website for me. What a patient, amazing man.
8. All of the products I have reviewed, or will review, have been used by me and my dogs and/or cats. If another person were to write an article for the site about a product, I would want them to have had experience with it...and then I'd probably go use it as well before the article was published. LOL
9. I've talked to Newtrix-the only head collar I really like for several reasons-and there is only one supplier in the whole of the UK. Once my business is sustainable/stable, I will be supplying Newtrix to the UK as well. I am very excited about this. (If you are a service dog user and you would like to use a Newtrix with your dog, contact them and tell them you have a service dog. They will sell the head harness to you for 25 dollars instead of the 40 dollars regular price).
10. I feel very strange promoting my business and probably won't talk much about it again once I have the website for you. I feel like my blog is a personal place and business does not belong here. I figured this out after writing half of today's post. LOL
11. Going back to Mr. K's wonderful web designing skills-he said he will be able to "decorate" my site for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. I might even jazz it up a bit for Glacier and Roscoe's birthdays. I love little personal touches like that.
12. One of the other services I provide is party planning. I am extremely excited about this service as I had such a great time planning the puppy shower and Jetta's birthdays and retirement parties. I have so many ideas swimming around in my head!
13. I am so excited to have the opportunity to develop one of my passions into a career. It may be slow moving, but I can't wait to see where Furdemonium will bring me. Well, not just me-Glacier, Roscoe and Mr. K too. :)
14. Any feedback is always welcome.
15. And, the moment you all have been waiting for...the link! Okay, perhaps you haven't been waiting for it, but here it is anyway. Furdemonium can be found

Happy viewing and happy Friday. :)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mr. K's Photo Adventure

So,  since Mr. K is my hubby, I feel that I should promote his photo blog. Well, it's mostly a photo blog. Every once in a while he will write a post, but for the most part he posts photos of his/our various outings. He started the blog in order to chronicle our move/life in Scotland, but he has already started putting pictures up. Did I mention that he's the photographer? Pretty impressive for a totally blind man. :)
Anyway, feel free to go over and check it out. His blog, Blind Guy's Life can be found

Check back often as he updates quite frequently. Happy viewing. :)

The World is My Oyster...and I'm Moving to Scotland!

Today marks our two week countdown to our big move. I woke up this morning to Glacier poking me with his cold nose and Roscoe dancing around grumbling in his Roscoe way. I groggily stumbled out of bed, down the stairs and over to the dogs' food closet and then it hit me: we have two weeks left! Two weeks is not a long time. It is amazing how a crazy idea discussed sitting at a Tim Horton's during the Christmas holidays has become a reality. Who would have thought eight months ago that I'd be selling off/giving away pretty much everything I own to embark on one of the largest adventures of my life. I thought people got married and settled down. I think that is why I was so afraid of marriage for so long. I wasn't, and am not, ready to "settle down," in the "you must stay in one spot" sense. Fortunately for me, I found the right guy who is willing to sell/give away most of his possessions to experience this incredible opportunity with me. I couldn't be happier.
Yesterday we had a fabulous birthday dinner at a friends' house. The meal was quite hardy, as they are in The South, and the home made peach pie was delicious. I even got a cake with a burning match in place of a candle. We had a great evening just chatting and laughing. Earlier in the day I had been a bit stressed just thinking about everything we still needed to do, but our conversation turned to our "to do" list and the whole family offered to help us. They are willing to haul stuff to Good Will for us; sell some of the bigger items like the dryer if we can't sell them before we leave; ship a box over with smaller more keep sake type items; clear our place out once we've left; clean the place after we leave...the list could go on. I was incredibly touched by their generosity and a wave of relief washed over  me. I woke up this morning feeling much lighter and a lot less stressed. I feel like we have a better game plan now and a support network to help us reach our goal. They even offered to come over two days before we leave and help us pack everything. Again, I am so grateful-there is just so much stuff and so little space to squish it all in to that I had no idea where to start.
I also got Roscoe and Glacier's appointment to have their paperwork "endorsed" moved to an earlier time and that makes me feel so much better. We have to send the documents over to Animal Reception in London before we leave and they will send us a pre-approval letter back. Our original appointment would not have given us much time before our departure and I was concerned that the letter would not reach us before we left. The pre-approval letter has to be presented to the Airline before leaving the United States and I was worried that we wouldn't even be able to leave.
Glacier and Roscoe's "safety" harnesses have also arrived. Richard, from Leader Dogs for the Blind, filled me in  on what style of harness we needed to purchase and Mr. K and I were able to find them on Amazon. Mr. K just has to walk over to the apartment complex's main office to pick them up and we'll be able to try them on. These two new developments make me feel a bit more at ease.
A friend, one of the people who offered to help us out last night, is going to run us to find a larger suitcase tonight. Mr. K and I figure we're already going to get  charged for an over sized bag, so why only be over by two pounds? We have "space saver" bagged some of our linens already and when I tried to fit it into our luggage yesterday, we realised very quickly that the suitcases are much too small. So, "a shopping we will go."
With help available and the dogs' stuff becoming more organised, I had an overwhelming feeling of grattitude this morning. Oh, and of excitement too. It's a little scary to think that in just over two weeks I'll be roaming the streets of a completely different  country on a completely different continent, but I guess that is a part of the thrill of it all. As that old saying goes,,
"The world is my oyster."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How many Years is That in Dog Years?

