Monday, June 25, 2012

Greyhound Groupie

Yesterday Carmen and I headed out to a Greyhound rescue located about a 45 minute bus ride away. I had arranged this meeting back on Thursday with the notion that I may volunteer for the rescue and gain more knowledge of the breed. I have always thought Greyhounds were a really amazing breed and also thought that perhaps a retired X-racer would do well as a therapy dog. Racing Greyhounds is still huge in the UK and there are so many Hounds needing homes. The conversation I had had on Thursday with the man who ran the rescue seemed quite successful. We discussed the Greyhound a bit and rambled on at length about raw feeding. I felt good and excited about our Sunday meeting, but was thoroughly disappointed upon arrival.
First of all, when we first arrived, the man I had spoken to was insanely busy. I understood as it was a UK walk to raise awareness for Greyhounds and there had been nearly a hundred people in the walk that morning. However, what made me worry was just how unfriendly everyone was. They seemed to know we were outsiders and clung to each other in little groups, avoiding us and only giving one worded answers when we asked questions. I was kind of surprised because we had encountered a woman when we were walking in who had a rescue Greyhound who had no problems stopping to chat with us and allowing us to interact with her Hound. The Greyhound was wearing a basket muzzle and she asked us not to be turned off by that. She went on to explain that her dog could be snappy if there were too many dogs around, but that the Hounds were really sweet, good-natured dogs.
I wasn't turned off at all. The fact that the woman knew her dog enough and took measures to keep everyone safe, made me respect her. Sometimes when dogs are rescued there are just some things that can't be changed. So, you work with what you've got and be responsible about it.
Once we finally tracked the man down who rant the rescue, he didn't even remember me. That hit a nerve as we had chatted for at least twenty minutes-conversing about our dogs, the rescue and as  I said before, raw feeding. Did I mention that we chatted about my three dogs? This is an important point.
 I sort of brushed his short memory off as it was a busy day, but part of me wondered how many North American women he spoke to on a weekly basis.
After he recognised me, he offered to go get a dog for me to get to know. He seemed bent on me adopting a dog, but I had explained to him on the phone and there on the spot that I was not in a position to adopt right now. I was there to discuss volunteer opportunities and to get to know the breed in order to make an informed decision in the future about whether or not a Greyhound was for our family. I was very explicit that it would be the very far future as I was starting Graduate school in the fall and that we already had three dogs. I don't think he was listening because off he went anyway. I decided to let him go as I thought it would be good to at least handle a Greyhound for a short while.
As soon as he left, his wife swooped in and that is when I really started feeling unwelcome and unwanted. Somehow it came out in my very short conversation with her that I had three other dogs. I think she may have overheard me telling her husband before he disappeared into the kennels as well, but it seemed to be a point she was digging for. I don't know why she made it seem like I was hiding something because I definitely had discussed it quite openly before. I think I was explaining that I had a lot of dog experience, but none with Greyhounds and that was why I was there. She immediately cut me off sharply saying,
"Greyhounds can't live with other dogs! They only like Greyhounds."
At that moment her husband returned, but I was taken aback. There is no way that every Greyhound in the world only likes Greyhounds. Sure, in rescue, it may be a special dog that you have to wait for, but when you are rescuing often you have to wait for what you are looking for, and, considering my current life position, I am more than willing to wait. Besides, if a dog is young enough, often they can be retrained. I didn't have time to respond because her husband thrust the leash of a tall Black Hound into my hand.
"This is Stumpy," he told me "and he's the only dog that I have right now that may be able to live with other dogs."
"May?" How does he not know? Shouldn't he test his dogs before re-homing them?
I was speechless. Had these people not been listening to me at all?
To be honest, Stumpy was a delight and if I had been actually looking for a dog, I may have considered bringing him home, but as I was not, I tried not to get to know him too much. His unassuming nature and sweet little kisses may have won out over logic.
Stumpy had a healing leg that had been broken when he was racing. I was told that he was not ready to go home just yet  as his leg wasn't fully healed. We stood talking about Stumpy for a while longer and a few more odd things were said.
