Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Enthusiastic Girl

Now for something a bit more light hearted...
One of the things that I instantly appreciated about Nala when we were matched, two years ago, was her enthusiasm for everything. And, I mean everything.
You ask her to sit, she sits with enthusiasm.
You ask her to "find the button" she finds the cross walk pole with enthusiasm.
You ask her to "bring it" she brings whatever she has in her mouth, whether she is supposed to have it or not, with enthusiasm.
She even "waits" with enthusiasm. Now, that is talented.
Her latest thing she does with enthusiasm is her workout on the treadmill.
Before getting on I have her sit and wait while I get the treadmill going. As usual, she waits with enthusiasm. Once the treadmill is going I say "Nala, on" and she springs up and trots proudly on to the moving belt. (I gently hold her collar for safety). After about a minute at the slower "warm-up" pace, she tries to start trotting. It's her signal to me that she is certainly not going fast enough.
Once she gives me this signal, I slowly increase the speed a bit and she trots guessed it, enthusiastically; tail wagging, head bobbing up and down.
However, her enthusiasm does not stop there.
After another few minutes, she starts trotting faster again; another signal for me to crank up the speed.
The first time I had no idea what she was doing, but after I tried increasing the speed and she seemed satisfied with this arrangement, I've let her dictate the speed of her own workouts. The first time she did it I nearly fell over laughing. It was like she was saying,
"hey lady! I'm an athlete here. Let's go!"
Her enthusiasm for life, including her treadmill workouts, is infectious and I can't think of any other partner I'd like to have for the past two years; and hopefully many, many more.
Here's to Nala and her beautiful enthusiasm for life.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rage, Rage, Rage!

Poor Mr. K has heard me rant about this topic for about 24 hours now. So in the spirit of giving him a break, you get to hear about it instead. :)
As most of you will know I am currently in my second semester of my master's in social work. For the most part I have really enjoyed my program. Of course there are certain topics that I may find a bit tedious and there are also some areas that I think the program could do a better job of addressing, but on the whole I feel like I am getting a quality education. However, yesterday I became very angry.
One of the areas that I think the program is lacking in thus far, is the ways in which they address disability. Mostly because they don't address it at all. There are entire units on so many social issues which is fantastic, but I have yet to come across a unit that talks about disability which to me is slightly shocking. We are in a master's of social work program. How is an entire population ignored? If my Sociology under Grad could present disability topics in a plethora of courses, then why doesn't my Graduate program? However, this is not what made me so upset. That said, it is relevant and you'll see why.
Yesterday I was working on a unit that was demonstrating the importance of community and how a supportive community can improve the quality of life for its citizens. At the end of the unit there was a video we were required to watch. I got three minutes in, shut it off and wrote an email to the professor; explaining how inappropriate the video was and that I would absolutely not watch it.
In the first three minutes that video used the "R" word six times, referring to a person with a cognitive disability. This word has been removed from all American legislation, how is it that a social work program is comfortable with this word? How is that no one has challenged this before?
Not only was the word used repeatedly, but the video was also offensive in how it portrayed the individual with the cognitive disability. This person was "one of those people" and "we" (people without disabilities) are so special and should pat ourselves on our backs because "we helped this sad little person blossom and grow."
Well, let me tell you!
It is the sociological barriers that has oppressed this person and has made independence nearly impossible. So, by you deciding to remove those barriers, you aren't special. Not even one little bit!
What makes this even worse was the little paragraph written before you got to the screen where you could view the video. It was this little blurb patting the producer on the back and touting that this producer and another person involved were from this particular educational institution.
I would not be proud of that, (insert name of university here).
We have had so many units on racism and the language surrounding those issues have been appropriate. The material focused on the strengths of populations and how our society oppresses minorities; however, when it comes to disabilities, it is a population completely ignored. At least, until now, and it is not the type of material that should be presented as it is not representative.
There are two words in the english language that make my skin crawl and the "R" word is one of them. If you know me, you'll know what the other is.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Five Miles