Good morrrrrning dear furriends.
It is I, Glacier, your friendly neighbourhood party animal. My girl doesn't know it, but I have taken overrrrr this bloggie thingy this morrrrrrning because I want to wish her a verrrrrry happy birrrrrthday. Dad says she's 28 in humans years. I think that means she is verrrry old in dog years. What do you think? But then again, she doesn't act old. She still runs and plays and jumps and plays tug like she's supposed to. She can even do the stairs without help. Hmmm, I wonder what is about you two legged creatures that make you old without acting old. I am confused...
What I am not confused about is that I love my girl and I verrrrry much hope she has a lovely day. I made sure to wake her up by performing Gopher. This always makes her laugh. I sit on my bum and put my two paws up and rest them on a human's arms, legs or a chair. Usually this maneuver is necessary to get someone to hold still so I can give them kisses, but I knew today was verrrrry special. So, I did Gopher by placing my paws on the edge of her bed,  just to hear my girl laugh. It was her first laugh of her birrrrrrthday. Dad made her breakfast this morning and made her laugh too-he is a goofy guy. I'm sure she will have many more because she will get cake tonight-wait! Do I get cake? This is something I must investigate. Hmmmm, I must go investigate that now!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Introducing Purple Squirrel!!!

As everyone knows by now, Glacier is a toy monster. He can destroy pretty much anything and eventually he will do so. There have been a select few toys that have held up to his jaws of steel, even the Square Ball from Toughies has finally been defluffed. But there has been one toy that has held up through everything. It was one of the first toys I bought Glacier when I first got him back in 2008 and that wonderful toy is still with us today. Actually, it's the only toy that is still with us today. Meet Squirrel Dude by Premier.  which can be found
The toy is a purple squirrel with his arms clasped across his chest, clutching a giant nut. It is a treat dispensing toy and Glacier is now chasing it about our very empty living room, trying to make his breakfast fall out. There is a hole located in the bottom of the toy where you put the treats and this hole is semi-closed by four little rubber prongs that kind of block the opening. These little prongs are meant to make getting the treats out more challenging. At first, getting the Squirrel Dude to dispense treats was a pain in my rear, but with a bit of creative thinking, the toy has been irreplaceable. There are two ways around the prongs.
1. Use kibble instead of treats. The kibble actually fall out whereas treats are too big and get stuck in Squirrel Dude.
2. Trim the prongs. You can clip them to make the hole a bit bigger and allow for treats to actually come out.
I personally choose to leave the prongs longer and just use kibble. It's a good way to dispense breakfast, as it is doing right now, and kibble are lower in fat than treats. The only downfall of Squirrel Dude is the filling time. Putting Glacier's breakfast into Squirrel Dude takes much longer than just dumping it into the bottom of the Kong Wobbler, but we gave our Kong Wobbler away. So, Squirrel Dude it is.
Squirrel Dude has been chewed on, tugged, tossed and chased inside and out and it has still held up. There are a few nicks on the bottom where Glacier tried to chew it apart, but they are barely visible. The best part is that Squirrel Dude comes in a bunch of different sizes, so dogs from small to extra large can have fun. I would also like to point out that its effectiveness as a dog toy is not its only perk-the thing is kind of cute and it's purple; the best colour out there.
So, if you are looking for a toy that will challenge your dog's brain and chewing power, the Squirrel Dude is right for you. It was definitely right for us since it's the only toy that has lasted longer than six months in our house. And I think it will be making a trip across the "pond" to our new home in honour of its survivability.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dog Foster Mom: Introducing Maddie

