Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 2011

Dear 2011:
I cannot believe that you are already drawing to a close. So much has happened this year. So much so, that I have no idea where to begin. I think, besides the first year I made the Paralympic Games in 2000, or perhaps my first year of university in 2002, you have been one of the busiest, craziest years I have had. So many wonderful and amazing things have happened and for those I m grateful. There have been a few tenser moments, but I am just as grateful for those as well. The harder moments have taught me much about myself and have helped me grow. Looking back, I am still in awe at half of the things that happened and feel very blessed.
***
2011 In All Its Glory
1. In January of 2011, Mr. K and I lived in a house that was not ideal; not even close. The water shut off nearly every other day and was off for at least two to three days at a time. We started looking for a more suitable living arrangements even though we had intentions of moving to the UK as soon as possible. We had four dogs living with us: Glacier, Roscoe, Aria and Baloo.
2. In February we moved into a much better dwelling and Doc joined our ranks. It was then that I really started noticing problems with Glacier's working. This was also the month that solidified our plans to move to Scotland. Before Doc moved in, we had Roscoe, Glacier, Aria and Baloo Tider tested in order to begin the paperwork to bring everyone to the UK.
3. March was filled with puppies and their pooping issues. Dachshunds who were potty trained decided that they liked the carpet of the new house instead of going outside. We knew all three Dachshunds could not come with us, as we had originally bought Doc for Mr. K's sister, and the more we looked into it, the more we realised that we should re-home our little family members. It was a painful, and difficult decision. Glacier's guiding issues were becoming more apparent. I contacted Leader Dogs for the Blind in the hopes that they could help Glacier and I.
4.. In April, I headed home to Canada with Glacier and Baloo. Glacier and I were going back to Leader Dogs for the Blind for retraining and Baloo would be finding a new home with a high school friend; as long as they liked each other. It turns out, they fell in love almost right away and Baloo moved in with her just days after getting to my parents' house. Glacier and I worked hard for twelve days at LDB and left a much happier, confident working team.
5. May came quickly and I spent the majority of the month getting things in order for mine and Mr. K's wedding. I loved being home with my family, but I missed Mr. K terribly. May was also the fateful month that started making my triathlon dreams into a reality. Our wedding was fabulous and I couldn't have asked for a better day or husband, for that matter. May was also the month that saw Doc and Aria re-homed as well. It was difficult and parts of me still wishes that I could whisk them across an ocean to be with us.
6. June was a crazy month, attempting to finalize my passport and my Portuguese identity card. It was this card that would allow us to move to the UK without having to worry about Visas. I also found out that I could in fact get pregnant, but that it was not medically advisable.
7. Glacier and I returned to SC and sweated the month out,packing and planning to leave. We had vet appointments and we tried to sell, or at least, give away our belongings that we could not take with us. My parents visited for a while and helped us get a lot of things done in preparation for the move. The house felt so empty with only two dogs in it.
8. August snuck up on us and we worked feverishly to ensure that everything was set for our departure. We ran into a few glitches, such as the State vet saying that we may not be able to fly with our dogs because things were not documented correctly on our forms. We nearly watched seven months of planning go up in smoke. I worked to get as much of the house packed up as I could and some patient friends assisted with getting the rest of the stuff out once we had flown away. We ran into a small glitch in Boston when we tried to transfer flights and the guy assisting us through the airport didn't speak english. Then, on top of that, the airline didn't have record of our guide dogs, despite Mr. K speaking at least three times to them about it over the phone. After standing at the counter for almost an hour, we were cleared. Our flight was pretty good, considering we were flying so far and we had no issues once we entered London England. We spent a few days touring London and almost walked our feet off. We arrived in Edinburgh and stayed in Tenie and Carmen's flat, which they shared with two other girls. We stayed there until we could get things straightened out for our own flat. We did a few touristy things, like going to the zoo and a few festivals as well.
9. It was in September, after some waiting and assertive conversations, that we were able to move into our own flat. Tenie and Carmen had picked it out before we had even arrived, but it took nearly three weeks for us  to be able to move in. When we finally did move in, the hot water didn't work, but it was resolved. We spent the month settling in and getting to know our surrounding area.
10. It wasn't until October rolled around that I started feeling more comfortable with walking around on my own. Glacier and I experienced a huge regression in his guiding when we first arrived, which followed us basically through September. I worked hard with him, being consistent and resetting my mindset. I was to look at him as a working dog, not a pet. I knew that, but somehow in the move, I had lost that perspective. We celebrated Halloween dressed up in the Steam Punk fashion.
11. November was a great month for me. Triathlon training really started coming together with me finding a guide and receiving a whole lot of help from various sport minded organisations. Mr. K and I also brought Gus and Fiona home, our two little Sugar Glider joeys.
12. December was a  month for the Holidays and even though Mr. K and I didn't go home, we had a good month. We went to the Christmas market and had a great time experiencing the food, drinks and crazy crowds. Gus and Fiona joined us that day in their bonding pouch, but Glacier and Roscoe stayed home as we figured the crowds would be liable to crush them. We had a few dessert parties with the people living at Tenie and Carmen's flat and went out for drinks one night, sampling nearly every festive mixed drink they had on the menu. The night before the girls headed home for the Holidays, one of Tenie's flat mates had us over for a delicious dinner and we were able to say farewell to everyone. Mr. K and I spent Christmas together and it was enjoyable, despite our families being far away. Even though December was a joyous month, it also brought sadness when Gus passed away due to an unfortunate accident on Boxing Day.
As for today, December 31?
Mr. K and I will be going to pick up Yoda and Plato, two new Sugar Gliders, so that Fiona may have some playmates. Tonight, we may wander to a local pub and have a few celebratory drinks and talk about 2011 and maybe even of 2012 and what it will bring.
To everyone out there: Happy 2012. May it bring you joy and be everything you hope it to be. :)
Love,
Jess, Glacier, Roscoe, Fiona, Plato and Yoda

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friends for Fiona

Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow we bring home Fiona's new brothers, Plato and Yoda. The boys are brothers and are a month "out of pouch" a month before Fiona. That's fancy Sugar Glider talk for, "they are a month older." Some of this Sugie jargon first threw me for a loop and sometimes I have to ask a million questions to understand, but I think I'm getting there. That sort of language is almost second nature for me when it comes to dogs, but there have always been dogs in my life and so I think that makes the difference. Sugar Gliders are a very new thing in this house.
I think the sooner we bring Yoda and Plato home the better. Fiona has been awfully confrontational and so it's been hard to give her the attention I know she needs. She will often lunge at our hands, crabbing very loudly, and if she can get a good hold she will bite. She was always a bit less bonded than Gus, but her biting was subsiding and she didn't lunge anymore. Ever since Gus passed away, she's regressed. However, Mr. K and I are as stubborn as she is and are not allowing her poor behavior to deter us.
Technically, when handling a Sugar Glider it is suggested that you do not wear gloves. Since the Gliders bond through scent, if you are wearing gloves it could be confusing. I've also noticed that the more bonded the Glider becomes the more willing they are to touch your skin. At first, both Fiona and Gus didn't want anything to do with our hands. They would run down my arms and stop at the cuff of my sleeve and pick an alternative route. Gus was at the point where he didn't mind hands and Fiona was getting there, but her biting has forced us to resort to wearing gloves.
Now, we don't wear the gloves if we are putting our hands in the cage to give her a treat or to play with her. She seems less likely to bite/lunge when she is able to approach you on her own. We do need her to be in the bonding pouch during the day though, as our body heat will help her and she needs to continue the bonding process, despite losing her brother; now probably more than ever. Mr. K wears the gloves to get her out of her sleeping place to put her in the bonding pouch. If he does not, she latches on and even drew blood.
I completely understand why she is acting this way. I don't blame her at all, but we can't let her be by herself. Sugar Gliders are such social creatures that too much time alone could be detrimental to Fiona's health. I carried her around in the bonding pouch yesterday; even when we left the house. She lunged at my stomach at one point through the pouch, but thankfully the thick fleece kept her little chompers away from my skin. She is so jumpy now. It makes me so sad that she is so out of sorts. I'm sure, at least in the beginning, bringing Yoda and Plato into the picture may throw her off a bit more, but in the long run it will be good for her.
We will be busting out the tent again and setting it up in the living room to facilitate bonding with all three Gliders. It's also better to introduce joeys, or even grown Gliders, in neutral territory and so we think the tent will be a good place. I've read of a few different ways to introduce your Sugar Gliders, but since all three are still joeys we shouldn't have too many problems. One article suggested placing a small drop of vanilla extract between the shoulder blades of each Sugar Glider. They like the vanilla and that way they all smell the same. It also will encourage them to start grooming each other; a sign that they have accepted one another. I know this technique is often used to encourage mama animals to take on orphaned babies. I may use this technique as a precaution.
When we first brought Gus and Fiona home I remember being nervous and this time around, I'm a bit nervous as well; for totally different reasons though. We know what to expect with regards to owning Sugar Gliders, whereas, when we picked up Gus and Fiona we were clueless. That nervousness is way laid. I am a bit worried though as to how Fiona, Yoda and Plato will all take to one another. I'm also concerned that we won't know the difference between Yoda and Plato. We could tell the difference between Fiona and Gus because she is smaller and they moved differently, but Plato and Yoda are both boys, will there be physical indicators we will be able to pick up as blind people? Realistically, I'm sure eventually we will. Mr. K and I can usually tell the difference between Glacier and Roscoe most times without touching them because they move differently, make different noises and Glacier is bigger. So, I'm sure there is nothing to worry about. What I really should do is change my perspective: this is exciting. We are bringing new babies home and Fiona will be a happy little girl.
Speaking of happy little girls: Fiona would like to remind you that a very big event will be taking place in Blogville. She, Yoda and Plato will be there and she hopes you will be too. She would like me to tell you that she's not called a "Sugar" glider or "honey" bear for nothing. She says that "sugars" and "honeys" are very impawtant to this event. ;)
With that, I will leave you for today.
Happy Friday everyone. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding Joy

It's funny how the smallest things are what bring the most joy. I've written about it before and probably will again. A package arrived from my parents yesterday and it brought joy, but not for the reasons you would think.
The package had a few items for Mr. K and I-ornaments I used to hang on my parents' Christmas tree; a new  Tinker Bell  ornament; my kitchen rooster (it is Portuguese tradition to have a rooster in your kitchen. Apparently it brings good luck); a singing Snowman that goes in the bathroom and harasses your guests while they are doing their business Etc. I loved every single gift, including the small Christmas house that plays music that Santa, elves and a train move to, but the funny thing is that the towels wrapped around everything made me the happiest.
Towels are a great gift. I mean, everyone could always use more bath towels, but it wasn't their functionality that made me happy. When I pulled the towels out of the box, careful not to drop any of the breakable items wrapped in them, I caught a familiar scent. I pressed the towel up to my nose and breathed in deeply. Not all of the gifts in the world could top the aroma of your childhood home. Sounds a bit silly, but breathing in the fire smoke that helps heat my parents' house made me a bit giddy. There is not another house that smells like my parents' home; at least, not one that I've found. Being on a completely different continent and being apart from my family for the Holidays for the first time, smelling those towels made me feel so much better. It's so funny because now I don't want to use them or wash them because they will lose that smell.
It's not easy being so far from home during the Holidays, but the smallest-or smelliest-of gestures brings so much happiness.

