Friday, March 30, 2012

Our Household: Part 2

Yesterday we took a stroll down memory lane and met Jetta, my first guide dog; a spunky Black Labrador who always made sure there was never a dull moment. I thought today we'd switch gears and talk about three, odd, little creatures that have recently joined our family.
Meet Fiona, Plato and Yoda. Never mind who are they, but rather, what are they?
Fiona, Plato and Yoda are Sugar Gliders. I call them my flying monkeys, but that isn't entirely accurate. Actually, it's really inaccurate. Sugar Gliders are native to Australia and Indonesia and are nocturnal marsupials with a "gliding" membrane that stretches from their ankles to their wrists. Sugar Gliders are approximately six inches long, with a prehensile tail-they can use it to grab things-and opposable thumbs. They are also very clever creatures and, if not secured properly, can learn to open their own cage. I have often seen them referred to as acting like dogs, and, after owning them for four months, I would agree with that statement.
All three have learned their names, but Fiona is the best at coming when she is called. All three have really taken to Mr. K even though the Sugar Gliders were supposed to be my critters. However, Sugar Gliders choose who they bond to and they have taken a liking to Mr. K. We always joke that there is no denying who the Sugies belong to because Mr. K likes to drink Coke and if a Sugie is out, they are instantly drawn to the Coke can. Obviously, we do not let them have the Coke as it would be very bad for them, but you almost have to fight them off of the can because they cling on for dear life. Friends who are over and drinking anything sweet are warned to keep their cups covered. We've watched one of the Sugies shove a paper back book off of a glass of Coke so that he could get into it. Did I mention that they are very smart?
When we first got Sugar Gliders, we had Fiona and her brother who we named Gus. Unfortunately, Gus died accidentally, when he escaped our living room and fell into the open toilet; one of the most common ways for a Sugar Glider to die. It was incredibly sad and both Mr. K and I felt horrible for Fiona. Sugar Gliders are very social creatures, living with up to sixteen other Gliders in the wild, and within 24 hours of Gus's passing Fiona started acting as though we had never bonded with her. She didn't sleep well and would bite us if we came near her. We knew that we had to find her some friends fast.
Enter Plato and Yoda.
On December 31, Mr. K and I hopped a train and went to pick up the two male joeys who we named Plato and Yoda. We were really nervous about introducing them as a lot of the literature we had read made the process sound very complicated and sensitive. Perhaps in certain situations it is, but for our three, all we did was put the sleeping boys in the cage and Fiona immediately climbed in with them. After the boys' arrival, Fiona was much happier, sleeping better and also allowing us to pet her again. It is interesting to note that Sugar Gliders are incredibly soft. I would say that their fur  almost feels like a bunny. What is also interesting is that their hands and feet do not have fur and the opposable thumbs are present on both the front and back feet.
 Since then, Plato and Yoda were neutered as we didn't want any joeys and it also makes them more friendly. Not to mention, their "man" smell decreases drastically as the scent glands on their forehead and chest dries up.
For the most part, the Sugies are cage dwelling animals, but we let them out at night so they can interact with us and get some exercise. Their cage is definitely quite large, standing over six feet tall, but it's good for them to get out and "glide." They also like to sit on Mr. K and groom him. They do this by going through his hair with their hands, spitting on his hair and pulling any tangles out. They also use their teeth to pull away any dead skin. Before the boys were neutered, Plato was a bit rough and Mr. K wouldn't let him groom, but since the operation he's become much more gentle. The funny thing is that Yoda is the biggest out of  all of them and is probably the gentlest. They are some of the neatest little creatures and are always providing us with entertainment when they are out and about. Mr. K even sometimes carries Fiona around with him in a bonding pouch when we are out in public. Just the other day, we had supper at a nearby pub and Fiona was nestled under Mr. K's hoodie.
So, it's not just dogs that occupy our home: we have little flying monkeys too! I never thought I'd be much into exotic animals, and although Fiona, Yoda and Plato are Mr. K's babies, I really like having them around. Watching a movie in our house just isn't watching a movie anymore if there isn't a little fuzzy critter scampering/hopping/gliding around the room.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Household: Part 1

It was recently brought to my attention that not everyone who reads this blog may necessarily know everyone who makes up the Mr. and Mrs. K household. I thought that I would take a few posts to re-introduce everyone; kind of a reminder to some and maybe even to myself. Some family members do not live with us anymore, but are still considered a part of our family. I think we should pay tribute to those fuzzies as well. I thought today we'd start with the dog who began this blog with me.
It was in December of 2006 that I started writing this blog; at least, I think it was 2006. I had started it to try to document the things happening in my life so that I could look back. A lot of things have changed since then, but the one thing that remains is that the dog who inspired those first posts still holds a very special place in my heart and I miss having her around.
Jetta, a 53 LBS Black Labrador, was my first guide dog. She and I were matched on July 03 2002 and we worked together until August of 2008. Our working relationship was a bit shorter than most, but she was a very busy girl, guiding me practically around the globe, and so I really think she deserved an early retirement.
Besides going to swimming competitions all over the world, Jetta was there during some pretty significant times in my life. She is the one who walked me across the stage when I graduated from my under Grad program and although less glamorous, she made sure I was safe during every day tasks. She even kept me from getting run over by a semi-truck on our university campus. I posted about this incident, with a few choice words.
Jetta taught me a lot about working with and training dogs and also stole my heart with her little hip wiggle and big attitude. She was always plotting and sometimes her carefully laid plans were worth the waiting. Once, we found her with all four paws on Tenie's dresser, attempting to steal the chocolate bar Tenie had pushed up against her mirror. Other times her schemes didn't go as planned, like when she would sneak off to Tenie or Carmen's rooms in order to avoid going to swim practice at 5 AM. I often caught her before she even made it to the girls' doors, but she definitely put in her best effort.
Jetta is now eleven years old and living a happy life with my parents. Retiring her wasn't a difficult decision for me as she decided for herself, as only Jetta would, but giving her up was hard. I knew where she was going and I could see her from time to time and that made my decision a bit easier. I was moving to a new city and getting a new guide dog and I didn't feel that I was in a position to keep her, learn a new city and bond with a new guide dog. So, my parents happily took her.
Since retiring, Jetta's adventures haven't ended. She hasn't necessarily had to fly on planes anymore, but she has taken many road trips. She gets to go camping and run around in the forest. Basically, she gets to be a real dog. I always get to see her when visiting my parents and she insists sleeping on my feet. She even loves Mr. K to death, which is kind of funny because Jetta is not your typical Lab. She is not super affectionate and usually keeps to herself. Even when my mom takes Jetta to the dog park, she would rather go off and sniff and frolic on her own.
So, even though Jetta is on a completely different continent, I still consider her a part of our family. She may not necessarily live in our household, but she is most certainly in my thoughts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hermione's Progress