This won't be a long post, but I wanted to document somewhere that I have managed to work up to running five miles in about a month and a half; or a bit less. I'm really excited about this since I have officially signed up for my first ever half marathon. I can't believe this is going to actually happen. I'm still working on guides to train with o a regular basis, but I have a few volunteers from other cities who seem to be willing to run the race with me. I feel like this has been a long time coming and I am super excited and slightly terrified all at once. I'd feel much better if I could get outside and run with a guide, working hills, but that may take some more time. Not only do I not have a definite commitment from people to be my training guides, but we're also experiencing a serious deep freeze right now. I think that could be part of the hesitation. People might feel more inclined to be a bit more urgent about guiding me outside if we could actually run outside. Regardless, I'm going to keep putting the miles on my treadmill, for me and furry ones alike, and pray to the running Gods that they send me some training partners soon. :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Treadmill Trotters

Getting out and walking the dogs this winter has been a challenge. I know they are going as stir crazy as I am and so I thought I needed to find a way to relieve some of that energy. I had heard of people teaching their dogs to walk on the treadmill; so after a few articles, training videos and a few adjustments, I am happy to say that I have three out of four of my dogs walking on the treadmill.
Otis is the only one I haven't trained for a few reasons. First, he is just way to terrified of the treadmill. I could probably work through that with him because Hermione was pretty unsure of it as well. However, I also don't think he's aware he has back legs. I'm afraid that he would hurt himself if he did actually get on the treadmill and then he would be even more terrified of it. Franchise are known to have weak rear ends and I don't want to damage his hips or knees. Also, when he runs, he canters. Two front legs together and two back legs together. That really doesn't work for a treadmill. So, he can continue doing his own Zoomies chasing the cats and Hermione around and he'll be fine until the snow melts and the temperatures become a bit more tolerable.
Everyone else has taken quite well to the treadmill. They are each walking/trotting for about ten minutes each; even Hermione. It takes me about forty minutes to get through everyone each day, but it's definitely worth it. I know they are getting some much needed exercise and it gives me some bonding time with each of them.

Friday, February 06, 2015

First Published Article!

Guess what?!
My real for a multi-dog household article was finally posted on
I am so excited.
I'm not really sure where the "pack" language came from because I don't use that, but at least the article got published.
Even if you don't read the article, go over to see photos of my gang. There is one photo of Jetta and one of Flash as well. Lala isn't in any of the photos though, but you can the adorableness that is Otis and Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia.
If you do like the article, don't forget to click the "like" button so that hopefully they'll want me to write for them again.
Thanks in advanced for your support. :)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Happy Ground Hog Day!