****
On a somewhat unrelated note, I wanted to let everyone know that I will be making an announcement soon about an event I, and other members of the blogging community, will be hosting in order to, hopefully, bring joy to someone else's life. I will definitely be needing help in order to make the event a success. This particular person is a truly impressive individual and I hope that we will be able to assist her. She gives herself so fully to others and I hope that we can give back to her in the name of thanks for what she does. It should be a really fun event. So, stay tuned for details. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rally Thoughts

When I was reading another blog just the other day, my thoughts were brought back to rally obedience. I had taken a class when I lived in SC and had thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun for both Glacier and I and I think it would be something to get into again one day. The operative words are "one day." A few things need to change in order for me to do rally obedience training and perhaps some fun competitions.
First, I need a dog to do it with. Glacier is such a sensitive guy and needs structure to be able to work at his best. Asking him to also do rally obedience is confusing for him and is detrimental to our working relationship. We also cannot have pet dogs where we are living right now and that is why we have invested so much into our Sugar Gliders. Even if we could have dogs I'm not sure I'd want another one in this flat. I love this flat. Its location is fabulous and it's actually quite cute and has a lot of character, but there is no way we'd be able to fit a third big dog in here comfortably. I try to pretend that we could, but really, it would make things squishy. Sure we could fit a small dog like a miniature Dachshund, but they are known for their big barks and our neighbors would not be impressed. This building is old and not very well sound proofed. So, I'd have to get a dog.
Second, we'd have to be living somewhere else or perhaps I'd have to have a venue to practice in. This problem is a bit less of a concern since there are plenty of parks around us where I could practice, but the weather is unpredictable in Scotland and I'd need an alternative indoor practice area. If we had a bigger flat, or house, with a "garden" (AKA yard), that would be ideal.
If I am being realistic, I probably wouldn't have the time to dedicate to rally obedience properly in the upcoming year anyway. I've applied to the University of Edinburgh for Performance Psychology and if I get in, rally obedience on top of studying, classes and training for a triathlon might be a bit much.
With all of this in mind, I had a bit of a brain storm last night as I took the boys out for the last "park" of the night. Why not train Roscoe? Not right now, but Mr. K and I are pretty certain he will retire himself young, sort of the way Jetta did, and if that is the case he will still be young enough to enjoy something like that. He loves to please and even though he may choose not to guide anymore, I think he would be happy to have a fun job. I asked Mr. K last night when I got back inside and he agreed. That made me pretty excited.
By the time Roscoe retires, I'll be done with school and hopefully working. I'll probably still be training for the triathlon, but I'll be a more established athlete and it won't take up as much of my time as it does now. Besides training, I spend a lot of time researching the sport, social networking and many other things. Being blind means that I have to learn about the sport by either doing it or reading about it. So, I've been doing both. With this learning process out of the way, it would open things up for me to do something as a hobby that would be relaxing and fun. Not that I'm saying that I want Roscoe to retire early just so I can train him in rally obedience. In fact, if he works until he's old enough to be satisfied just being a couch potato, that will make me very happy. However, if he retires as young as Jetta did-seven and a half-we better find something else for him to do.
Life has a funny way of working itself out though and I'll read back on this post one day and probably have to remove my foot from my mouth. Roscoe will decide to work until he's an old man and I'll have to actually find a dog to work with. Either that or Glacier will retire early and he'll go back to rally obedience. That said, the guide dog trainer made a comment to Mr. K when he watched them work that he thinks that Roscoe will retire himself young.
Roscoe loves to work; that is, after you get the harness on. He reminds me of Jetta in that sense. He backs away from the body part going over his head, just like Jetta. He takes off like a shot once you lift the handle off his back and does a fabulous job, but when he's mad about where you're asking him to work, you know about it; again, just like Jetta. He also has become more "sniffy" as he's gotten older; just that little bit more distracted. Jetta didn't necessarily use her nose more, but she definitely became more and more distracted as she lost interest in guiding. The funny thing is, even though it was difficult retiring Jetta at such a young age, I felt so much better knowing she decided for herself. I almost wish this would be the case for Mr. K because that would save him the anguish of making the decision to hang up Roscoe's harness. I saw so many other guide dog owners retire their dogs, dogs who had worked for eight or nine years, and they eventually had to choose for the dog. I was lucky that I was saved that difficult decision, but this time around, I think I won't be spared. Glacier would probably work until his paws didn't work anymore. Of course I wouldn't let it get to that. He's such a good boy and deserves a great retirement. For Glacier, at least, I think retirement is a good few years off, but we'll see what Roscoe decides in two or three years. That's another reason to get that fenced in garden.
If Roscoe retires early, we'll have one working dog and one not. Mr. K hasn't decided whether he is getting another dog after Roscoe and I think he may make that choice long after Roscoe retires. When Glacier retires, I most certainly will be getting another dog. I feel safer traveling with a dog for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because I can't see at all and because I am basically deaf in my right ear. The dog acts as a safety net for me. That means, we'll have three big dogs at once, unless Mr. K gets a dog and that will make four. I really don't want to re-home Glacier and Roscoe if I can help it. The two of them will have to stay together; especially since they have been together from day one. Separating them would be very cruel. Also, if they retire at different times, what do we do? Hold on to the one who retired for a few more years until the other is ready to stop working and then re-home them? That also seems cruel. I think our best bet would be to find a flat with a limited amount of stairs-so that it will be gentle on two aging dogs' hips-with a fenced in yard. That way, we could keep both boys and I could also have my new working dog. Besides, if we give Roscoe and Glacier up, who will I rally obedience train?
Wow. This post really digressed. My whole point was to talk about my excitement to train Roscoe in rally obedience, but I guess all of the factors of life had to be considered. Whatever may happen, I hope we have a few years still to get things in order so that we can keep our boys and Roscoe and I can be rally obedience buddies.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Can We Help? (Reposted from Dog Business: It's Your Dog's Health).

Dawg Business: It's Your Dog's Health!: Miracle Needed for Sam and Gracie: Gracie is a 10-year-old Yellow Lab and Sam is a 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever. They are docile, well behaved, housebroken and good w...

1 + 2 = 3

So... guess what?
Our Sugar Glider colony is about to double. We will be bringing home not one, but two little fuzz butts to be at Fiona's beckon call. She's the princess, so of course her two new brothers will have to do her bidding. My dad laughed at me when I said we were getting two joeys. He said,
"good thing they didn't have six; you'd have them all; trying to save the  world."
Mr. K spoke to the breeder this afternoon and she was satisfied that we were well researched Glider owners. Mr. K told her that as soon as we have an appointment scheduled to have the boys neutered, we will be in touch to arrange a date for us to pick them up. Mr. K promptly purchased a second smaller cage to house probably Fiona in order to provide her a space to call her own until she and the two new boys are adequately acquainted. Not to mention, it can serve the purpose of a "hospital cage" if the need ever arises that a Glider needs to be housed by him or her self due to medical issues.
It would seem that we are moving a bit quick since Gus only left us yesterday, but the sooner we have the new boys neutered the better. As well, the sooner they are introduced to Fiona, and to Mr. K and I, the better. They are a bit older than Fiona-about a month-and fast approaching the end of their best bonding period. It's not that they won't bond after this time, but it is most ideal between eight and twelve weeks of age; similar to a puppy.
 There are a few ways to introduce Sugar Gliders to each other, but since all three are babies, there shouldn't be any aggression issues. We've decided to have the boys neutered before introducing them as well to also reduce the likeliness of aggressive behavior. Fiona will stay in the smaller cage since she is by herself and we will place the cages next to each other. That way, they can get used to one another from a distance and once everything is settled-babies are talking to each other and neutering done-we will let them all live together. If the boys were at sexual maturity, then they would have to be housed separately for a month as they could remain fertile. However, these boys shouldn't be at that point just yet and so will be able to live with Fiona sooner rather than later.
So, have we picked names?
The answer is yes.
Mr. K thought it would be a good idea to name them "after the two greatest thinkers of all time," and so they will be named:
Plato and,
 Yoda.
These two boys are not meant to take Gus's place as he was a special little guy, but I know they will fill our lives in their own unique ways and give Fiona the companionship that every Sugar Glider needs to be at his/her happiest.