Yesterday I went over some of the challenges of potty training a puppy as a blind person. As I said in that post, potty training is probably the greatest challenge with regards to  raising a puppy when you are totally blind. However, I do have to say that Hermione has blown all of my expectations out of the water and I am so proud of her.
*Knocks on wood*.
It's been just over 24 hours since we have started training Hermione to relieve outdoors instead of on puppy pads. We had to wait a week after her second set of shots before she was safe to be out on the ground where other dogs may have done their business. Otherwise, I think I would have skipped the pads and started teaching her to go outside right away.
Since yesterday morning we have only had two accidents and both of them were pee. To be honest, I am very happy with those results as I'd rather she pee in the house than poop. I think there are a few things that have made it possible for Hermione to be successful.
First of all, I started using the clicker with her. As soon as she's done I click and then give her a kibble for a job well done. Originally, I was clicking as soon as she squatted to mark the behavior I wanted, but she would get so excited that she'd stop going. The click as she comes out of her squat seems to be working just fine. Yesterday there were several times where I took her outside and all she would do is eat rocks, people watch or sit on my foot. Both times we've been out today she's gone pretty much instantly or at least started looking for her spot. I noticed the change as soon as I introduced the clicker yesterday evening.
The second thing that has helped is that I've kept her on a pretty consistent schedule. Approximately every two to three hours, she is going out, whether she thinks she needs to go or not. It should be every two, but if she is napping, I do not wake her up, but rather wait until she wakes up on her own. Then, it's instantly outside because that is usually when she has to pee; that is what she seems to have a harder time holding. I read somewhere that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do not have full bladder control until sixteen weeks. This may be true for all breeds. With that in mind, I think she's doing really well.
The third thing I've been doing is keeping her on leash in the flat if she does not relieve when she is taken out. This way, I can keep tabs on her activities and know whether she is looking or not. That said, I did miss one of her pees last night as I was putting my shoes on to take her out. She was on her leash, but I had it trapped under my running shoe while I put the other shoe on and didn't notice her squat and go. I had woke her up to go out and I think she was groggy and just had to go so badly that she just went. Otherwise, the leash is a good method for me. As I mentioned yesterday, a crate can serve the same purpose, but as we do not have one, I have resorted to the leash.
Having Hermione relieve in the same area as Glacier and Roscoe seems to make a difference as well. She seemed more apt to go if I took her out just after the boys. I thought that perhaps the scent would be a marker for her, but it wasn't confirmed until she went out a few times after the boys. Thank you Glacier and Roscoe for being good role models.
I also think she's getting the concept because I sat outside with all three dogs yesterday afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and brushing the boys. That hour outside gave her time to explore the world around her and when she relieved herself, I praised her. I think that experience showed her that she can go whenever she wants when outside, but that doing that indoors is not acceptable.
With that progress report, I will leave the topic of poop alone, for now. It just seems to be something that you cannot escape when you have a baby in the house; furry or not. Now that I've tooted Hermione's horn, let's hope I haven't jinxed it. :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Potty Training a Puppy...Blind