Isn't she beautiful? I really wish we could take her to Scotland. If anyone knows anyone who would take this lovely girl and give her a forever home, despite her rocky beginning, please contact Dog Foster Mom-the best Foster Mom ever. :)
Dog Foster Mom: Introducing Maddie: "This is Maddie. She's a one year old purebred Australian Shepherd. A very nice lady contacted the rescue community for help recently. She..."

Just What We Needed

This past weekend Mr. K, Glacier, Roscoe and I were picked up by two of our friends and whisked away to stay with them for the weekend. It was one of the most enjoyable weekends we've had in a long time and it was exactly what we needed. With all of the chaos of last week, a few days of relaxing, touring historical sites and eating great food was perfect.
Friday they picked us up around six PM and we drove the almost two hours to the small town they live in; population 5500.  They gave us a tour of their gorgeous turn of the century home and introduced us to their two dogs, Charlie and Bailey. The two acres or so of backyard was fenced in and all four dogs enjoyed romping about. It was quite hot still though, so outside play was a bit limited. After wandering around the spacious halls and rooms we walked over to their favourite restaurant and indulged in a very nice dinner, that they so graciously paid for.  After stuffing ourselves, we made it back to the house and I was able to take in just how amazing their house really is.
Most of the ceilings are close to 12 feet tall, with high arching doorways, wood floors and fireplaces in almost every room. Most of them are not working right now as they are changing them over to gas as opposed to wood burning, but considering it's 100 DG F in the summer here, the use of the fireplaces was not necessary. Most of the rooms are connected to each other through other doorways or hallways and I was convinced I'd get lost at least once while I was there.
We spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and just chatting about anything and everything. It was so relaxing.
The next morning, the Lady of the house and I headed over to a local market and got fresh doughnuts for breakfast. One bite of those things and you will never eat another doughnut again. She fixed us a breakfast of eggs and bacon, which was also incredibly tasty. The bacon was from a local butcher shop and had pepper corns sprinkled throughout the meat; so good. With our bellies full, we headed over to a house that had been built before the Civil War and we had a tour from an extremely energetic, animated,  knowledgeable 67 year old man. The tour was fantastic. He let us look in each room, filled us in on the history and let Mr. K and I touch things that most people do not get to even get near. The tour guide and I even sat on an original "courting bench," which I had no idea existed until he told us what it was. There was so much history in that house and I think we could have spent the whole day there. Our tour was probably close to three hours, but it was so interesting that I didn't even realise it. This was the house where the Civil War ended. Jefferson Davis and his people decided in that house to surrender. To be honest, I didn't even know who Jefferson Davis was until we toured the house, but my excuse is that I'm Canadian. (For those of you who don't know, Jefferson Davis was considered to be the president by the South).
After roaming the halls of the historical house, we headed back to our weekend home and I took a nap. The bed we were given to sleep in was extremely comfortable and there was something soothing about the house that I just couldn't help myself. I think I may have been worn out from our tour guide's antics as well. He seemed to take a particular liking to me and would excitedly show me stuff in the house and make little side jokes with me. He definitely made the tour.