You wouldn't know it by looking outside, but today is the day our little friends across North America-well, at least Canada and the United States-poke their little heads out of their winter burrows to let us hopeful humans know whether spring will come early or not. Judging by the snow drift that is residing outside my back door this morning, I am going to say we probably have six weeks more of winter. If I could hardly get the dogs out to go potty due to all of the snow that was so kindly dumped on us yesterday and last night, then there is no way a ground hog is going to be able to get out of his or her hole. I'm going to bet all ground hogs are snowed in, just like the rest of us.
Now that my little ground hog opinion piece is over: I can't believe it's February already.
This week marks the start of my fifth week of classes and the assignments have already started piling up. In the next week I have a ten page paper, two presentations and a twelve page take home midterm exam to complete. And, of course, I still have to go to placement and be a contributing and non-grumpy citizen.
Sometimes I wonder what I've gotten myself into, but then I remind myself that it's only sixteen months. And, now, it's only ten. That's really not a lot of time.
As for my placement: I am still really enjoying it. I've been doing some work on advocacy stuff for better public transit and I've been put on the state wide ADA 25th anniversary celebration committee. The big shindig is to take place on July 26th, 25 years after Bush Senior signed the ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) into active status. It's pretty exciting stuff.
I've also taken it upon myself to get a program started up to encourage fitness, more specifically running, in this area for people with disabilities. At first, my supervisor wasn't impressed with the program that I suggested as a starting point, but then she reread the website I sent her and my ideas and changed her mind-she missed a pretty integral part. Now that I have the green light I'm not really sure what to do next. However, there's another staff member who is pretty excited about the idea and so I'm hoping she'll help give me some direction.
How might the Fuzzies be?
Otis is Otis. A happy, jolly little bull dozer of a dog whose favorite indoor activity as of late is running Zoomies from our bedroom into our "office" as fast as he can. All by himself, nonetheless.
Nala is still my little worker bee. I think she likes going to placement as much as I do. We're currently taking a door to door bus service because it would appear that no one in this city owns a shovel and hence the sidewalks are never cleared. Once the snow melts off, we'll be taking fixed bus routes because I would enjoy the extra walk, Nala would too and it will be the fraction of the cost.
Hermione is continuing to work on her nose work. Her problem solving skills are coming along and she seems to be able to find a single kibble much faster than before. I can even hear her nose working nine times out of ten now and so I think she is relying more on her sniffer than her eyeballs.
Old Man Roscoe is also learning a new trick.
A few days ago I started training him to walk on my treadmill. We've only practiced three times, but each day he's gotten better. I watched a few more informational videos last night and realized I was doing one step of the process differently than everyone else. From what I watched last night, the dog got on to the treadmill while it was moving on low. I've been putting Roscoe on and then starting it. I'm wondering if it will be less startling to step it on while it is slowly moving than to be standing on a surface and have it shoot out, no matter how slowly, from under your feet. Today I'm going to try walking him on while it's already moving and see how that goes..
The kitties are doing well. Spock has made himself right at home and is one of the chattiest kitties I've ever met. I suspect his last family gave him people food because he becomes a pest when you are eating/cooking. However, he learns fast and is quickly learning that he certainly does not eat pizza/porkchops/roasted chicken Etc. He follows you around yapping away and he's really good at letting you know when he's upset with you. He really likes being a part of the family and makes sure to add himself to the puppy pile. He and Kira have Kitten Olympics every morning, and I think at night too. Once we accidentally shut Kira out of the bedroom when Spock was in with us and Kira made quite the fuss, yelling her head off until we let her in. She went straight to Spock to make sure he was okay.
We had a little scare with Kira a few days back. She was lying on my lap and I happened to rub her back haunch and feel a giant, solid lump. Of course my mind went to the worse thing possible and thought cancer. She didn't like if you pushed on it, but other than the lump itself and her dislike of you pushing on it, she was fine. She was and is still eating fine and using the litter box fine. She plays with Spock without any problems and she is moving fine. She jumps on to and off of high places and gallops around. We've been checking on the lump every day and it seems to be dissipating. All I can figure is that she bruised her muscle tissue. Or, maybe it was a fatty deposit. She gained a lot of weight really fast because we didn't rrealize she was eating Spock's leftovers. I've cut back her portions and stand guard while Spock eats to make sure she's not getting more than she needs. It seems to be working.
So, there you have it. I don't blog for a few weeks and it all comes out in one shot. I'll stop writing now so you can go get a snack because I'm sure you're starving after reading all of that. I know I am after writing all of that.