Training dogs and puppies has always been an interest of mine. I really enjoy working with the dog or puppy and watching them succeed and how much they enjoy succeeding. Glacier is a classic example of this.
When we first moved here, Glacier had a new challenge in that I needed him to get me close enough to the cross walk button so that I could push it. We hardly ever used cross walk signals before and this was a new concept for him.
For the first month or so we struggled with this new task. It was hard for me to praise him just at the right time because I never knew if he got me close enough. Eventually, I got to know the cross walks around our area and it was easier for me to tell when I was close enough or not; just by how far we had moved on to the tactile bumps, the sound of the traffic Etc. Once I was more comfortable with the area and my praising became much more accurate, Glacier caught on very quickly. I had used the clicker since he seems to respond the best to the device when training a new task. Now, Glacier only needs a little encouragement by me,
"Glacier, hop up, find the button"
and nine times out of ten he gets me close enough on the first try.
Despite it taking us a bit longer to find our groove, I really enjoyed teaching him this new task. He was so excited the first time I clicked and that was a real turning point for us with regards to finding the buttons.
The same notion of things taking a bit longer and having to be creative with training can be applied to house training Hermione. Some tasks, such as teaching her to sit/down/stay are much easier as it is trained in a controlled environment; I know where she is and she is focusing just on me. Potty training, as with the cross walk training, occurs randomly and cannot be utterly controlled. Thus, accidents happen and the process takes much longer than I think it would if I could see. To be honest, I haven't blogged much or been reading blogs because I've been trying to follow my puppy around to ensure she isn't going to the bathroom in inappropriate spots. Raising a puppy as a blind person is, in my opinion, so much more involved than if you can see; in certain ways.
If she's on the floor playing, so am I. If she's roaming about on the couch, I am right there with her. Touching her or being close enough to hear her paws start circling are the two things that I use to help her be successful at house training. She's asleep right now and so that is the only reason I'm able to write.
I understand the concept of house training and could tell a sighted friend in my sleep how to do it, but being totally blind and deaf in one ear usually causes me to miss signals, which usually leads to me on poop removal duty. Thankfully our flat has hard wood floors and it is easy to clean up, but the area rug we had bought will be having a date with the garbage can later this afternoon because no matter how much I've cleaned it or stopped Hermione from using it as her personal wee pad, it has fallen victim to puppy pottying.
So, why is it being thrown out today as opposed to another time?
Today, we can finally start Hermione's outside training. For the most part, she was going consistently on a puppy pad  inside, but if she had decided that the pad was too dirty for her liking then she would refuse to use it. She also had a habit of having all four paws on the pad and pooping off the edge. You almost have to praise her because she's got the concept, but the execution is a little lacking.
But not anymore.
Today she has the whole wide world to use as her wee pad and it doesn't matter if her butt is pointed in a certain direction or not. All she needs to do is go outside; probably easier said than done, but I am going to do everything I can to ensure she is successful.
Another challenge is being able to tell when she goes outside so that I can praise appropriately. Inside it is easy for me to hear if she pees on the pad or even poops. Mr. K and I also go by smell and not just for poop. Outside, it is going to be harder to hear since there will be more noise, such as traffic, and that may mean that I miss when she goes sometimes. I may think she has relieved and take her in and she hasn't, probably resulting in her going on the flat's floor. I may also miss when she's gone and not praise and then keep her on leash inside until the next outside break. Consistency is the key to training and sometimes I can't be consistent.
Yesterday was a beautiful day here and Carmen and I  wandered over to the park across the street from her flat that she shares with Tenie and L. I had been visiting because it was Carmen's birthday and Hermione was refusing to poop. I knew she had to go, but she was not convinced she needed to go on the three different pads provided for her. Puppies are not good at generalizing when first learning a concept, so I could understand why, but I really didn't want her going in the girls' flat. So, we took her to the park, along with Glacier, and she finally went. She also peed outside when Mr. K and I returned home last night. She promptly pooped on the area rug when we got inside, but small victories, right?
This morning I ran her outside as soon as she woke up and we had success with her doing both of her duties. It was quiet out there this morning as it was 5 AM, and so I could tell when she went. The nice thing is that she stays still when I touch her when she's going and I was able to pick up after her. I thought that I'd have to teach her that as well, but it may be something she does naturally. Guide dogs, at least the ones from Leader Dogs for the Blind, are taught to stay still while they are going and to be used to being touched as they go. This way, the blind handler can line their toes up with the dog's back paws. This position  allows the handler to know where to go to pick up.
 I think the key to Hermione's house training is going to be me being incredibly vigilant. She's begun to let me know if she has to go when she is up on the couch by sitting at the edge of the cushion and making little noises. She is also on a fairly consistent schedule, which will help. Mr. K and I have also discussed training her to ring a bell. I know a lot of people do this and it will help us in that it will be an auditory signal.  The next few weeks may be a bit crazy with me running her down every two hours, but I think the more effort I put in now, the faster she will grasp the concept. It also helps we have the two big boys who relieve in the same area. Their scent will be a marker for her and should signal to her that this is  the area to go.
I would have to say that house training is probably the hardest thing for me to teach as a blind person. Perhaps there are other blind people out there who have devised a way to make this much simpler, but I have not. That said, if I take her down and she does not go, I will be keeping her on leash in the flat. That way, if she starts sniffing or circling, I will be aware through the movements of the leash. It will also teach her that going means freedom. It's sort of the same idea as using the crate.  I think house training may be one of the most difficult concepts for anyone to teach in that it requires a lot of consistency and patience. It's certainly not impossible to house train a puppy as a totally blind person, but it may take a bit longer. Hermione is a really good puppy though and really wants to work hard to please us, which means we'll have that on our side.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hermione is Home

It's been a few days since Hermione was able to come home. She spent a total of two nights in the vet hospital and was able to come home on Wednesday. Sorry I haven't posted sooner, but with her coming home, things have been crazy around here.
She was checked over by the vet again today and he gave her a clean bill of health. She had been scheduled for her Kennel Cough vaccination and a microchip in just over a week, but I cancelled that appointment, thinking that Hermione may need some rest. We'll probably get her microchip in when she is spayed and then contemplate Kennel Cough vaccination at another time. I feel like her little system needs a bit of a break.
Since returning home, she has been her crazy self. She is playing like she always did and eating like a horse. She is on a bland diet to help with her excessively soft poop and she seems to be doing well on that.
I think Glacier may have actually missed her. He was quite excited to see her and both he and Roscoe seem to be paying her a little more attention. It could also be because she is growing like a weed and she doesn't look like a wind-up toy anymore. Maybe they realise she is actually a dog now.
Hermione's little trip to the vet also taught us a bit about her personality. I always knew she was a diva, but her reaction to her bath and blow drying confirmed it for me.
The vet Tech, called a Vet Nurse here, gave Hermione a bath and blow dried her. She was quite stinky from living in a kennel for over 24 hours and they didn't want to return her to us smelling like a barn. How thoughtful of them.
When Hermione was handed over to me, all fluffy and smelling flowery, the Vet Nurse said that Hermione could be a show dog. Once the blow dryer was busted out, Hermione rolled over on to her back to enjoy the warm air and let the Vet Nurse blow dry her belly. She even let me clip her claws yesterday. So, it's official. We definitely have a princess on our hands.
Speaking of my diva, I better be getting her off to bed for her beauty sleep. She's had a very busy day going to the vet and then over to Tenie's flat for a girls' night. Roscoe and Glacier joined us as well and they have both already found a comfy place to catch some Z's. I think they have the right idea.
Thank you to all of you for your encouraging comments and good thoughts. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Always Expect the Unexpected