Moving Forward

Today I feel a lot better; much better. The kind and thoughtful comments left by you have made losing Gus so much easier. Gus and Fiona's breeder has actually been fantastic and incredibly supportive, understanding and kind. She has a waiting list for her joeys, but she has put us in touch with another breeder that is actually closer to home. This new breeder has two sets of joeys ready to go and another just "out of pouch." We could technically wait for the two just out of pouch because they would be in a better stage to bond, but I don't think we can wait that long for Miss Fiona's sake. Those joeys won't be ready to go to a home until February or so and that is much too long for a Sugar Glider to be alone
Fiona seems a bit lost, but Mr. K and I are making sure to play with her and we both took our turns carrying her around in the bonding pouch yesterday in order to give her a warm body to be near. I also make sure that her Snuggle Safe pad is always warm and tucked up under one of Mr. K's shirts in her cage. That way, if she is feelin she needs some warmth, it is there. This might be a bit easier if she was a bit more bonded because we would be able to have her out of the cage perched in a pocket even when she's awake, but she is not quite there yet. She did come out and run in her Wodent wheel quite a bit last night; she ate her food and took treats; and played with us and  the feather toy we got for her and Gus. We're trying our best to keep her occupied and give her the interaction she needs to be a happy, healthy little Glider, but I think a fuzzy companion is going to be necessary in the long term.
We are supposed to get a phone call from the new breeder later today and then we'll go from there. It would seem that the tent is going to be put back up in our living room and we'll start this process all over again. However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing for Fiona. I think she could use a bit more time in the tent. Because the tent is so small, she is forced to interact with us and I am sure that will help her bond further. I am not sure how many "brothers" Fiona will end up with as Sugar Glider breeders prefer to sell the joeys in pairs since Sugar Gliders are so social. Our cage is definitely big enough for three Sugies as it is taller than Mr. K and wider. Sugies also do not seem to react poorly to having odd numbers as some other animals might. The breeder only has males available so we will have to ensure both are neutered very quickly. They are a bit older than Gus and Fiona and so will reach sexual maturity much faster and that will cause two problems:
1. They may fight as there is only one female,
and 2. Fiona may become a Mom. No thanks. :)
So even though the last 24 hours have been quite tough, and I still get a bit teary from time to time, we are doing much better. Getting Fiona a new companion will make me feel much better as well because that will provide her with the stimulation and companionship that she needs.
Again, thanks all of you so much for your comments and virtual hugs: they mean so much to Mr. K and I.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Good-bye Gus

I know to some he would be considered just an animal. I know some wouldn't understand how a human would grieve for an animal, but he wasn't just an animal to us; especially not to Mr. K. Gus was Mr. K's little buddy. Mr. K worked so hard to get to know Gus, to teach him to trust Mr. K. How is it that one minute, he is running around the living room, chasing Fiona through the Christmas tree, and the next, somehow, he is gone? How is it that we missed him leaving? We still don't even know how he got out into the bathroom. We read all of the warnings; we knew. I was usually so attentive to make sure the toilet lid was down, but for some reason, this morning I didn't check.
Gus left us this morning some time around 7 AM. He died in one of the ways we were warned a million times about; he drowned in our toilet. Thinking about it makes me sick. When one is charged with the responsibility of another's life, it is difficult to accept that you have failed as a care giver; that you have failed to keep him safe. It happened so fast and all of the "what if's" keep running through my mind. I feel responsible because I suggested letting Gus and Fiona out to roam the living room this morning. I feel awful knowing that his breeder entrusted his little life to us and Gus is gone. I feel horrible. I think some of the grief I feel towards his death may have to do with giving up our Dachshunds seven or so months back. I never really grieved re-homing them. Some of the grief comes from knowing that Mr. K is hurting. and some of it comes from knowing that our little Gus is gone.
My heart hurts, but it hurts more for Mr. K and Fiona than for me. How do you explain to someone that you hurt for them; that you grieve for them? Gus was Mr. K's and it hurts me that someone that I love is so sad.
I feel horrible for Fiona because she is alone now. She doesn't understand, and part of me is glad she doesn't. Thinking about how Gus died brings tears to my eyes. Sugar Gliders are colony animals: how is Fiona going to do on her own? We could get another Sugar Glider I suppose, but right now I feel like I don't deserve another one. I feel like I don't deserve Fiona. I think Gus's death is so hard to handle because it was so unexpected and because usually we're so careful-it just takes a second and everything can change.
Never in my life have I wished I could turn back time; not until now. This is so hard to take because   it could have been prevented. The tears just won't stop coming; tears for me, tears for Gus, tears for Fiona and tears for Mr. K. Even though we only had Gus for a month, he touched our lives and taught us great lessons in patience, persistence and love.

Rest in peace Gus and I am so, so  sorry.

Our Furry Christmas Day

I hope everyone out there had a day filled with love, laughter and good food; how ever you may have celebrated. Mr. K, Glacier, Roscoe and I had a very enjoyable day, with each other for company. It was odd not gathering with family and stuffing ourselves, and if I can next year I'd like to get back home, but despite it just being us and the fuzzy ones, it actually was quite nice.
The day started with a phone call from my mom waking me up from a nap. I have been having a hard time sleeping as of late and so her call brought me out of a deep sleep. We chatted and she told me of her and my Dad's night. After we hung up I went back into our room and jumped on the bed, telling Mr. K "to wake up! Santa was here!" (Hey, we don't have kids. Someone's gotta play the part). As he woke up, I brought both boys out for their second bathroom trip of the day and upon our return, Mr. K was ready to open gifts. I had wrapped most of his gifts the night before, watching the 1964 version of  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
There were many gifts under the tree for Mr. K as Santa was very generous. Okay, perhaps it was his wife, but you know. His stocking still hasn't arrived, so I, or should I say Santa, filled an empty dog food box with many varieties of chocolate, including a bar filled with Whisky; three mini bottles of Iron Brew (a soft drink that is native to Scotland and is the only soft drink that outsells Coke in Scotland); a water bottle for the gym; and a few other edible goodies. Wrapped under the tree was:
a well aged bottle of Whisky,
a whisky sifter (are you sensing a theme)?,
the extended version of Lord of the Rings box set,,
all of the Star Wars movies,
winter gloves,
a Jack Skellington cookie jar and
a Build a Bear Dachshund dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi (who I named Obi Doc Kenobi for Doc our miniature dachshund we had to rehome when we moved to Scotland). The best part is that his Light Saber makes noise when you move it.
Santa (AKA Mr. K) had brought me my Iphone early and I had Snow White and the Seven Dwarf jammies and Body Shop products to unwrap from Mr. K. My parents also got me a high quality running jacket for my
triathlon
training. Mr. K and I also received a Crock Pot and a nice set of sheets from my parents.
How did Glacier and Roscoe make out?
They both were given banana and blueberries with their breakfasts to start the day off right. After Mr. K and I opened our presents, the boys were given some new fish treats that I had picked up when I was at the vet. The treats are chunks of dried fish and both dogs love them. Then again, they're Labradors, there probably isn't much they won't like. After their treats, they were given a gigantic Bull Knuckle to share. It probably weighed close to three pounds and was definitely big enough for them to share. In the first five minutes, Glacier broke a chunk off and the boys each had their own bone. Leave it to Glacier to break a bull knuckle apart. They chewed for nearly three hours and made a huge mess of our living room's area rug, but it was Christmas and they were so happy. To finish the evening off, we took the boys down to a walking/cycling trail nearby. It was a warm night, despite the wind gusting strongly. Mr. K brought his White cane and we let the boys off of their leashes so that they could have a good off leash run. They were fantastic, coming when called and sticking close by. I think they may still have felt a sense of duty since Mr. K and I were alone and there wasn't a sighted friend with us. When we take them for off leash runs with other friends, they sometimes venture almost too far off. Last night they would run ahead and then turn around and check in. We returned home with two very tired and happy dogs.
The only glitch we ran into last night was that we had planned on ordering Chinese food for supper, but all of the Chinese places closed up early and the pizza places weren't open at all. We had a great lunch of chicken wrapped in bacon and baked in Ranch and cheese and just had sandwiches for supper. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable day/evening and I am glad I was able to share it with Mr. K, Glacier and Roscoe. Gus and Fiona were here too of course and they did make an appearance in their bonding pouches while we opened presents and  watched The Santa Claus. (They are actually running about our living room as I write this).
It was a very furry Christmas indeed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the flat, not a creature was stirring not even a rat...
There better not be any rats in this flat, and, who am I kidding? All creatures are stirring; Gus and Fiona are nocturnal. They'll just be able to wish Santa Paws a Merry Christmas when he comes down our chimney. As for Roscoe, I'm sure he'll be waiting for reindeer sightings. If he weren't a guide dog, he may have made a good hunting dog. And Mr. G? Well, he'll probably be  scheming on how to eat Santa Paws's cookies for himself. He likes to eat you know?