At one point the man asked me how I walked my dogs. A completely legitimate question, I thought, as I am blind and most people can't wrap their brains around  how I do it. I explained my method and that I use a waist leash for the bigger dogs. Again, I don't think he was listening because half way through my explanation he said something about my physique that I didn't quite catch as I was still explaining how I walk my dogs. All I know is that he was not happy with my physique because after I managed to stop talking mid-sentence, I caught something about me being too fit to own a Greyhound and then the next thing he said was something about the Greyhound being able to drag me if he wanted to.
So, which was it? Was I too fit or too small to hold on to a Hound? He couldn't seem to make up his mind. Also quite presuming  on his part since he doesn't know me nor could he tell if I could hold on to a Greyhound or not. I'm just confused as how someone can be too fit and not strong enough all at the same time. I think part of what was happening was that they were panicking because I was blind. I hadn't told them on purpose, based on my past experience with rescues, and they were not convinced that I could take care of a dog as a blind person.
Just as abruptly as he had brought Stumpy out, the man said he'd take him back and asked us if we wanted tea. I said I was fine, having had enough already, but he mentioned coffee and Carmen said she'd like a cup. I amended my thoughts, thinking that perhaps he was going to sit down and chat with us about Greyhounds over a cup of coffee. He lead us into the kennels, which I was not impressed by at all, and pointed to the hot water, instant coffee, sugar and spoon and told Carmen to make her own. Then, he disappeared. I was floored. Perhaps I'm from a different planet, but when you have guests, usually you make their coffee for them. You may ask them how much sugar or what not, but you do not plunk things down on a table and leave.
The kennels kind of reflected his personality. There were two dogs to a horse stall and the outside runs were concrete with rusting bars on the fences. Originally, when I had thought to go out there, I had researched the rescue online and read the profiles of each dog up for adoption. There had only been five, which I thought a bit odd, but I figured that they were just a small rescue. When we walked into the kennels and there were at least six more dogs that I had not read about I became even ore confused.
He told us that they were puppies, about 12 months old, and pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.
On the dogs' profiles it talked of some having siblings that had been adopted from that rescue as well as dogs "returning home" from the track. Upon seeing the puppies, I realised that this man raced Greyhounds and then re-homed his own racers under the name of the UK wide rescue organisation. I was appalled. Here was a man and his family claiming to help Greyhounds, while they were really only helping themselves. Maybe others will think I'm over reacting, but in a country where it is over populated by X-racing Greyhounds, why would you breed more to race when you are supposed to be helping those who can't find a home?
We sat and Carmen had her coffee, but the man didn't sit down and chat any further with us. I sat and petted a little female named Susie who was wearing a cone of shame due to a scratched cornea and prayed Carmen would chug her beverage. The man sat down at one point and gave us leaflets about the UK wide organisation and one about Greyhounds in general, but that was about the extent of his interaction. He seemed shocked when I shook his hand as I left. Perhaps this form of courtesy is foreign to him as he is  incredibly rude.
I don't know what it is, but it seems like the MAJORITY, not everyone, who works with animals whether they are a trainer or run a rescue, have no people skills. They want their animals adopted, but they are so confrontational that no one wants to deal with them. Not to mention, a lot of assumptions seem to be made without any concrete facts. I don't think Mr. K and I would ever be able to adopt a dog because-at least the ones I have spoken to-,do not think blind people can look after animals. I had one woman from a rescue tell me that flat out when we had originally thought of adopting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as opposed to buying a puppy.
So, what did I learn from this little trip?
1. I think Greyhounds are amazing and would make a fantastic addition to our family in the very far future. (Most important point).
2. Everything that was regurgitated to me by the rescue owners I had found on the internet and therefore I wasted a whole afternoon and six quid just trying to get Carmen and I out there.
3. Rescuing may not be an option for Mr. K and I due to people's uneducated opinions.
4. If I ever run a rescue, I will ensure all of my staff have had lessons in basic people and communication skills and that discrimination is wrong.
5.. I need to stop trying to volunteer with animal related professions because most people working with the least judgmental creatures on the planet, they themselves are incredibly judgmental; and often wrong. (This last statement is a broad generalization and I know that, but I'm pissed and sick of running into these road blocks everywhere I turn).