So, yesterday I told all of you how good Hermione's general health was and that she had received her second set of vaccinations. Well, after I posted that post things got a bit weird and scary as the night progressed. Eventually, Mr. K and I landed in the emergency vet clinic at 1 AM with our little girl with, what we think, was a horrible neurological reaction to the vaccinations.
Upon arriving home yesterday afternoon, Hermione seemed a bit off, but I just assumed it was due to her shots. Most puppies get a bit lethargic  and sleep. So, I didn't think much of her curling up on my feet and sleeping for two hours. If I had ben able to see, I may have noticed little strange things going on with her, but as I cannot and I didn't want to disturb her sleep by touching her, it wasn't until I fed the dogs their supper that I noticed something was not right.
First of all, Hermione loves supper time. Usually, she bounces around the kitchen while i prepare everyone's meals and tries climbing the cupboards. She can also be a bit vocal, which we are working on. Last night, I put her down in the kitchen as per normal and she went skittering off into the bathroom. I didn't take much notice as there is a puppy pad in there and I thought that perhaps she had to go. Vaccinations, after all, usually give puppies messy poop. She did come out for her own food, but only after I scooped her up and showed her that it was there. She sat as she always  does, but she didn't eat all of her food until I pointed out to her that there was a bit  left. She scarfed that down and I thought all was good.
I ran Glacier and Roscoe out to "park" and when I was finished, I picked up Hermione and went to sit on the couch with her. She sat in my lap, but wouldn't lay down. Her face was twitching and she seemed to be looking for something or maybe listening. It was like she was twitching from a caffeine high. I sat and petted her and she eventually lay down, but it was only for five minute periods.   I told mr. K and although he was concerned, he figured that she was just having a hard time with the vaccinations.
The evening progressed with Tenie coming over and saying that Hermione's eyes were unfocused and again, that she looked like she was "tweaking." I tried to hold her, but she just couldn't sit still. I'd put her down and she'd run off somewhere and just sit and stare and twitch. By 9.30 I was getting worried and tried to take her to bed. I thought that if I could get her to relax a bit, she'd get better. Her heart had been racing and as I laid in bed with her sitting beside me, still twitching, I could feel it pounding away. That was concerning me.
How long could a little puppy's heart race for before there was permanent damage or something worse happened?
I slept on and off between the time I laid down and midnight when Mr. K came to bed. I kept getting up and taking Hermione out to go to the bathroom as she kept skittering around on the bed and I didn't want her to go there, but she wouldn't go. She'd just sit down and make little sad noises. My heart was breaking and I was so worried about her. Mr. K finally realised how bad it had gotten when he came in and Hermione wouldn't stay still.
I had made a make-shift crate for her on the floor with her bed and she just couldn't settle. Mr. K tried bringing her up with us again, but she was so unsettled there   was no way any of us would sleep. He felt her heart and told me to call the emergency vet.
My first phone call was to describe her symptoms and ask if they had any idea what was going on. The vet obviously said she couldn't diagnose over the phone, but that I shouldn't feed her anything and that I should take her outside just in case she had a fever. Mr. K and I discussed it further, baring in mind that an emergency vet visit would set us back quite a bit financially. In the end, we decided that despite the 108 pound examination fee, Hermione needed to be seen. I called the vet back and we took a cab to the clinic.
Upon arriving the vet met us and showed us back to an examination room where she checked Hermione's eyes, heart and temperature. She wasn't running a fever, but her heart was definitely racing. She mentioned the potential for the heart murmur again. She placed Hermione on the floor to see what her response was and Hermione did what she had been doing at home; scurrying away and sitting in a corner, twitching. She wasn't very responsive to kissie noises or snapping, which is highly unlike Hermione. She would look at you if you called her name, but that was about it. The vet said she would give her a sedative to help her calm down and see if that helped. Originally, she was going to send Hermione home, but since Hermione's condition had gotten progressively worse over the night, she decided to keep Hermione in for observation.
Mr. K and I took a cab back without our little girl. I wasn't too happy about it, but it made me feel better knowing she would be watched over night and that she was in the right place if anything else should happen.
This morning, the vet called and said that she had settled down quite a bit. She still seemed a bit "buzzy," but that she had improved greatly; avoiding   obstacles on the floor, eating her breakfast and seeking human attention. All of this sounded more like our Hermione. The vet advised that we should leave her in for another 24 hours since Hermione had been displaying neurological symptoms, but that he expected a full recovery.  He had even called the vaccine company to see if any other dogs had had similar reactions to the vaccinations,  but they said there hadn't been. He was concerned since we didn't know the origin of her symptoms and asked if we wanted to do blood tests. Mr. K and I discussed it and felt as though the blood tests weren't necessary at this time. There was a very specific cause and effect reaction that we noticed and we were pretty certain that something that had been given to Hermione had caused her tweaking. I also told the vet that I had forgotten to mention that I had given Hermione Benadryl to try to stop an allergic reaction. I also mentioned that I had no idea when I gave it to her that it was Benadryl Plus and he said he'd research it and get back to me.
This afternoon I called for an update and the vet said he'd looked into the Benadryl Plus. Apparently there is a stimulant in it that can cause quite a few of the symptoms that Hermione was exhibiting. He figures that with the Benadrl Plus stimulant, the vaccinations and all of the stress, Hermione's little puppy nervous system was overloaded and she reacted accordingly. He said he feels that he can sleep better at night knowing where the cause lies as he was concerned that her reaction was due to something wrong in her brain, which would obviously require further diagnostic testing. He said that she seems to be settling quite nicely and that I could phone back in the  evening for an update.
I feel horrible knowing that I caused some of Hermione's troubles. If I had known that it was Benadryl Plus, I never would have given it to her. That said, what is done is done and the best part is that she is okay and that there doesn't seem to be any permanent damage. I definitely want her home sooner than later, but I think another night in a quiet, calm environment would do her some good. Not to mention, maybe I'll get some sleep tonight.
Moral of the story: no matter how much you think you know about something, there is always more to learn.
I am just so relieved that she is going to be okay. Hermione has only been with us for two and a half weeks, but that little fluff ball has already tied very thick strings to my heart.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hermione Health Report