Nap time over, we again went into the little town, with the sun beating down on us relentlessly. The sun was so hot it almost hurt your skin. Poor Glacier and Roscoe were so warm, but thankfully we didn't have far to go. We originally were going to stop in a restaurant that makes crazy good hotdogs, but they were closed. So, we headed to a little coffee shop instead. There we took refuge from the heat with frozen drinks of some sort and Mr. K and I fed ice cubes to Glacier and Roscoe in an attempt to keep them hydrated and cool them down. Again, we just sat and relaxed in squishy chairs just chatting. Even though this was only the third time I had met these two particular individuals, it seemed our conversations would never dry up. Drinks finished, it was back out into the heat. We checked the restaurant again, but it was still closed, so we made our way back to the house, where I guzzled water like a camel. The funny part was that the power had gone out after we had left and we hardly noticed since it was so hot out. After a few minutes though, it was apparent that the ceiling fans were no longer spinning and the AC no longer running. We were a little worried that we would be without power for a while, but it came back on probably within a half an hour of us being back. Thank goodness because with it being off for the short period of time, the house began to heat up and we were all sweating. More chatting, more water, another glass of wine and back out to see a concert. Our wonderful hostess is a part of the Artists' Guild and brought us to an event that the Guild was putting on that evening.
We didn't stay long. The first singer we watched was quite enjoyable. He was a good singer and an even better guitar player. Towards the end of his performance, he had a girl join him on stage and their voices blended well together, making the experience that much more enjoyable. The next act came on and we were told they were a local favourite. When they started I couldn't see why-they were horrible. The guitar wasn't bad, but the lead singer could have been a cartoon character singing his or her best friend happy birthday. He was out of key, sang through his nose/the front of his mouth and squawked like a parrot. The lyrics didn't improve the quality of the performance either. He had a song called,
"beach week" or some crap and I couldn't stop cracking up. Everyone seemed to love them, cheering loudly after each song. I was incredibly confused by this enthusiasm since I wanted to poke my ears out with forks. At one point he sang a song called,
"Anywhere but Here," and I leaned over to Mr. K and said
"yes please."
I think Mr. K was relaying my comments to our host and hostess, either that or they could see me cringing, because we only stayed for about four songs and then left. We joked about it at the restaurant where I had a Greek inspired salad, that is until the band came in. Thankfully, our friends warned us that they walked in because that could have been quite embarrassing. That said, I'm pretty sure if the lead singer had asked me personally if I had enjoyed the show I probably would have replied,
"no." It was that bad. Not that the lead singer cares about my opinion.
Our bellies full again, we went back to the house and chatted some more. We also watched a few episodes of "Expedition Impossible" because there is a blind guy on it. I had read about this particular man when I was in university. He was the first blind man to climb Mount Everest and the article had made him  sound like an arrogant jerk, but watching him on TV made me realise that he definitely is not and I may even watch the show now.
Sunday morning came much too soon and we had coffee, eggs, bacon and doughnuts for breakfast again. We toasted to our move to Scotland. We took our time getting ready and then our friends drove us home. It was one of the best and well timed vacations I've ever had. It gave us a short break from the craziness of moving across the world and gave us the opportunity to put a few things into perspective. The company was wonderful and both of our friends were extremely considerate. I don't know what it was about their house, but it was very warm and welcoming and if I could transplant it into Scotland, I would.
Last night we another two of our friends made us dinner and we spent the evening sitting on their front porch just talking. The evening was cooler than it's been, so it was actually nice to be outside listening to the crickets sing. It made me feel like I was really in the South, sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair, a dog lying at my feet. These two friends have three dogs and a mini pig and it was very interesting meeting Jethro the pig. Glacier and Roscoe stayed home as they were both worn out from their busy weekend and Mr. K and I both fell into bed quite exhausted, but very satisfied. I woke this morning feeling rested and rejuvenated  and ready to take on the real world again;  all thanks to the generosity of our friends.