Monday, June 18, 2012

We're in the News!

An article was written about Mr. K and I by a freelance journallist. We were interviewed almost four months ago, but the newspaper has been sitting on it. They finally published it today. It can be found
here. ..if anyone is interested. :)

Five AM Frolic

We had an early start to our morning, with Hermione waking up at 5 and thinking it was a good time to go out. In her defense, Mr. K came to bed at that time and she woke up. To say I was unimpressed is an under statement. I had been up until 20 to 1 in the morning talking to my parents via Facebook's video chat and suddenly snapping awake to instant puppy yammering was not my idea of fun. Normally, I'm a morning person, but when I stumbled out from under my covers this morning, I most definitely was not feeling like a morning person.
As per usual, I got Hermione from her crate and the big boys followed me out into the living room. I threw some sweats over my PJ's and struggled into my sneakers. Then, it was outside for Hermione and I.
I'm not sure what got into the sea gulls this morning, but they were everywhere, squawking their irritating squawk. Most times in the morning I actually like listening to them as these are actual "sea" gulls. We live about a 2 minute's walk from an inlet from the North Sea. But this morning, I wanted to dig my ears out with forks due to the noise. Hermione was also much more interested in watching the shrieking birds instead of doing her business.
After limited success-she only peed-an idea began to form in my morning fogged brain.
Why not let the boys have an off leash run while I was out with Hermione?
There is a little strip of cobble stone street that I walk along with her in the mornings and there is never anyone out at 5 AM. The street stretches on much further, but we walk a  particular strip as I go out without guide dog or White Cane since the area is always empty. Our neighbor, sir Pukey Pants, is a mail delivery person and so he often comes out of our building around 5:45, but other than him, I've rarely seen a soul on that street in the early morning; and there are certainly no cars that early. It's mainly a pedestrian street even during peak hours.
So, upstairs I went and fetched Glacier and Roscoe. I remembered that we had a hotdog in our fridge and stuffed it into my pocket as an enticing treat for recall. I've never used hotdogs with our dogs before for a few reasons, but the main one being that guide dogs do not eat human food. Well, that rule in our house has slightly gone out the window as our boys eat bananas, apples, blueberries and carrots. They also had a hamburger for Roscoe's birthday and I needed leverage just in case they really really needed to come back. So, the hotdog made the trip and I'm glad it did. The boys loved it.
Getting them to come back was a dream. Even when they were chasing each other, someone carrying a stick or perhaps it was a pole, I have no idea, they always came back.
We only spent ten minutes out there as I didn't want to tempt fate, but both boys ran hard and had a good time. Because it was so quiet out, I could hear their claws on the cobble stones and always knew where they were. I think Hermione was slightly confused, but she trotted along beside me, watching her big brothers being fools. Neither boy had a problem going back into our flat, both staring expectantly at the pocket holding the hotdog. I think I have just found my secret weapon. A weapon I shall use sparingly so that it stays my secret weapon, but aside from freeze dried liver, which is incredibly expensive, I haven't seen them react so strongly to a recall treat before. That said, I haven't tried making dehydrated liver yet. That is on my to do list and may win over the hotdog, but we'll see.
So, despite the early hour and my initial cranky reaction, I, and I think my dogs, had a good start to the day. After I managed to calm down a bit and really take in the morning, I could hear robins singing and squirrels chittering. The sea gulls had mostly moved on and the smaller song birds sounded really nice. It was so nice to see Glacier and Roscoe having some unbridled fun; just being dogs. I don't think it is something I will do every morning, but it's something I will try to do a couple of times a week. Mr. K and I have an application in for a new flat because this one is falling apart, and because we need more room,, and there is a cycling/walking path just steps from the flat's front door. Perhaps I can scope out the path at various times if we get the flat, and it can be the boys' new place to frolic at 5 AM.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Our Funraiser

Hope everyone is having an enjoyable Sunday. We have had some crazy weather here, but it seems to have calmed down. That means,hopefully I can get Hermione out for a walk that is longer than only twenty minutes at a time.
Anyway, just a quick post today to tell everyone that my fundraiser for Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland is still going on. All of the profits made from the products will go directly to LRRS to assist with the re-homing of Labradors. At first, I didn't think international shipping was possible, but I have since discovered otherwise. So, if you feel like your pooch, or even you, may be deserving of something fun, please check out this link and place your order.
Glacier's Goody Shop
Thanks so much and have a great Sunday. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Soggy Scotland