Today was Hermione's second vet visit. She was due for her second set of vaccinations as she was 10 weeks old over the weekend. She had a skin reaction to her first set of shots-the vaccination site swelling up like an egg-and so today I gave her a Benadryl before heading over to the vet's office in order to attempt to avoid the same reaction this time around.
Glacier accompanied us as is to be expected and I was very impressed by his guiding. He ignored other dogs and a yowling cat in order to make sure I made it back to the examination room safely. He lay quietly at my feet during Hermione's appointment and sat alertly while I paid our very hefty bill. I think he thought that if he stayed quiet the vet would forget he was there and not do anything to him.
The visit really didn't take long, with the vet checking Hermione's ears, eyes, lungs and heart. Hermione also was given her vaccinations and we were pretty much good to go. There were a few things that were a bit troubling though.
First of all, it would appear that the ear mites that she had been treated for after her first vet visit have not completely cleared up. I had given her the ear drops for the full seven days and she has been off of them now for another seven. I was sent home with ear cleaner and instructions to administer that once a day, while starting up the ear mite drops twice a day again. Not so bad, but slightly irritating.
I remember when Baloo, our Dachshund, had ear mites. The vet just gave him a tablet twice and the mites cleared up without any further problems. Granted, Baloo is a short haired Dachshund and so his ears are not nearly as furry as Hermione's and therefore breathe more, but you'd think there would be an easier way to take care of this. The ear mite drops are so gross, leaving Hermione's pretty, curly ears all greasy.
The vet also said that Hermione may have a heart murmur. This is a bit more concerning as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to a condition that leads to them having leaky valves.  It is completely possible that she could outgrow it as heart murmurs can show up in puppies as the thickness of their blood is different from an adult dog. I'm hoping for the latter. I also don't wonder if perhaps the heart murmur appeared because I had given her the Benadryl.
Benadryl usually wouldn't cause her heart to race or anything, except that I didn't realise that this Benadryl wasn't the sleepy kind. Mr. K pointed out that perhaps there were stimulants in the tablet and this could show up as a heart irregularity. I didn't mention that to the vet as we're going back in two weeks and we'll check her heart then. The murmur wasn't there two weeks ago and her breeder checked her heart as well. So, here's to hoping that it's nothing.
Aside from that stuff, I also asked the vet about Hermione's incessant pooping. Mr. K and I thought we were over feeding her, but seeing how she gained only 250 grams, we definitely aren't. We had given her a de-wormer that the breeder gave us and the vet thought that perhaps that it wasn't a strong enough de-wormer. It is working a bit, as Hermione doesn't look skeletal the way Aria did when she was riddled with worms, but Hermione's  appetite is ferocious. No matter how much we feed her, she never seems to be full.
I explained this to the vet and also that Hermione's poop is incredibly soft and sometimes runny. She sent me home with a different de-worming tablet and Hermione will get that tomorrow. We figured that vaccinations and a de-wormer all in one day may be a bit much for her system.
The thing that I find strange about the de-worming process here is that puppies are de-wormed every two weeks up until they are three months old. I don't remember doing that with any of our Dachshunds when they were babies. Aria had worms so badly when she came to us, but she was given one tablet and she was good to go. I asked the vet why and she explained that the worms lay dormant as do the larvae. Thus, it is important to keep treating the puppy. Her answer was less than satisfactory for me. She explained it in very simple terms. I understand that vets are probably taught to use laymen's terms to explain medical conditions and so I understand where she is coming from, but at the same time, she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I probably should have pushed the issue. Regardless, we are back in two weeks and I'll ask better formulated questions then.
As I mentioned above, we'll go back in two weeks to have Hermione's heart listened to again and also to have  her ears checked. If the crazy poop machine hasn't calmed down by then, then I'll have to bring in a fecal sample as well.
Despite all of this, Hermione seems fine. Sure, she's a pooping maniac and sometimes she itches her ear, but her energy levels are great and her appetite is through the roof. She likes to play and is so easy to train. She already knows "sit" and we'll be moving on to "watch me" and probably "down" in the next few days.
As for her heart, pooping and ears?
I'm not really that concerned yet. We'll take it as it comes. I'm just enjoying the antics that only a puppy can bring into your home. That said, if you can spare some of your good thoughts for us with regards to her heart, I would really appreciate it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Glacier Goes for Sushi