From our furry family to yours, four legged or two,
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Glacier's 12 Days of Christmas

Hellos everyone,
Glacier here to sing to you my version of The 12 Days of Christmas. I hope you enjoy.
*Clears throat and blows note on pitch organ*.
Ahem...
On the first day of Christmas my girl gave to me: A dose of flea prevantitive,
On the second day of Christmas my girl gave to me: two big hugs and a dose of flea preventative,
On the third day of Christmas my girl gave to me: three teeth brushings, two big hugs and a dose of flea preventative,
On the fourth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: four long walks, three teeth brushings, two big hugs and a dose of flea preventative,
On the fifth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: *in a big voice sings*, five doggie cookies, four long walks, three teeth brushings, two big hugs and a dose of flea preventative
On the sixth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: six nails trimmed (she couldn't get the others), five doggie cookies...Etc, Etc
On the seventh day of Christmas my girl gave to me: (actually it was Dad), seven minutes of showering! (What kind of Christmas gift is that)? Six nails trimmed...grrrr this song is long
On the eight day of Christmas my girl gave to me: eight tasty hot dogs...oh, woops that is what I am wishing she gave me,
On the ninth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: nine presies I can't unwrap yet, eight tasty hot dogs, seven minutes of showering...you get the point
On the tenth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: ten Sugar Gliders. Oh wait, we only have two-I wish we had ten. I like watching them...nine presies I can't unwrap yet, eight tasty hot dogs, seven minutes of showering, six...erm, I forget. Moving on.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my girl gave to  me: eleven more dog cookies...that may have been in my dreams again
On the  twelfth day of Christmas my girl gave to me: twelve minutes of snuggle time on the bed, (That is more like it). eleven more dog cookies, ten Sugar Gliders, nine presies I can't open yet, eight tasty hot dogs, seven minutes showering with Dad, six hamburgers? Erm, no, six nails trimmed. Oh right, that is why I walk sideways.
*Deep breath*
Five doggie cookies!!!!!
Four long walks, three teeth brushings, two big hugs and a dose of flea preventative!!!!!!
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grrrrrrr

That's right: I said, "grrrrr." If you can't tell, I'm slightly frustrated; not in the least bit surprised, but annoyed and a bit perplexed. Sometimes I hate political correctness or people being polite for the sake of maintaining a business-like manner. If you have something to say, just say it. At least that way, I can deal with the root issue. At least then, if  I feel so inclined, I can educate the ignorant and dispel some misunderstandings that seem to plague our society.
Last week, I got that itch of wanting to be involved with training dogs again. It's an itch that I have not really been able to scratch, and even though I know that realistically that is not a feasible career option for me right now, I thought that volunteering would be the next best thing. Not only would it give me the opportunity to work with dogs, but also to learn about dog training and give back to the community. I spent nearly an entire afternoon researching service dog organisations local to Edinburgh and sending out emails, enquiring about volunteer positions. I didn't say anything to anyone-not even Mr. K-because I had a sneaking suspicion I would run into the same bias I have practically everywhere else.
PAALS
where Kyo is currently still in training, was one of the only organisations to give me the opportunity to begin working with the dogs. A lot of my tasks were not dog related, but I was able to "pup sit" from time to time and also groom the dogs when I was on site. I was even granted the opportunity to watch different training sessions and ask questions.
It was no surprise to me then, when one of the emails came back denying my request to volunteer with the dogs. The only reason why  I was a bit taken aback was because the decision was made on a 12 to 15 line electronic form I filled out. There was no follow up call or enquiring email. The email just said that I was not suited to work with the dogs. I was informed though, that if I wanted to help the organisation, I could spend my time handing out posters or maybe working local events. Gee, thanks. "'Cause that is what I listed as my preferred work.
The reasons for not allowing me to work with the dogs?
Reason Number 1. Apparently I work too much.
Whoa. What? Where is this working too much that I am supposedly doing? I'd like to know because if I was working too much that would mean that I should be making a whole bunch of money and I would be able to purchase that 2 grand tandem bike I wanted, or that 250 pound wet suit.
I put on the application that I was working 2 hours a day, six days a week. This is about how much my triathlon training takes up as of right now. In total, that is twelve hours a week. Some people work that in a day! Who are they looking for? Retired people? Unemployed people?
Reason Number Two: We have working dogs already. Why do I bother telling people that? As soon as people find out I have a working dog myself, the answer is automatically no. One of the jobs I had checked off to do was to be a handler for a demonstration dog. That means, you take one of their dogs, bring him/her to events and demonstrate his/her training. And why can't I do that with a working dog? Glacier can stay home for such things and I can use a White Cane. There are ways to work around problems-it's called problem solving. Also, and I think this is what works me up the most, if I were accepting applications for volunteer positions and someone with a working dog applied, I would interview that person to see how he/she interacts with his/her working dog. If that person was a capable handler, with a successful dog, then perhaps they would be the best person to handle a demonstration dog. If they are already familiar with the importance of treating dogs as working animals and not pets, would they not be a good fit? That person would already know how to handle a dog/pup out in public and would know how to do it correctly. Sure, each organisation does things a bit different, but the basics would be there and new behaviors could be learned.
I just don't think either of these reasons are grounds to say no; especially if there isn't any follow up communication to gain some clarification. I kind of feel-and please excuse me puppy raisers because you know I love you and what you do, but I am just annoyed right now-that disabled people should be grossly involved in the raising of service dogs. We as disabled people know what we need better than anyone. I'm not saying go out and hire any disabled person just because they have a disability, but I feel strongly that "we" need to be involved in processes that eventually effect "us." It's something that I have been advocating for a long time now and the dog thing is just a byproduct of a greater problem: quite often, and not always, but  more frequently than is acceptable, able-bodied people think they know what disabled people need better than the person with a  disability.
Okay, my apologies for the rant. I'm sure they have reasons for doing what they do and please do not think that I devalue the work that puppy raisers and trainers alike do because I am not. I am just frustrated and needed to blow off some steam.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Festive Feeling

With Mr. K and I remaining in the UK for Christmas by ourselves, I have been attempting to keep the festive feeling alive. Christmas has always been about traditions for me, but I suppose it is time to make some new ones.
Last night Mr. K and I sat down to build a gingerbread house. This was something we did the first year we started dating. I thought it would be a fun way to walk down memory lane, while being festive. Tenie had picked up the kit for us before she left and even though I thought the package appeared a bit flat, or void of stuff, when she handed it to me, I just assumed gingerbread house kits were different here. Weren't we surprised when I busted the plastic off and all there was inside were the cookie pieces. Mr. K and I had a good laugh and had dessert. We have plenty of house left and have been slowly munching on walls, windows, roofs and chimneys.
For me, music has always been a huge part of my life. I used to perform when I was really young and miss singing in that capacity. Around Christmas time, I am always humming a Christmas tune or blaring it out of some kind of speaker. Last night, while we were in the tent with Fiona and Gus, we played Christmas carols on my Iphone for entertainment.
The selecting and giving of gifts always gives me great pleasure at this time of year as well. I have finished all of my Christmas shopping, finishing it off this afternoon with Glacier and Roscoe's present. I have wrapped some presents already, but the rest of them will wait for when Mr. K and I wrap our gifts for one another in front of each other.
Along the same line of gift giving, Mr. K and I thought it would be nice to make little gift bags for the other flats in our building. I picked up Christmas themed gift bags on an outing with Carmen and spent a good part of last night making Cinnamon Apple foot soaks and T-tree, olive and peppermint oil hand  soap. Mr. K added red flowers to the surface of each bar to make them a bit more festive. The soaps need to sit and solidify, so I spent part of this morning wrapping them in Christmas paper and adding ribbon as a finishing touch. Tomorrow Mr. K and I are going to make peanut butter fudge, which is a tradition in his family, and add that to the bags as well. We've already written up a list of ingredients that will go in each bag just in case people have allergies.
Gifts for us have been arriving as well. My parents bought gifts online and had them shipped directly to us. Most of them have been gift wrapped, but I've had to wrap up two already and stuck them under the tree. A box from Mr. K's mom also arrived today, filled with goodies that we can't purchase over here, such as Ranch salad dressing and my favourite Cinnamint lip gloss. It's these small things that makes having to be apart from our families for Christmas that much more tolerable.
Christmas Eve is only four days away and even though this Holiday season is going to be very different for both Mr. K and I, we will keep doing little things to stay in the festive spirit, with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer needing to be watched and a few other Christmas classics. Not to mention, we are not completely alone; we have Glacier, Roscoe, Gus and Fiona all to keep us company and entertain us on Christmas morning. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fiona Breaks Free