It's another cold,   rainy day in Scotland. To be honest, I don't really mind the rain so much; not here anyway. Most days when it rains, it's more of a misty sort of sprinkling that will eventually soak you if you stay out in it too long, but it's not so much that you can't take the dogs for a walk. I can usually take Hermione on a good half hour to 45 minute stroll before I feel the need to remove my soggy coat and shoes.  Today, however, is definitely a rainy day to be contended with.
The kind of day where it's good you can stay indoors, cuddled up under a blanket, with a cup of coffee in your favourite mug and three dogs squishing you on the couch. A good book   wouldn't go amiss either. I didn't    even know it was raining when I first took Hermione out this morning, but if I had been listening, I would have heard the cars splashing through the puddles on the street and would have been a bit more prepared. I stepped out the front door only to be blasted by a huge gust of wind the sprayed me with rain coming down so hard and being blown so strongly that it was sideways.
It's the kind of rainy day where the wind is howling down the streets and the drops are so fat and falling fast that only six minutes outside to let your puppy do her business, leaves your coat soaked through. It's also the kind of rain where the cracks and bumps in the roads and sidewalks end up filled with water and if it keeps it up, we'll have sidewalk flooding. Not to mention, there are a lot of cracks and bumps on our street because it is made entirely of cobble stones. Have you ever seen a cobble stone street after a down pour? Not pretty, unless you're a duck.
It's this kind of rain that I think people believe happens in Scotland all of the time. I'm glad it doesn't because for how often it rains, we would never be able to leave the house. I can handle the misting/foggy rain, that feels more like a mister you might have in your back garden if you live in a hotter part of the United States, but these down pours keep even the bravest souls indoors; Wellies, and umbrellas or not.
So, yes, it rains in Scotland and it can be kind of soggy, but today it is more than a little soggy; it's a lot soggy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Tops of the World!