It was a beautiful sunny day here yesterday; perfect for taking Glacier to the beach for a belated birthday romp. Despite the sun, the wind was chilly, but we just made sure to wear layers and Tenie, Carmen, me and the three dogs headed out.
The first part of our journey ran into a snag when Hermione decided to leap from the purse I was carrying her in. My heart broke when she fell to the sidewalk and yelped so loudly, people probably thought I murdered her. I was so worried that she would run into the road. I dropped both Glacier and Roscoe's leashes and spun frantically around, trying to find my very upset puppy. I'm not sure how, but I managed to find her and scoop her up and it was then that I realised that I had let go of the boys' leashes. I scuttled back to where I had left them and found them standing perfectly still, facing the direction we had been traveling. I praised both boys profusely, while trying to calm Hermione.
I check her all over, squeezing paws, legs and spine to make sure that she wasn't hurt. She wasn't shaking and she didn't seem to mind my gentle compressions. So, I felt a bit better. I still felt so guilty. I had no idea she could fit through the small opening in my purse's zipper. I had put her in there so I could walk Roscoe, have Glacier guide me and be able to bring her along as well.
A nice woman, who had been out in her yard, or garden as it is called here, came to see if I needed help. She assisted me in zipping Hermione into my jacket, looped Roscoe's leash around my arm and then told me my shoe was untied.
I was a right mess!
After the shoe was tied, all three dogs were in position-Hermione securely zipped in and my arm under her-I was able to continue on to the girls' flat where Carmen took over Roscoe's walking and Tenie carried Hermione for me.
We walked along some busier roads and the traffic noise seemed to make Hermione a bit nervous. Tenie just kept her tucked in her coat and that seemed to relax Hermione. Glacier was so excited, he was nearly tripping over himself to get there faster. It's funny how they know where they are going, even if they have only been there once before.
The tide was out and so we walked down on to the beach a bit sooner than our last trip. Both boys were placed in a sit/stay and when they were released, all bets were off. They took off so fast that it wasn't long before they were just specs in the distance. There is a sea wall that runs the length of the beach and so I wasn't worried about them going up on the road, but they definitely were a bit too far. Surprisingly, one call of their names and Glacier and Roscoe turned around and came galloping back. Tenie had to warn me to brace myself as they were lumbering right at our knees, but in typical Glacier and Roscoe fashion, they swerved around us at the last second. Both boys' tongues were flapping and drool was plastered across their faces, but they weren't slowing down.
Despite it being a bit more than breezy, I thought we'd try putting Hermione down in the sand to see what she thought. At first, she was a bit afraid, but every time Glacier or Roscoe ran near, she got excited and would run towards them. We didn't leave her down for long as she is only 10 weeks old and hasn't had her second set of vaccinations. All things considered, she did quite well.
Meanwhile, Glacier and Roscoe were off making new doggie friends and greeting every person they could find. Glacier played one of his favourite games where he lies in wait and then chases down Roscoe, pouncing on him at the last minute.
On the way home, we walked back along the shore since the tide was still out. Shells crunched under our feet and you could see/feel the ridges in the sand where the waves had packed it into solid lines. It makes you wonder what actually lives there when the tide is in.
 Glacier took full advantage of the exposed shells and would crunch them in search of shell fish. He would crack them open with his jaws and if nothing was inside, he'd spit the fragments out and continue his quest for sushi. I was a bit concerned about what his poop may be like the next day, but there really was no stopping him. I think he figured a birthday just wasn't a birthday without some sort of delicious delicacy.
When we reached home, it was into the bath tub for both boys. Their bellies, legs and faces were covered in sand and salt and there was no way they were going to be tracking that through our flat. Neither Glacier nor Roscoe thought the rinsing should be a part of the birthday fun and made it quite clear when I tried to hoist them, one at a time of course, into Tenie's bath tub.
Boys cleaned and Hermione exhausted, the humans sat and chatted. Roscoe and Glacier found comfy spots on the floor mat and stayed there to dry. Judging by the heavy way they slept, I think they definitely enjoyed themselves. Even today, they were both pretty worn out.
I can't speak for Glacier, but from my point of view, he had a great birthday; complete with freshly crunched sushi.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Yellow Fellow

He's five!
I can hardly believe it. My big Yellow Fellow is sort of middle aged. That means, we've been together for almost four years. I am not sure where the time has gone, but I couldn't ask for a better dog.
I'm sure every dog owner says that about his/her dog, but, for me, Glacier is my guy. We've been through so much and I just feel now that I'm really getting to know him. He's such a happy, goofy guy and I am so lucky that we were matched three and a half years ago.
I'm not sure what he was like as a puppy. I only have one photo of him, which I've shared with you, when he was a baby. I know his puppy raiser was a teacher and Glacier was read to by the children at "circle time." Other than that, I don't know much else, but I bet he was adorable; all paws and head.
Today has been a bit  slow for him as Mr. K and I have been fighting  or are finishing up with the stomach flu, and it was one of the most horrible stomach flus!
His morning  started off by Glacier having half of a banana in his breakfast, and he and I worked our way to the grocery store to get apple juice for Mr. K and then on to the pet store, where we bought puppy pads and a few edible chew treats for he, Roscoe and Hermione to have later. He is now snuggled up with Roscoe, having a well deserved nap.
The funny thing is, I don't think he would spend his birthday any other way. He loves to work and he was excited to go to the pet store of course. The clerk gave him a huge biscuit because it was his birthday, and you can never go wrong with Labs and food. He knows there is a treat tucked away in the drawer for him as well. He also is best friends with Roscoe and I think that if he could choose, Roscoe would definitely be a part of his day.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, Tenie, Carmen and I are taking the dogs on an outing back to the North Sea so that they can have a good run; another part of Glacier's birthday present. Besides working, I know a crazy, all out, zoomies on the beach would be the best gift for him. People have teased me in the past about birthday parties for dogs and presents, but I figure that he works so hard for me that he deserves a day or two all about him.
 I also think a good free run will help him forget Hermione's moved in. ;)
In closing, since it is Glacier's fifth birthday, I will leave you with five fun facts about Glacier; in typical blogging fashion. :)
1. Glacier likes to use his paws. I don't mean just a little high five here and there. Oh no. Mr. G uses his feet all of the time. Once we were out working with Cessna from Ruled by Paws and both dogs were in a "sit stay" in harness, minding their own business. Well, at least Cessna was minding her own business. I felt Glacier shift and I reached over to check what he was doing, only to find him with his paw resting on her head; kind of like when very tall people use shorter people for leaning poles. He also uses his paws to hold your arm still so he can give you a bath and will often use his paws to gently whack anything that may be annoying him.
2. Glacier doesn't bark. Okay, perhaps he barks, but in the three and a  half years I have had him, I have heard him bark a total of six or seven times. Each time it is just one, gigantic, "woof." I've heard him use his very big voice wen telling Hermione to please stop nipping his toes. He didn't growl or snarl, just one huge warning "woof." I've also heard him bark once when playing with Mr. K and we haven't been able to replicate it. He's just a guy of few words, I suppose.
4. Glacier has zero prey drive. Guide dogs are required to have a very low one, but I don't think Glacier has a hunting bone in his body. If he sees a cat, he just wants to stroll around with it; he completely ignores squirrels/chipmunks; and doesn't even flinch when the pigeons fly up only two feet from his face. The only thing I've seen him want to chase, besides Roscoe during zoomies, was a frog. We were out for a walk on a bike path and a little frog hopped out in front of us. Glacier had been guiding me along, ignoring all manner of creatures, and so I was startled when he tried hopping off after it. He doesn't even try to chase the Sugar Gliders when they are out, roaming our living room. He just wants to follow Fiona around, like they are best buds.
5. Glacier is a great snuggler. I can sit in front of him on the floor, and he will drop his head down and push the back of it into my chest. We can sit like that for a very long time. He will also rest his chin on my shoulder and start to fall asleep when I'm sitting down in front of him. When he is asked up into my bed, he will lay with his back pressed up against me, stretched out to his full length. When he knows you are sad or sick, he just wants to lie on your feet. I remember when we were at Leader Dogs for the Blind, I was having a particularly rough day and I went into one of the bathrooms at our downtown working centre to cry. He looked up at me and instantly started slurping my face and even though I was still frustrated, I didn't need to cry anymore. He's a lover, not a  fighter. :)
So, here's to you, Mr. G. Let the next five years of your life be as happy as your first.
your girl