It was bound to happen. Gus has already escaped his cage once, why shouldn't Fiona?
Last night I was awakened by Mr. K close to 3 AM. He's been a bit of a night owl the past few nights because his semester is over and also because the new Star Wars game was just released. He came into the room, telling me softly that Fiona had escaped and that he had herded her into the bedroom. The bedroom is probably the most Sugar Glider safe room in the flat right now. They probably could  be free in our living room, but there are way more hiding spots than our bedroom, or so we thought.
Fiona is not nearly as bonded as Gus. It was only this week that she felt comfortable enough to sit in my hand for more than half a second. Petting her is still difficult as she is usually only obliging when she is asleep in her bonding pouch during the day. Gus on the other hand, grooms Mr. K quite frequently in the tent and likes to hop on Mr. K's arm and hands whenever Mr. K opens the cage at night. Gus is definitely not bonded yet, but he is further along than Fiona.
Mr. K closed the door behind him and was horrified when she disappeared under the bed. Our bed is not very high off of the floor, but there is enough room for a Sugar Glider to hop underneath. Glacier and Roscoe maintained their sleepy positions in their bed even when Mr. K and I started calling to Fiona and trying to coax her out. They are such good boys.
I dangled my hand over the edge of the bed, not entirely convinced I wanted to get out of the warm coziness that was my bed. I called Fiona and she came out to sniff my fingers, but then promptly went back under. We could hear her moving around and chewing on things and so we became a bit concerned. Mr. K shut the power bar off as we thought she might be making a snack out of the power cords that run behind our bed. I continued to call her, but I think she was a bit too frightened to come out. Mr. K thought we should move the bed to try and get her, but I disagreed. Everything I have read says not to move the furniture because you risk crushing the itty bitty Glider. Eventually, I gave in as my reasoning wasn't convincing him and he moved the bed; nothing happened. I mean, nothing. Fiona didn't come out; she didn't scurry around; she didn't make a sound. I started freaking out. I was convinced we had crushed her.
I plopped myself down on the floor beside the bed and waited. And waited. I think I sat there for a good ten minutes before she came scurrying out at the end of the bed. Those were some of the longest ten minutes I have ever experienced. Upon her emergence, I tossed Mr. K a blanket to scoop her up in, but the motion traumatized her further and she hauled butt back under the bed. I sat back down and waited some more. Mr. K and I threw around the idea of getting Gus. Perhaps he could make her feel safe and get her to come out. Maybe he could distract her from her fears and they would start playing. If that happened, we would be able to trap them both in a blanket and put them back, safe and sound in their cage.
Mr. K went out to get Gus, but that didn't go as planned either.
I sat with my hand partially under the bed, with a yogurt drop balanced in my palm and honey on the tip of my index finger. I hoped that Fiona would smell the treats and come out to investigate, but no such luck. My bum was sore from sitting on the hard wood floor for so long, but I refused to move. I have learned very quickly that patience and persistence is the way to win these little fuzz butts over. I heard her little claws clicking on the floor just beside me and fought the urge to snatch her up. One wrong move and she would go further under the bed.
Meanwhile, Mr. K was having Sugie troubles of his own. Gus came out of his cage all right, but not on to Mr. K's hand as planned. Gus had other ideas. He climbed to the top of the cage to investigate what was up there. He hung out up there for a while, not coming any where near Mr. K. At one point, Mr. K thought he had lost Gus too because he wasn't moving and Mr. K couldn't hear him, but Gus was still perched on the top of the cage. Eventually, he came down and went to frolic on the couch next to the cage. Mr. K didn't want to frighten him and so patiently waited until Gus climbed on to his hand.
All of this took long enough for Fiona to come out from under the bed. If Sugar Gliders could tiptoe, I would say she tiptoed behind me. I felt her sniff my back and again fought the urge to catch her. She flittered around behind me for a few minutes, sniffing my back and then backing off again. When I knew she was right behind me, I moved slowly in the hopes of scaring her under the bed side table. The bottom of the table is enclosed all of the way around except for a small area at   the front. If I could get her under there, I could at least block her in. My small movement worked and she ran to hide. I placed my hand and forearm in front of the opening and waited for Mr. K to put Gus back in the cage. I knew I had trapped her for sure when she crabbed at me and then darted forward and nipped my finger hard. Miss Fiona is having biting issues as of late. I'm not sure if she nipped me out of fear or if she was playing a game-she thinks darting in to nip and then running away is a game-but I have never felt so relieved to have her little teeth clamp around the tip of my finger. It confirmed for me that she was indeed trapped under the bed side table.
Back out in the living room, Mr. K was able to carry Gus balanced on his hand over to the cage. Gus climbed up his arm and on to his shoulder and Mr. K was able to turn his shoulder to the cage. Once near the open door, Gus happily and willingly hopped back into his home. That was actually a really rewarding part of the early morning,, or late night depending  on how you look at   it, adventure. Some day, that sort of thing will be common practice and we won't have to trap our little fuzzies under furniture to retrieve them.
Mr. K returned to the bedroom and handed me a T-shirt which I stuffed into the opening of the bed side table. We needed a way for us to keep Fiona there, but that would allow me to move. With my hearing loss I have a hard time hearing where the Sugar Gliders are and so retrieval was left up to Mr. K. He laid on the floor and unstuffed the table and slid his hand up to the wrist in. Fiona was not happy about it. She didn't crab, but backed under the table. Mr. K waited. I suggested opening the bonding pouch in the mouth of the table and wait for her to get in by herself. In the tent, Fiona likes to get into the pouch on her own and hang out. It turns out, we didn't need the pouch. Fiona came out and climbed down Mr. K's shirt and he stood up, both of us pinning the shirt to his body. He got Fiona into his hand and even though she decided she should bite him, he got her back to the  cage all in one piece. When she got back in she and Gus started playing immediately.
Glacier and Roscoe were angels while this whole drama unfolded. They went where they were asked to go and held very good "down stays," when asked. Roscoe did crawl to the edge of the bed, sniffer working, when I sat down and called Fiona, but other than that he stayed where he was told. I think Glacier even fell asleep, curled up on Mr. K's pillows. The boys aren't usually allowed on the bed and probably thought it was a great treat. Good thing they don't have thumbs because they may start opening the cage to let the Sugar Gliders out so that they can have a good lounge on the humans' bed.
Mr. K and I had discussed at the beginning of this week that perhaps Gus and Fiona were ready to graduate from the tent to a designated and Sugar Glider proofed room for our evening bonding sessions, but after last night, I think we both realise that Fiona needs a bit more time. I suggested that we try putting them in separate bonding pouches during the day. That way, they are forced to turn to the human for warmth and safety rather than each other. I think they know us enough to be okay with being separated for part of the day. Plus, The two pouches could be set side by side and they would know the other was close. I thought the separate bonding pouches would make it easier to pet Fiona when she was  asleep, increasing her contact with human hands. Also, Gus and Mr. K seem to be buddies and Fiona has taken a small fancy to me and the separate bonding pouches would allow Mr. K and I to carry a Sugar Glider each.
So what have I learned from this experience?
1. Do NOT move the furniture when your Sugar Glider hides under/in it. There are two reasons for this: A. You really could crush them without knowing it. I think they freeze when they are really afraid and no amount of noise or movement will get them to move.
and
B. That sort of upheaval traumatizes them even more than they already are. This sort of fright is not conducive to bonding or retrieving the escapee.
2. Fiona needs a little more one on one bonding time.
and 3. Patience and persistence really do pay off with these little critters. Actually, that lesson could probably be applied to any kind of animal. This lesson I've learned before, but it is good to have it reconfirmed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Little Down Time

Tonight Mr. K and I went out to dinner to celebrate the end of semester for him. We ate at a little restaurant that we both enjoy, but save for special occasions since it is a bit out of budget. Glacier and Roscoe accompanied us of course, carefully guiding us around the other people out for the evening. There were a good many more people than normal, even for a Saturday night; probably because its the Saturday before Christmas and people are trying to fit in holiday parties. The meal was delicious and both Glacier and Roscoe behaved themselves very well; Roscoe lying next to Mr. K's chair and Glacier sprawled under the table.
On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store to grab some bread and then at a beer and wine  specialty shop and bought a few Winter Ciders. Again, both dogs were very good, finding doors when we asked and keeping their noses, for the most part, to themselves in both stores. They also traffic checked at two crossings that normally are empty of cars. They are usually quiet side streets that we cross multiple times a day without seeing a vehicle, but again, I think there were more vehicles out due to holiday parties. Glacier and Roscoe have both been very good as of late and Mr. K and I haven't had the opportunity to let them have an off leash run. So, when we got close to the park across from our flat, we turned in, relieved the boys and went into the fenced in area to give them a good romp.
Both dogs were asked to "sit and stay" and they obliged, muscles quivering with excitement. Glacier had to be told "no, stay" twice because he kept leaning forward as if he were about to spring away. After Glacier had settled enough to hold a good "sit stay," we released them. They took off like shots, spraying up wet wood chips behind them.
They raced around the enclosure, chasing each other and circling back to Mr. K and I. Glacier and Roscoe are probably matched for speed, but Roscoe being smaller, can turn on a dime and usually loses Glacier on the corners. They raced and chased and played hard. Their scrambling paws and snorts made me smile. Glacier also decided it was great fun to "stop, drop and roll" in the grass, all four paws in the air. Roscoe thought that Glacier shouldn't be doing that and pounced on him. They were off and running again. The "stop, drop and roll" routine was performed a few more times. I'm sure if I could see, I would be able to see grass stains on my white dog.
After about ten or fifteen minutes, they both slowed down to start sniffing. That was about the time Mr. K figured they were done and we called them back. Both boys returned, tails wagging and tongues lolling. Glacier could have probably run for another hour, but at least he got "some of his beans out;" as we like to say. The enclosure is perfect and children aren't using it this time of year, despite there being no snow. Next time I take the boys to run, I think their Toughies Ring-one of the only toys that made the trip across the pond-will be coming with us. Our flat is much too small for them to play with the ring properly. So, the fenced in park will give them an opportunity to really have a good game of tug with each other.
Both boys are now curled up together; Glacier with his tail over his eyes and nose and Roscoe with his head flopped on Glacier's back. When I reached in to give Glacier a snuggle, I got a strong whiff of damp earth. Yep, I'm sure he's grass stained. :)
 These two dogs work really hard for us and they deserve some down time; time to sniff and run and to be just dogs; even at the risk of smelling like dirt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Fuzz Butt Frenzy

It's been a while since we've had a Gus and Fiona update. Gus and Fiona will have been home with us for three weeks exactly tomorrow and it is amazing to see the progress in bonding. It is a task that requires patience and persistence, but once these two little Sugar Gliders are fully bonded, I think it will be a wonderful thing.
Our living room still contains the one person tent, set up for the purpose of providing a safe place for Mr. K, Gus, Fiona and I to play and bond. We try to get in the tent every night if possible in order to increase the amount of time Gus and Fiona are exposed to us. Mr. K has been great about handling the joeys in their cage and the crabbing, which is the noise they make when frightened or mad, has decreased. If there is crabbing at all, it can usually be calmed by the humans clutching the grouching glider close to our bodies and talking softly to the little furious furry one. Due to schedules and such, the tent hasn't been a go every night since Gus and Fiona have arrived in our home, but more often than not, we are spending anywhere from an hour to three hunkered down in the tent. If we are not able to get into the tent, Fiona and Gus will spend at least part of the day snuggled in a bonding pouch, slung around either mine or Mr. K's neck. All of this time is paying off.
The interesting thing is that we think Gus and Fiona may be bonding to Glacier and Roscoe as well. This happens and we're not really surprised since the dogs' scents are everywhere in our flat. Sugar Gliders, as I have mentioned before, bond primarily through scent and Glacier and Roscoe probably have a very strong scent. A few nights ago, Gus made a great escape from the cage when Mr. K was leaning in to adjust some of the sleeping pouches. We were both a bit concerned, but Gus hung a left and scurried over to where Glacier and Roscoe were curled up together sleeping. Gus leapt on to Roscoe and didn't crab or even try to run away when Roscoe looked at him confused and then proceeded to sniff him. Mr. K was able to catch Gus in a piece of fleece and he was returned safely to his cage. It was just interesting that Gus chose to go straight to the dogs instead of out into the rest of the flat.
Tonight we climbed into the tent to two free Sugar Gliders. We had placed the bonding pouch in the tent while we finished supper and the two little stinkers managed to open the zipper on the pouch and free themselves. Did I mention they have opposable thumbs? Scary smart little monsters.  The tent was zipped shut and there were no great escapes at least from there. Mr. K and I were not long in sucking down our suppers and climbing in with the frolicking "flying monkeys," as we like to call them. We spent a good solid two hours letting Gus and Fiona climb on us. We are now able to move slowly and pet them and quite often Gus thrusts his head under Mr. K's palm to have his head rubbed. It is adorable. Both Gliders were also fascinated with Mr. K's pocket and more than once he had two sugies clamoring over each other to climb in. Gus even climbed on to Mr. K's shoulder tonight and began grooming Mr. K's hair. I think those two are going to be little buddies.
Fiona is a bit more skittish than her brother, but she is coming around too. Up until this week, she would avoid getting on your hand. She would run the length of your arm and stop just at your wrist, refusing to go anywhere near your hand. Tonight she was climbing all over my hands. I am still not able to really pet her, but she is becoming more tolerant of my fingers brushing her as she runs by. Everything we have read says that the more you handle them, the better. So, we try to touch them as much as possible.
Whenever I am wearing the bonding pouch, I will unzip the pouch and pet the babies. Since they are such good sleepers they hardly notice. It used to be that if they heard the zipper, they would crab, but now I can unzip the pouch and pet without any protests.
Not only are they becoming more friendly, but the two little monsters are growing. They aren't really getting any bigger per se, but their bone structure is becoming much more dense. Their fur is incredibly soft-kind of like petting a bunny-and it is getting thicker as well. It's like watching puppies losing their fuzz and it being replaced by grown up  dog fur.
Quite honestly, they are some of the coolest little creatures. Sitting on the floor with your feet falling asleep for two hours is so worth being able to play with them in close contact. They are highly entertaining. When we were in the tent tonight, Fiona ran up my back, perched on my shoulder and barked at Gus who was being petted by Mr. K. You just never know what they are going to do next.
They are both now fast asleep in their cage, tucked in their hammock with their Pet Safe Snuggle pad, but give them an hour and they will be out running in their Wodent wheels. Yes, I said "wheels;" plural. We bought a second because they enjoyed the wheel so much and it allows them to both run at the same time. Fiona also loves running in one and then gliding over to the other, where she continues her running. I think she is trying to show me how to really train for a triathlon. Do they need two? No, probably not, but they're our babies and they can be spoiled a little bit. Right?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Santa Paws is Coming to Town!"