Herro everyone! Hermione heres. The mama has been hogging the 'puter thingy and so, I haves not been ables to type to you fur a very very very very long time.
Hmmmm, "hogging." Isn't thats a funny word? What's a hogs anyways?
I'm heres today to tells you a story. Wells, I ams always heres to tell you a story. I guess, it's mores to tells you about an argument the Mama and I had and hows I am right and hers is wrong. Hers still hasn't accepted this very very very simple truth; that I ams rights and hers is wrong. Hers really needs to get with the program.
Just yesterday the Mama was eating hers supper and I thoughts I should haves some. I had already had my supper, buts sharing is very impawtant and so the Mama should really shares hers stuff with me. Hers doesn't see it that way, buts I'm working on hers. The Mama sits on our couch to eats suppers because our home is small and the Daddy's 'puter stuff is alls over the kitchen table. Him does not have a desk because there just isn't the room.
At first, I tried to sit beside hers and carefully sneaks my way on to her cap, um, flap...lap. Hers said,
"hermione, no. Off."
I hates those two words. no  "" and "off" are not words that should be used when the Mama is talking to me. I ams just saying.
So, because I am a good girl, I got off of the Mama's cap and went and sat at the end of the couch. I just couldn't understands why the Mama wouldn't shares with me. Sharing is only the nice thingy to do. So, I gots to thinking, maybe the Mama was confused and forgots how to share. I tried a new plan of aback...attack.
I went back to the Mama and gots in her cap again, buts kept my nose to myself. I thoughts that if hers saw that I was a sweet, nice girl that hers would remember to share, but I couldn't sit like that fur very long. The smells of hers fishes and green beans was too much for my little pupppee senses. So, I accidentally leaned towards hers plate and hers said,
"Hermione, no. Off."
I did what I was tolds, buts oh hows I wanted some fishes and beans. So, I went to my thinking spots again and started thinking. That's when it struck me: the coffee table was in front of the Mama, maybe ifI could sees her better, she'd want to share. So, I hopped down from the couch and put my plan into action.
It was a bit difficult at firsts, since I haves never done this befores. I puts my front arms up on the coffee table because I am tall enough to do that nows, buts did it very very very very quietly. The Mama can't sees me, buts her can sure hears me. I hads to be very very very carefuls because my shiny bone tag makes a lot of noise when it hits thingies. Once my arms were in place, I pushed with my feets and tried leaping, buts I am a small puppee and only five months old, so I just couldn't makes it. The fishes smelled so good and I wanted to try the beans, so I did not give ups. The mama says that when hers was little her teachers used to say,
"if at first you don't succeed, try try again." Good device...rice...erm, advice Mama.
Ands "try, try agains," is exactly what I did.
With my arms on the top and my feets pushing from the bottom I gots high enough to gets my feets on the second shelf. I was so excited, I hopped a little mores and suddenlys I was on the coffee table. I marched myself-well, marched as much as I coulds in a very small space-to the middle of the table and showed the Mama my best "sit stay" ever.
See, Mama? Our training is working!
I stared straight at hers in my perfect "sit stay" and waited fur hers to share with me. I had worked hard. I deserved a reward, rights?
The Mama noticed me and covered her mouths with hers hand and squeaked,
"what are you doing?"
Hers was trying not to laugh. I knows it!
Then, hers three favourite words came out: "Hermione, no. Off."
"Buts, Mama! I worked so hard. I thoughts of this plan all on my own ands I'm sitting!"
Hers waited and I got off. Hers told me I was a good girl in her happy voice, buts hers was still not forthcoming with hers stinking fishes.
After I went off to plays with my Roscoe brother, hers told the Daddy what had happened and they both were snorting and squeaking and shaking like crazy hu Man and Hu Woman.
I haven't done it agains, buts it's a great trick ands I will remember to use it one of these days when I needs to impress someone. Maybe they will be mores impressed than the Mama and the Daddy and they'll hands overs some stinking fishes.
Nows that you knows the story, you can sees that I am rights! Rights? Sharing is a nice thingy to do and if you works hard, you should be rewarded. The Mama says that I haves my princesses...principupils...principles? Principles right, buts that I still don't gets fishes.
What's that all abouts, Mama?!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Puppy Play Dates

Last week was Hermione's five month birthday. I can't believe how fast the time has gone by and how much she's grown. She used to be this little thing that looked like a wind-up toy and now she's all legs and floppy Spaniel ears. She's a sweetie, despite her house training problems. Her sit is reliable and she will down if you have a food or toy reward. She's even started playing fetch in the house with me. She's even gotten pretty strong on the leash for a small breed. My only concern, besides the potty training wich I think will come with time, is her reaction to strange dogs. She's great with Glacier and Roscoe. In fact, she plays tug of war with the big boys and Roscoe likes to play a "keep away" game of sorts with her, but with unknown dogs she is skiddish and sometimes barks; very not cool.
I know it's been because of her lack of exposure to different dogs. No matter how hard I've tried, finding other dogs or puppies for Hermione to meet and/or play with has proven very difficult as a blind person. I had one dog trainer offer to have us come to her puppy class, but twice she's stood us up. I've left comments on UK forums, hoping that there are people in my area wanting to have play dates, but so far no luck. When I go to the park, we are walking and so it's harder for us to find other dogs. I can't see to know if the dogs are walking or socializing and often I don't know they are there until they have passed.
Both Glacier and Hermione's body language tells me that another dog is approaching and I have started attempting to engage the owner and dog in order to assist Hermione with her uncertainty. I think that is all it is because when the dog is far away she is very excited and when the dog starts leaving, she gets all excited and wants to follow it. If we stand still long enough, she starts to get over her uncertainty and will come out from behind me to sniff the other dog and to allow the other dog to sniff her. If the dog is incredibly exuberant, she's having none of it. Yesterday we met three different dogs I was able to have her meet, but it seems to be the luck of the draw because today we haven't run into any.
I also think part of the block comes from Glacier being a working dog and people actually respecting him. It's great, but I'm not sure how to be out with both dogs and have people approach us. I've thought about using a White Cane to walk Hermione, so all my attention can be on her, but that brings up a whole bunch more social restrictions. Somehow though, I have to remedy this because I do not want her uncertainty to turn into dog aggression or fear. She's fantastic with people and we really want her to be a therapy dog. She can't be if she is cranky with other furry ones.
So, for now, I'll continue going out in public spaces where there should be other dogs and hope we can't create a few connections. Carmen said she'll help find other dogs this week-much easier when you can see them coming- but I know that this sort of thing isn't exactly her cup of tea and I'd need to do this more than once. Also, I know I'm far away from most of you, but if anyone knows of anyone in Edinburgh who may want to have play dates, let me know. :) Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Thank You :)