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Still Living

It has been just over a week since Hermione has joined our ranks. Things are moving right along as expected and I'm really impressed with her progress.
She is still waking me up every two hours or so, and even though I am slightly sleep deprived, I'd rather she did that as it is helping with her toilet training. Her favourite way to wake me up is to climb on my pillow,  grab my hair by the roots and pull. Maybe a more gentler tactic wasn't working. Either way, it lets me know she has to go and that I better get my behind out of bed.
Her name recognition is also coming right along. If I call her name now, she looks right at me, no matter where we are. She is still waiting to get her second set of vaccinations, but we have  been slowly introducing her to public places by carrying her everywhere. there are a lot of dog friendly pubs in our area and Hermione has become a regular at one just down the street from us. If she is to be a therapy dog, I think it is important she gets used to noises and people as soon as possible. We're very careful about letting people pet her still as we do not want her catching something.
 Since she seems to have a grasp on her name,   we've moved on to "sit" and her response to that is even more impressive.
For every meal--she is eating four times a day-she is asked to "sit" before her bowl is placed on the floor. I only started this yesterday and she already does it. She doesn't hold it for very long yet, but the point is, her butt hits the floor when I raise  the food bowl up. Since she does the action pretty consistently, I've put the word "sit" to it. Once she gets that, we'll move on to sitting without breakfast, lunch or dinner being the end result.
Glacier is warming up to her every day. He even fell asleep on the same couch with her last night, all curled up together. This is a feat in and of itself because upon her arrival, he didn't even want to be in the same room as her. I think once she has grown a bit, they will probably play quite a  bit.
Today Glacier and I walked to meet Tenie at the grocery store and I was impressed with his work. He lined up and stopped at every curb perfectly and even kept me from face planting when my toe caught a raise in the sidewalk.. catching his handler is not part of his job description, but when I started to trip, he stopped dead in his tracks, planted his paws and allowed me to brace myself on his back. He's such a great guy. I'm glad to see that Hermione's arrival has not impacted his working negatively.  Glacier obviously has a very important job and his reaction to such an intrusion is more important than anything else.
Glacier is not just a dog. He serves a purpose to keep me and him safe. If Hermione's presence impacted him so much that he refused to work, then we'd have to figure something out. Since everything is going well, that is not an option we need to explore.
As much as I love Hermione and working with her, it was very refreshing to walk with just Glacier this evening. There's something to be said about a smoothly functioning working team. He is used to me and I to him and we almost don't need verbal cues anymore. Going from being alert for puppy misbehaviors all of the time, to walking comfortably with Glacier is a huge reminder of just how far Glacier and I have come. It also reminds me that I definitely can trust him and to appreciate   what he does for me. It'll be great to work with him on the university's campus in September.
All in all, my life is all about puppies and dogs right now. I helped C design a "human clicker" training exercise for her dog training classes. It was meant to demonstrate to the handlers how useful the clicker is and how fun training can be. It was a lot of fun and really pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Hermione has fallen asleep in my lap and since she is blocking my Laptop, I think I will leave you for now.
Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Hermione Sophia

Yesterday was March seventh and do you know what that means?
It means that the newest member of our family turned two months old. She is the  sweetest, craziest puppy I have ever met. She plays hard and then sleeps hard to. I don't know how people with jobs ever raise a puppy from eight weeks. Maybe that is why so many end up being re-homed?Practically every night, she is waking me up every two to three hours. Sometimes it's because she has to go to the bathroom, sometimes she wants to play and others she's just hungry. I get up every time though because her house training is not entirely there yet and   I don't want her to need me to take her to the bathroom and I ignore her, thinking she jut wants to play. It really is like having a new born baby in your home. You try to sleep when she is sleeping and hope that you get enough to stay patient and consistent with her.
When we had our Dachshunds, Mr. K was heavily involved in training Aria when she was this small because he kept irregular hours and would be awake when she was.
I'm definitely not complaining. she is quite the character and keeps me busy when she is awake. Her potty training is coming along quite nicely as well and I think she'll be pretty easy to obedience train. We're still working on name recognition.
When we first brought Hermione home she was so small and clumsy. She could hardly walk without tumbling over. Now, a week later, she plays tug of war with me and can keep her feet. It's amazing how fast they seem to advance. We will start introducing her to the clicker in the next few days and then "sit" will be the first cue she learns.
Glacier still seems to be doing fine with the new addition. His work is excellent and although he ignores Hermione, I think he's slowly getting used to her being around. As I've mentioned before, Glacier is quite sensitive to other dogs being near is girl, so I have ben  aware of my time   with him and have made sure to work at least once every day since Hermione's arrival. So far, so good.