Hello there Blogging community,
It is I, Glacier, here to spread a little Christmas cheer. We at my house, or flat as my girl now calls it, love Christmas and my girl has said that Santa Paws is coming to town...very soon! I'm not sure whether or not to believe her, but today at the dogtor, my girl bought tasty treats and told me to cover my eyes. She said they were for Christmas.
Is it Christmas yet?
The dogtor said my leg looks like it is healing, but told my girl to keep an eye on it. I'm not sure how she's supposed to do that-I am her eyes! Anyway, I'll leave that up to her to figure out.
After the dogtor my girl and Auntie Carmen stopped to shop a bit and they bought things to put in Dad's stocking and also some shiny bags with Christmas pictures on them. My girl says that the bags are for gifts that she and Dad are making for the rest of the people in our flat building. I think those bags should be filled for me! I deserve treats; especially since she humiliated me by putting reindeer antlers on my head in the store. I am a dignified working dog! I wear a harness, not horns! ...Ahem...
 When we got home, my girl snuck around the flat hiding things for Dad's stocking, telling me not to tell. I guess things that go in stockings are supposed to be a surprise? Hmmmm. I am thinking I may need one of these stocking things....Wait...she is telling me something...
Oh, right. I am supposed to be telling you about our Christmas decorating.
The flat is quite small, but we have a five foot, skinny tree. Dad bought my girl pretty shiny balls, stars and other things to hang on it. I thought that perhaps the bigger shiny balls were for me, but she said that they belonged on the tree. Dad was smart and bought all "shatter proof" decorations. Roscoe has a mighty tail and has knocked near to ten things off the tree already.
Dad also got her a Gingerbread house; whatever that is. She seemed very happy about that and they are supposed to put it together. It looks like you could eat it, but apparently it's not for eating. Why would you buy something you can't eat? Hmmm...you humans are strange beings.
Besides the tree and Gingerbread house, our house does not have anymore decorations. A box is supposed to arrive, hopefully before Christmas, and I am told that those weird stocking things are in it. Apparently Dad's is Jack Skellington-whoever that is-and my girl's is Tinker Bell: I think that is some shiny, flittering bug thing I'd like to eat. Then again, I like to eat pretty much anything.
My girl told me to make sure I have a nap this afternoon because we're going Christmas shopping tonight. Unless we're going to buy things that I can eat, I think we should stay home. It's crazy windy out there. My girl would have blown away today if she had not been holding on to me tightly. I don't think my opinion counts in this matter though.
My girl also said she's going to be busy making soaps and bath salts tomorrow. They are supposed to be gifts. Again, they are not edible and I say, why bother? She says they smell good. If something smells good, doesn't that  mean you should eat it? I am so confused....Oh, well-moving on.
In the Christmas spirit, VIP has sent us a coupon that we cannot use since we are in the UK. Apparently VIP has added at least 50 new toys to their product line. Wow. That is a lot! If there is anyone out there in Canada or the United States who would like this 8 dollars off coupon, please let us know in this blog's comments by telling us about one of your favourite decorations in your house or traditions. The first person to comment, letting us know that they would like to be considered for the coupon, will be sent the email with the promotion code in it. We look forward to hearing about your decorations and/or traditions. :)
Anyway, that is all I have to tell you today. I should go take that nap so that I can be at my best for my girl when we go Christmas shopping tonight. Santa knows I'll have to move people out of the way for my girl and make sure she doesn't run into those silly displays everyone puts out at this time of year.
So, for now, this is Glacier signing off: reminding you that we only have 11 more shopping days until Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Christmas Cookie Party...or Two

Friday night was planned as our "get together" night before everyone heads home for the Holidays. We had just had a Canadian/American combination Thanksgiving a few weeks before, so instead of cooking a huge meal, we decided to just make baked goods. That way, everyone could enjoy each other's company as opposed to cooking/cleaning/suffering from food coma. The party was set to start at seven, but as the evening progressed, more and more people were not able to make it. By the time eight o'clock rolled around, it was just me, Tenie, Carmen, Mr. K and a friend who is visiting who also attended the Christmas market with us. Despite our dwindling numbers, we went ahead with the party and the five of us had a great time. Since there was baking involved though, of course there were mishaps and it was decided that Friday was a good practice for a repeat party Saturday, when more people would be able to  attend.
First of all, I attempted to bake a traditional Ginger cookie from Finland. My grandparents are Finnish on my dad's side and I have very fond memories of baking/eating these particular cookies with my cousins, Grandma, aunts and Mom. Grandma would make the dough the night before, as it needs to sit chilling for at least 8 to 12 hours. I had forgotten this part until Tenie and I tried to bake them Thursday night. Thankfully, we had the forethought to get some baking done the night before and the dough was able to chill for the suggested amount of time.
Once the dough has chilled, it is supposed to be rolled out really thinly on to a floured surface and we kids used to go crazy using cookie cutters of various shapes and sizes. Some of us would race to see how many we could make, but I was more concerned with how perfectly my shapes came out. It was very important to me that my bells looked like bells, my Christmas trees like Christmas trees and so on and so forth. If the shape was even a bit uneven or the lines weren't straight, I'd crumple up the dough into a ball and start all over again. I think it used to drive my family nuts. My cousins always tried to hurry me along because, as they pointed out, we were just going to eat them. My argument was that this was not entirely true because some of them we would bake longer so that they were a bit harder and would loop a piece of string through a pre-made hole and hang it from Grandma and Grandpa's tree. They were some of the nicest smelling tree decorations I can remember.
The problem is, I didn't remember all of this until we started attempting to bake the dough. I made two mistakes:
1. We couldn't find "dark corn syrup" and substituted it with some molasses based product. I think it made my cookies dry.
and
2. We didn't roll the dough out thin enough and so it took longer to bake them. Again, drying them out.
The first cookie was tasted after I'd baked at least a dozen or more an they were immediately dumped into the garbage. The cookies were kind of like eating ginger flavored saw dust. They were much too dense, dry and did not have the harder, sweet outer shell with the soft middle I remember. My cookies were a bust and so Mr. K and I provided some liquor and mix instead of baked goods.
The second problem of the night was Carmen's brownies. She first made the Raspberry Cheesecake brownies for a Christmas party we held at our house when we lived together for university in Canada. She had never made them in a convection oven and so parts of the chocolatie goodness ended up burning. There were still pieces that were salvageable and so we ate those.
Tenie made a traditional Scottish dessert that is made with cream, whisky, raspberries, honey and roasted oats. She went a little heavy on the whisky the first time around, but we all enjoyed it immensely.
We spent that night eating the desserts that actually  turned out and playing "Things in a Box;" a board game that asks the players a question, such as "what is something that should not be on a Valentine's Day card?", and each player writes his/her answer down. The answers are then read out loud and people have to guess who wrote what. It was a lot of fun and my tummy hurt by the end of the night from laughing so hard.
The best part about our Christmas Cookie party was that it never ended; we repeated the dessert eating last night, only with more people.
I didn't bother baking anything since my cookies kind of flopped; or should I say, crumbled. I was going to make peanut butter fudge, a favourite at Mr. K's house during the Holidays. His mom always makes it and I had it for the first time last year and I couldn't stop eating it. The problem was finding marsh mellow fluff. Apparently it's sold somewhere in Edinburgh, but it is not easy to come by. So, again, we provided liquor and mix.
Carmen attempted the brownies again and they turned out wonderfully. Tenie made her dessert with a bit less whisky and I'm pretty sure it tasted better than any of the stuff I've tried in restaurants. Two other friends joined us bringing bottles of wine with them. We spent an enjoyable evening eating and chatting. Both nights were low key as far as Holiday parties go, but the intimate setting made it better than most parties. We were all able to talk to one another and laugh with each other, which I think are some of the key elements for a good Christmas party: good food could be considered another and since we had plenty of that, I would say it was a success.