I just wanted to write a short, but very heart felt, thank you to everyone who left comments on yesterday's post and also on my previous posts. Ever since Blogger forced me to switch over, keeping up on comments and other people's blogs has been a huge pain in the butt. So, I just wanted you to know that your comments don't go unnoticed or unappreciated. You guys are great! *hug* :)
PS: Any comments on house training a five month old puppy? LOL Hermione's training is coming along in every way possible, but the little stinker seems to have relapsed in her house training. She went from four days of not going in the house, to refusing to go outdoors and going the instant she's back in; despite being leashed to me. The only thing I can think is slowing her progress down is that Mr. K and I can't always catch her to say no and take her instantly out. We often find messes just after she's gone as opposed to when she's going. Last night we managed to catch her, but she just wouldn't go outside when I took her out. This morning, I had a small victory when she refused to poop outside and tried to look for a spot inside, but I whisked her out and made her go for a small walk. She went wheere she should. Then, as if to counter that victory, she peed on the couch even though I had just taken her out and she was on leash. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are supposed to be easy to house train, but she is proving as difficult as a Dachshund. ;)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


When I logged on to Facebook this morning one of the first things I noticed was that Canada's Paralympic swim team had ben announced. At first, I wasn't really sure how to feel about it. I'm not sure I know now how to feel about it. This is the first time in twelve years that I haven't been preparing for a Paralympic Games and it feels strange.
Don't get me wrong, part of me is glad. I had my reasons for retiring and no one could pay me enough to come back. Okay, perhaps a large sum may tempt me and a promise of a certain coach change would, but short of that, I am staying as far away from that arena as possible. Yet, another part of me feels slightly lost and wishes I was in the thick of it all. It's hard to do something for so long and then suddenly give it up. It completely changes your social role and you have to find a new place for you to fit in. I think I've done pretty well at that, but part of me still wants to desperately compete.
I miss the practices, believe it or not. The hard work and knowing that I put everything on the line. I miss the feeling of that kind of physical exertion. It's a feeling very difficult to describe. And, of course, I miss the competitions and winning. I miss pushing myself to be faster, stronger, better. It was something I was good at. It was something I could work hard at and be successful. I didn't think that the naming of the team would bother me. I mean, I did retire four years ago.
I thought I had put the feelings of displacement behind me. I have a great life that I am so blessed to have. I've had so many amazing experiences out of the pool that I am so grateful for, but for some reason, today, I really miss the water. I miss that community and being a part of a team. I miss the feeling of walking out behind the blocks with your country's colours displayed on your swim cap and I even miss the mundane things too. I was lucky enough to win a silver medal, but I never did win that elusive gold medal and part of me wonders "what if I had held on for four more years?" What if I had given it one more shot?
A lot of things happened that made my last Games a mess. I was kind of disappointed that my last  "go round" had to end with that competition. I think because I felt like there wasn't any closure at the end, my "what if" factory turned on into over drive and I think the "what if I had stayed" has always been at the back of my mind.
I've struggled this year and even the year before, trying to train for a triathlon. I finally decided that wasn't going to happen this year and have focused on staying fit instead. When I start back to school in the fall, perhaps I'll find a few running partners and will be able to set new goals for myself, such as running a marathon, but for today I shall face my "what ifs" and shove them back down. Perhaps this time around I'll be able to silence them for good. Maybe it's important that I explore them this time and acknowledge them in order to be able to move on fully.
Whatever happens, I am so happy for those who made the team. I know, from experience times three, that they are in for the ride of their lives; an experience they will never forget.