What about Yoda, Plato and Fiona?
Hermione hasn't exactly met them yet. She's watched them through the cage, but usually when they are awake and running around, Hermione has gone to sleep for a few hours of the night. fiona has come out a few times when Hermione's been awake, but they just seem to ignore each other. That works for me. If Hermione doesn't find the Sugar Gliders interesting, then she can't accidentally hurt them.
We have so many animals now, some of a stranger variety, perhaps I need to change the name of this blog. LOL
PS: I was going to post photos today, but Blogger will not allow me for some reason. Will try again soon.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Blogville PAWTY: Funds Raised

All I can really say is: "wow" and "thank you!"
Because of the generosity of the members of Blogville, we have raised 232 dollars for Dog Foster Mom's much needed  privacy fence.
You guys rock!
No, really. You do!
Without your support this event would not have been as successful as it was. You guys are truly amazing.
Not only did we raise 232 dollars, but some of the raffle prizes won by some Blogville citizens were kindly donated to dog Foster Mom's foster dogs. Thank you to those individuals  who gave so selflessly.
Again, I want to thank everyone for their "pawticipation" because without your dedication, posting and just plain fabulous attitudes, this event would not have been as fun and successful as it was. I have made many new friends along the way and I was completely blown away by the genuine caring and compassion that is alive   in Blogville. People outside of the blogging community  should really take a page from the Blogville book on how to care for your fellow companions, whether they are two or four legged. I don't think I will ever find the words to express how truly grateful I am.
Do you think we should do it again? ;)
PS: My apologies for taking so long to post how much we had raised. I was waiting for two personal donations from non-blogging friends.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


This has been a very exciting week here at the Mr. and Mrs. K's home. First the exciting news on   Wednesday about being accepted into Performance Psychology MSc program at the University of Edinburgh and then the lovely present Mr. K got me for being accepted.
Do you remember my list of five things to do to fight the winter blues? Well, technically there were six things that were a part of that list, but I didn't think my first number five was really an option, but apparently Mr. K thought differently.
Let me explain.
Performance Psychology is a fairly new branch of psychology. In fact, it's not even a part of the Psychology department at the University  of Edinburgh, but is a part of the Education department. Performance Psychology is used in relation to   high stress occupations, such as, performing artists, athletes and even in busy corporations. Performance Psychologists teaches people how to cope in high stress situations in   order to perform at the best of her/his ability. When you're an athlete you need to be "at the top of your game," despite there being loads of pressure on you and so Performance Psychologists can be very beneficial people to have around.
In the last term of the Performance Psychology MSc program at the University of Edinburgh students are required to write a dissertation; basically, a huge, original research paper. My intentions for this paper are to study the impact of animals on people in high stress situations and prove that having therapy dogs around can be a viable option of therapy.
With that in mind, I had been throwing around the idea of training my own therapy dog to take into hospitals, schools long-term care  facilities Etc. That way, I'd be more familiar with the actual application of therapy dogs and how all of that works; especially with regards   to access laws and such things. Because I am volunteering with the Labrador Rescue I thought that rescuing a Labrador would be the way to go. C is a very trustworthy person and I knew she'd pick out the perfect therapy dog candidate for us. Mr. K made a valid point though when he reminded me of how small our flat actually is and that having a third big dog may cause space problems. Not to mention, Glacier is super sensitive to other dogs and a big dog could very easily make Glacier feel displaced. That would certainly not do, especially since Glacier is my guide dog. So, I started researching smaller breeds that could potentially serve as a good therapy dog.
I spent so many hours researching.   I can't tell you how long I sat with my laptop and a cup of coffee, examining various breeds' characteristics and adding or removing them from my potential list. I explored the option of a beagle, as they would be the perfect size, but as a blind person I need a dog who innately wants to have good recall. I could probably train a Beagle to come back to me, but it is easier for a blind person if her dog already thinks that coming back is a good idea; just in case they get off the leash somehow. Not to mention, if we got one who was a good barker, we may get kicked out of our flat. These buildings are old and although very sturdily built, not so sound proof. A few other breeds were scratched off of the list because of this barking issue, including the Dachshund. I also wasn't sure if I had it in my heart to have another Dachshund after giving ours up so recently. Plus, Dachshunds are difficult to house train, and although it is not impossible as    ours were house trained,I just wasn't sure I was ready to go there again.
I looked at a Westie since they are originally from Scotland, but they have a high prey  drive. Some may not, but we couldn't take that chance with our  lovely Fiona, Yoda and plato; our Sugar Gliders.  Fiona Yoda and Plato lived here first and if a dog were coming into the home, he/she would have to learn to respect the Sugar Gliders; which includes not eating them.
When out on a hike with a friend, I met two Cocker Spaniels and so examined the Cocker and the Springer Spaniel. It was still an option that I was considering, but the Springer Spaniel, who was supposedly a bit calmer than the Cocker, got a bit bigger than what I was looking for. Again, both of these breeds were hunters and I wasn't sure how they would feel about sharing their home with a Sugar Glider.
I felt like I was running out of options fast. I like little dogs with big dog attitude   that is why I was originally drawn to the Dachshund, but I also needed a little dog who could reliably  behave itself.\
It was when I was browsing a breed list when I found, or rather remembered, the cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Mr. 'K's mom as always loved the breed and it was from her that I had first heard of them. The funny thing is, she's not even a dog person, but she always said that if she could have a dog, it would be a cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I  told Mr. K about them and we started researching breeders, with the idea of eventually exploring the option of getting one. That all changed when I got my acceptance on Wednesday.
Mr. K told me to go ahead and contact the breeder I had been in touch with and tell her we wanted a puppy from the litter they had just had. It was a litter of seven, with only one girl and I was so happy to find out that she was still there.  Mr. K, myself and one of our friends rented a car Thursday and drove over four hours into England to go and pick up our new little girl.
That is right: we have an 8 week old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel baby girl running about our flat now.
She is so tiny and just absolutely precious. She has a lot of personality already and has had only one accident since Thursday night. She responds well to learning and I am so excited to have her in our home. Glacier and Roscoe are a bit miffed, but Tenie and I took them for a 3 mile walk last night and I think that made it up to them at least a little bit.
So, I suppose wen I was yammering on about puppies the last few days, I was really hoping that I'd get one soon. Now, we have puppy teeth and breath galore and we're loving it. Even Mr. K has fallen in love with the little fluff ball. Tenie met her for the first time last night and she said that the puppy doesn't look like a real puppy because she is so cute.  I will definitely  get photos up for all to see.
So, this is my official welcome to Miss Hermione Sophia into my blog  and my home and heart.