Friday, December 09, 2011

My Confession

I really can't make any excuses. My reasons will sound hollow and insincere. I, Jess, have been a bad blog friend.
Yes, that is right, you heard me; a bad blog friend.
I have been posting and reading the comments left for me, but I have not been reading your blogs. Why is that you ask?
Well, to be honest, I've been buried in a book; technically three books. That's the honest truth. Ever since I started The Wheel of Time series, I have not been myself. My hands shake when I do not get enough reading time; when I am not reading my brain is puzzling out what will happen next; I sneak off to read little bits wherever possible; and so on and so forth. I think I may be addicted-an intervention may be in order. Every waking minute that is not filled with triathlon training, Glacier, going out with my friends here, bonding with Gus and Fiona  or spending time with Mr. K is taken up by those blasted books. Even Mr. K would argue that I am not spending enough time with him. If Glacier could talk, he may say the same. I only started the series a few weeks back and I am already on book three, which says a lot considering book three alone is nearly thirty hours of listening time. The books are just that good; at least if you are a fan of the Fantasy genre.
With the Holidays coming up, things will actually calm down here. Everyone except Mr. K and I are heading home for Christmas. That means, a lot of time for me to read not only my books, but I'll get caught up on your blogs as well.
So, if anyone missed me out there: have no fear, I'll be back...once I've gone to book rehab first.
*Runs off and immediately plugs ear phones into Iphone and pushes "play"*.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Eleven Years Today

Dear Jetta,
Happy birthday to you. You are eleven today and even though I am sure you are  unaware of the significance of this day, I celebrate for you. People speak of children being born as blessings, and I am sure they are, but your birth, my beautiful, little Black Lab, was one of the biggest blessings thus far in my life. So many factors played a role in whether or not you would become a fully certified guide dog and then another host of them determined our partnering. Somehow, we were matched and my life has been changed forever because of it. Even though you are far away  this day, your birthday, I think of you fondly and miss you dearly. I know you are enjoying a happy retirement and that puts me at ease, but I wish I could be with you for your eleventh birthday. It is quite a mile stone you know?
So, have a very, happy birthday and know, that even if you appear to some as "just a dog," you are more than that to me.

****
Eleven Amazing Things Jetta Did While Working
1. On multiple occasions, people would move my bag in the changing room at the pool. The first time it happened, I completely panicked. The changing room was empty and I had no idea where my bag had gotten to. Preparing to search each locker and bench, I picked up Jetta's harness handle and even before the "forward" command was out of my mouth, she had picked a direction and stopped directly in front of my bag. Can this dog read minds?
2. Jetta's innovative spirit did not always lend itself well to a well behaved dog. Tenie had bought a chocolate bar and a few other treats for herself during an essay writing marathon. She pushed them up against the back of her dresser as close to the mirror as possible. She knew Jetta stole things from time to time and being the good friend and roommate she was, she was aware of where she put things. Later that evening she came into my room to use my printer and within five minutes we heard a weird scrambling sound. We both charged from the room and burst into Tenie's only to find Jetta crouched with all four paws on Tenie's dresser, candy in mouth. All we can figure is that she got on the bed, stepped on to the bed side table and then on to the dresser from there.
3. All of the dogs from Leader Dogs for the Blind, and many other schools, are taught to "traffic check." This is a concept that I've talked about before. Traffic checking means the dog will stop you if a moving vehicle crosses your path of travel; the car endangering you both. Jetta had many fantastic "traffic checks" in her time, but I clearly remember the first one. We were at LDB still in training and her instructor zoomed in front of us in a van. Jetta slammed on the brakes and I was amazed that such a small creature had so much force. I was caught completely off guard by the traffic check as I had only taken about five steps after tying one of my shoes. I dropped to my knees beside her and threw my arms around her. It was such an amazing feeling knowing that a dog cared enough about my safety, and hers too of course, to stop us from walking into danger.
4. Once, and I think I have told this story before, Jetta and I were in the airport bathroom. It was one of her last trips as my working dog and I remember trying to commit as much of it to memory as I could. We came out of the bathroom and my guide, who had said he would be waiting, had left. Slightly irritated, I moved away from the bathroom. I thought that perhaps he couldn't see that I had come out. We walked a bit and then Jetta stopped, so I stopped too. I had learned early on that nine times out of ten, Jetta was right and the times when she was wrong, she was only half wrong. My guide returned a few minutes later and said, "oh, you made it back." I was confused and he told me that Jetta was standing right next to my suitcase. Again, does this dog read minds or perhaps luggage tags?
5. There was one time, while I was on the university campus, when I think Jetta came close to saving my life. We were walking out of a parking lot  we traversed on a regular basis and a semi-truck was backing up. I could hear the beeping that indicates that the truck was reversing, but I had no idea where to go. We were surrounded by pavement and other cars and there wasn't another living human being around to ask which direction was safe. Jetta slowed her pace to a few steps at a time, eyeing up the truck. Suddenly, she stepped sideways into the lawn and planted her paws. It was only then that the driver noticed me and a yelling match ensued. I've actually written about that incident and it's buried somewhere in this blog's archives. It was another time in my life when panic completely took over and Jetta stepped in and guided me to safety.
6. Jetta always had amazing curb work. The more I get to know other guide dogs, the more I realise she was a bit of an anomaly. If she jumped a curb ever in her working career, I can't remember it, which says to me she didn't. She also always crossed straight. I never had Jetta try to diagonally cross once. It was an every day thing, but it was an important every day thing and the simplicity of it is what makes it so amazing.
7. Jetta's "follow" cue was impeccable. Not all dogs have a good "follow" cue as it is difficult to teach. Roscoe is a great follower, but Glacier? Not so much. I could tell Jetta to "follow," point to the person I wanted her to follow and she would do it. It didn't matter where we were-a busy mall, crowded sports playing field, cramped pool deck-I always knew I would get to where I needed to be. Following can be a scary thing to do when you can't hear the person you are following due to a noisy crowd, but with Jetta, I never worried she would lead me astray.
8. There wasn't anything Jetta wouldn't try once. Sometimes she wouldn't do it a second time, but she would never shy away from something that was new. We were in Vancouver Canada for a swimming training camp and on one of our off days we went touring. Part of our tour was one of the largest suspension bridges spanning a small canyon. Jetta didn't even hesitate when I asked her to "forward" on to the swaying bridge. She could see through the slats of the bridge, but she still went. Some dogs don't even like open backed stairs, never mind a swinging, suspension bridge.
9. Jetta's brain was always working. Whenever her winter boots came out for the first time, she would sneak away on silent paws and hide in one of my roommates' rooms. When I would find her and finally get the boots on, she would let me know that she was not happy. She would walk me inches from a wall, just getting me close enough to be nervous, but never brushing it. She only ever did this the first couple of times she had to wear her boots, each winter. It's a good thing she doesn't have thumbs. She would probably take over the world and all winter booties would be thrown into a gigantic bonfire, or else she would rally all guide dogs everywhere to walk their unsuspecting handlers dangerously close to objects.
10. Jetta became a pro at guiding through wintery conditions. Each year she got better until it got to the point where even if there was a thin layer of ice on the sidewalk up ahead she would slow down and walk gingerly; indicating to me that it could be unsafe. There was one year that was particularly bad for snow and many times we attempted to go to class or swim practice while wading in snow up to my knees. Jetta was so short that she would have to hop over the snow to keep us moving, but it never stopped her. After one swim practice we came out to an extra foot of snow covering the already mid-shin deep snow that had not been removed yet. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get home because I had no idea where the sidewalk was anymore. With no other choice, I asked Jetta to "forward" and followed her home. She kept me on the sidewalk, despite the two and a half feet of snow we were wandering through, and stopped perfectly at every snow buried curb. That was a day when she truly amazed me. There wasn't a defined path and somehow she kept us right where we needed to be.
11. I think the most amazing thing Jetta did was that she worked for me for six years, never complaining even though I flew her around the world and asked her to do strange things. When she was getting close to retirement, I asked her to give me five more months and she did. I don't know if she actually understood my words, but I think she worked as long as I needed her to. Jetta worked more in six years than most working dogs do in nine. We traveled to many places together and she made me feel secure in my independence. One of my most memorable trips with her was to White Horse for an athletes' conference. I attended the weekend without a sighted human guide and at first was incredibly nervous. As the weekend progressed though, I became much more comfortable and realised what a great guide Jetta really was. She truly made a huge impact on my life and I am grateful for the six years she gave me.

So, here's to you Jetta: happy eleventh birthday. :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I Need to Stop Watching Crime Dramas

*Plays Law and Order theme music*.
I had a small incident last night that has me a bit on edge. When I look at  it from a logical perspective, it really doesn't bother me, but when I let my imagination wander, I'm not going to lie, I get a little freaked out. I don't actually know if it's too many crime dramas for me or if it's my womanly cautiousness kicking in, but I'm taking a few more small precautions when heading out on my own.
Last night Emily and I attended another swim session with a local triathlon club. The practice starts at seven and by the time I get back to Tenie's flat to retrieve Glacier to walk home, it is after nine. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but it gets dark right around four or so at this time of year and so I'm already a bit nervous. The route I take to and from the girls' flat to mine is well lit and is along main roads which makes it safer, and I've never felt uncomfortable walking it before. There are always people out walking and cars on the roads, but last night I got a small scare.
Before leaving the girls' flat, I stopped at the park across from their flat and had Glacier relieve himself for the final time of the night. It was late enough and I knew once I was home, tucked away in the warmth with a cup of Sleepy Time tea, I would not want to leave. Looking back on it now, I am really glad I had the forethought to have him do his business because it meant when I reached my flat, I could just go right in without having to stop in the small park across the street. This small thing was a bit of a saving grace.
We turned out of the park and walked briskly along the outside of the huge park. There were a lot of cars driving and so I didn't feel worried about being so close to the park. Our whole walk up until about three blocks from my flat went very well. Glacier had fantastic crossings, was excellent at guiding me around obstacles and stopped at curbs cleanly. Even at our quick pace, he is able to stay alert enough to avoid scaffolding out on sidewalks and puddles that have accumulated. It started snowing/raining, a little thing I like to call "snaining," but I didn't really mind. I had had a good practice and was still warm from the earlier physical activity. Not to mention, our speediness also leads to elevated heart rates and consequently, warmth.
Upon reaching the busy crossing that leads to the bridge I have spoken of before, a young man approached me and asked me for the time. I was slightly caught off guard, but got my Iphone out and told him. Most people in Edinburgh are usually quite friendly and forward, so I initially didn't think much about it. He said something about it not being as late as he thought and I confirmed that was good. He said something about being more buses, which struck me as odd as the buses don't stop running until after midnight and even then there are "night buses." The "night buses" cost a bit more, but they are still available.
The crossing at the bridge is quite busy and slightly complicated. Sometimes it is hard to tell when it is safe to walk, so I made the mistake of asking the man if the "green man was up. I have asked people this question before at this crossing and so thought nothing of it." He said it was not and then stood there talking to me until the green man appeared. Then he insisted on walking me across the street in order to ensure I got there safely. I have had people do this before and didn't think much of it. As long as no one is holding on to my elbow and hauling me across the street or in the opposite direction, I usually allow people to walk along side me. I figure there's no point in being rude and maybe one day I'll actually need help. If I am rude to those who ask to help me now, they probably won't be around in the future when I really need them. Once across the street and on the bridge though, I started feeling uncomfortable. The man kept talking to me and asking whether or not he could walk me home. I insisted quite fervently that I was fine and that I knew where I was going. I almost said, "I walk here all of the time," but caught myself.
I fell into my quick step in the hopes of losing him, but no such luck. He walked across the bridge babbling about where I was going and that I should really be careful because drivers are crazy. We got to the next road and I thanked him and said I would be good from here, but he wouldn't leave. We walked along, me urging Glacier to "hop up," which means "go faster" and the man yammering away. He asked me a few questions about myself, but I answered vaguely. When he asked my name, I gave him a fake one, one that I can't even remember now and I again told him that I was fine to walk from here. We past one of the many pubs that line the streets that lead to my flat and he suggested we go in and have a drink. I mentioned about getting home to my husband. I thought it would get rid of him, but it didn't. I wish I could say I stopped and told him assertively to please stop following me. I wish I could say that I told him to scram, but I didn't. He was creeping me out and my brain was a jumble. The block that my flat is on was coming up next and all I could think was to get home. A thought of walking further than I needed away from my home crossed my mind, but we had passed through the area I knew well and I was worried about wandering down a street that I was unfamiliar with.
In hindsight I realise that I could have turned into one of the bars, ordered a drink and called Mr. K to come meet me. That plan would have stopped the man from seeing where I live and also got me an escort home. But, your brain doesn't always work when it needs to.
I crossed the street, thankful I had parked Glacier before leaving the girls' flat. If he had needed to go he would have turned left into the little park, instead of turning right to find the curb and bring me home. I didn't want to be in the park with this stranger that I could not get rid of. As we walked I had managed to calm down enough to notice that he slurred a bit when he talked and I had deduced by the construction of his sentences that he probably had a mild intellectual disability. This comforted me at first as I figured that it probably meant that he could not completely comprehend proper social interactions and that he was violating social norms by following a strange woman most of the way home.
He started asking me if I had Facebook as I waited for the light to change and stop traffic so I could cross the street. I told him I didn't and he said that I should get it and look him up. He told me his name and spelled it. This kind of solidified the notion that he had an intellectual disability. For some reason the light wasn't changing and I was getting impatient. There was a lull in the traffic and even though the audible signal was not indicating it to be safe to cross, I ran across the street. Before I fled, I thanked him for walking me home and that I hoped he caught his bus safely. There was no need to be rude; I wasn't sure how well aggressive behavior would effect him.
When I was across the street, he yelled his name to me again and spelled it, saying again that I should look him up on My Space and Facebook. I waited for the traffic to start moving before I walked down the sidewalk and turned the corner of the building that I live in. I wanted to make sure he couldn't follow me across. My thought was that if the traffic was moving, it would give me enough time to get inside just in case he decided to follow me to my door.
This whole exchange took probably less than five minutes, but it had me all worked up. Part of what makes me nervous is that he got that close to where I live. I have no idea if he crossed the street after me or not. I also have no idea what he looks like. I could be out walking and have no clue he's around. Plus, Glacier and I are not hard to miss. I am a smallish blind woman with a huge white Yellow Labrador. We do not blend into a crowd easily. There are a few things that make this uncomfortable situation a little more comfortable. The first is that I do not go outside without a dog, whether it is Roscoe or Glacier.. Glacier is a big pussy cat, but he is big as far as Labradors go and hopefully his size is a bit intimidating. Roscoe will growl or bark at people if he doesn't like them and they are getting too close to me in the dark. I've taken him out to "park" during the late evening and he growled at a guy across the street who was yelling drunkenly. The dude was actually just singing because he had one too many pints, but I know that if I take Roscoe out with me, he'll at least sound scary. I also go out with  Mr. k and he  is also a good shield because he is huge and he usually has Roscoe. A big man with a big black dog is scarier in the dark than you think. The other thing is that I carry my phone on me at all times and when leaving places to walk home, I always text Mr. K to let him know I'm on my way. I also text the girls if I am headed over. So, if I don't show up within twenty minutes of my text, they would know something was wrong; let's just hope it doesn't come to that.
Again, I am kind of over reacting a bit and writing it out like this makes it sound a bit scarier than it is. It was just a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings and to let the people you are meeting know that you are on the way. It's not going to stop me from leaving my flat, but it will make me a bit more hyper vigilant for the next little while. I know I am well taken care of and even if Glacier appears to be a big push over, I wouldn't want to tick him off. He IS the dog who tore strips off of a hockey puck in less than seven minutes. Guide dogs are not aggressive by nature. In fact, they would not become guide dogs if they were, but even the nicest creature, human or dog, could become protective if his/her family was threatened. So, I will continue to go about my life, but with a bit more caution and may stay in the next couple of nights to ensure he doesn't see me out around the same time.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Glacier Goes to the Dogtor

This morning was Glacier's vet appointment to have the cyst-like lump on his left, front elbow examined. I had made the appointment on Friday and although there was an available appointment Friday, I said I'd wait until Monday because I wanted to see if it would resolve itself. I had ben putting T-tree oil on it twice a day and even though the lump shrunk a bit, it did not completely disappear. So, we braved the cold and slippery sidewalks to get to the vet's office.
Glacier and I walked to Carmen's flat to meet her so she could walk to the vet's with us. I have only been there once before and I am not 100 percent sure  about the route. So, to ensure we made it there, I asked her to go with us. Glacier did very well on the way to Carmen's flat. There is a bridge we cross over all of the time and I nearly fell on my butt this morning when I first stepped on it. Glacier and I walk at a very fast pace and the momentum we had nearly sent me skittering. I dropped his harness handle, stopping him  in his tracks and a nice gentleman came over to me to show me that there was a hand rail that ran the length of the bridge to the next crossing. I didn't necessarily need the hand rail, but was grateful that someone was actually being helpful. He told me that the bridge was "very frosty" and I had to agree. His choice of words made me smile. In North America we would have said "icy" or "slippery," but not "frosty." I may have to use that some time.
The rest of the route was fairly ice free and we moved along at a good clip. At one point, we got stuck behind a mom and her two little children, but she pulled over to let Glacier and I pass. Her one child was completely enamored  with Glacier; probably because this giant dog was staring him right in the face. I said, "excuse me sir," and the little boy moved over. We picked up Carmen and walked the rest of the way to the vet office.
The vet was different from the last time we were in, but she was very good. She was gentle and quite thorough, checking Glacier's weight, ears, eyes, heart and lungs. Glacier still weighs 33 kilograms and she was very happy with his health, aside from the lump. She looked at it and figures it's a cyst, just as I had suspected. It is red and there is puss in it though, so she gave me anti-biotics for Glacier and instructed me to bathe the lump with warm, salt water twice a day. If the lump resolves by next week, we're in the clear. If not, Glacier has another appointment to go back in and he will probably have to have it surgically removed. I really appreciate that she is attempting to clear the lump up with non-surgical procedures before putting him "under the knife." He has already had today's anti-biotic dosage and I'll be bathing it with the salt water shortly.
After we went to the vet, we stopped in at the pet store and ordered Glacier and Roscoe boxes of their food to be delivered tonight. I also bought 150 biodegradable poop bags and a small bag of treats. The biscuits in the bag are even smaller than most kibble, so it is a nice, low fat reward for the boys when they are doing stellar work or just being good boys.
Our trip finished off with a stop in at one of our favourite cafes for coffee and a sandwich. Glacier behaved very well in the cafe, lying calmly by my chair. He had been a bit of a goober in the pet food store, continually sniffing everything in sight, but eventually settled into a very nice "sit stay" at the counter. He didn't even move from his sprawled position on the cafe floor when an unknowing customer stopped to pet him. The man was very apologetic when Carmen politely asked him to "please don't pet." Normally, I would have said something myself, but as Glacier didn't react to being fawned over, I didn't even know he was getting attention and therefore could not speak up.
Our walk home was mostly just cold. We did meet another guide dog user coming from the opposite direction. I didn't even know he was there until our two dogs stopped in front of each other. The other handler was the one to realise that we were both blind as I was busy telling Glacier to "leave it" and to "left, left," which means to move to the left without a sharp turn. We both laughed when we  realised our dogs had stopped working because they wanted to be friends, but then encouraged our respective boys-his dog's name was Mitch- "forward" and we were on our way.
Aside from the vet visit being a bit stressful, it was a very nice outing. I was very proud of Glacier's work and am still in awe of the changes I have seen in him since we've arrived. He loves working and keeps good pressure on his harness, whereas before, he was unsure and would sometimes stop guiding entirely.
Good boy, Glacier.