Monday, January 19, 2015

All Quiet on the K Family Front

Just a quick update to let everyone know that Mr. Spock and Miss Kira Kitty are the best of friends. They frolic and play together and the other night mr. K found them curled up together sleeping..
Just as importantly, there has not been any scratching, digging of or body slamming our bedroom door since Spock was released from his bathroom prison. It's like he calms her down because last night both cats slept in our room and Kira just slept. She didn't bop anyone on the nose or nibble any fingers.
I'm not sure how we got so lucky to find her the "perfect" match, but we have.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

90 Miles An Hour

Not surprisingly, things seem to be moving at break neck speed around here; or 90 miles an hour.
Nala and I have completed our first full week of placement and our second week of classes. I can't believe that I'm moving into my third week already. I remember last semester moving fast as well, but this semester seems even more so.
Mr. K started his classes Monday and he's enjoying them so far. He's a super busy guy too with taking nine classes.
On top of our school schedules, our social life seems to be picking up as well. Thursday night we went out for drinks with some of Mr. K's classmates to a bar that is a refurbished warehouse. It's actually a brewery and patrons have the option of knitting while they are there. It's a neat place. I opted not to knit because Jess with pointy sticks is probably a bad idea.
Last night we had dinner with some other friends which was also just as enjoyable. We've also made plans with Mr. K's class partner to go out for breakfast once a week.
With that said, we both are treated to a three day weekend because it's Marten Luther King Day on Monday. I didn't realize, me being Canadian, that the celebrations were so extensive. My placement supervisor sent me a calendar of events and hopefully we'll be able to make it to some of the activities.
I've also been trying to work running into my schedule. So far, I've been pretty good about  running three times a week. This week I am going to try to up it to four, now that I've settled into a groove of classes, homework and placement.
Mr. Spock has made himself right at home. He and Kira have ben officially introduced now and so far they get along. Last night was the first night he was free and there wasn't any digging at our bedroom door. The two cats play with each other and I think they match each other well in their energy levels. I think Kira is still a bit skeptical and is making sure the new kitten knows she is the queen kitty, but it's been mostly through play. We haven't heard any hissing or growling; so that is a good sign.
 Otis thinks he's Spock's new BFF and runs around with the kitten as fast as he can. Roscoe sniffed Spock once and wandered away; probably thinking
"Oh good. Another one."
Nala was initially a little too interested. She thought about chasing him, but we put a stop to that and now she isn't even phased by him.
Hermione could care less as well, as long as he stays away from her food dish. I think she's excited about his arrival because we put out little cat nip mice and Hermione has made it her mission to death shake them all.
Cat nip mouse murder!
I've also continued her nose work training, building on her problem solving skills. She's done great seeking out kibble under sweaters, on chairs and hidden in boxes. If I have hidden kibble above her head, she will place her front paws on the object, like a chair, and then sit; waiting for me to get the kibble for her. If it's at ground level, she will work to get the kibble out of whatever I've hidden it in.
So, with school, my attempt at running, placement, socializing and our animals, I am certainly keeping busy. But, as we all know that is how I like it. I do have to say though, last night I slept for twelve hours.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Live Long and Prosper."

I have someone new to introduce you to.
Can you guess by the title of the post where I'm going with this?
No. I did not kidnap the Star Trek character and no, I did not randomly find a Spock circulating the universe, ready to join my family.
I did, however, find someone who used to be named King and who is now named Spock to join my family.
*I can hear your judgmental reading through the computer. Stop it*!
He's not a dog. We definitely don't have room for that, or the time with us both being in our masters programs.
Spock, the kitty formerly known as King, officially moved in Monday evening.
He is about seven months old and is a Oriental Short-Hair mix; or so we have been told. He is mostly white with a little black part on his head that looks like, you guessed it, a bowl cut; just like Spock's. His ears are huge which initially made me think of naming him Spock and today our vet pointed out that he has missing hair on his forehead too. Unlike the character Spock though, our Spock has some black bits on his haunches.
Since Mr. K and I lost Rufio, our Siberian Forest cat, to kidney disease we have been thinking about getting a new friend for Kira. At first, we were content to be a four dog, two human and one cat household, but as time progressed we began to realize that Kira was really needing companionship..
I won't say we tried everything because there are probably things out there that we never thought about, but we did try a lot of things to help Kira. We got her more toys; interactive toys; fed her before we went to bed to distract her; let her come and go from the bedroom. All but the last thing were a bust. And, if we let her have free roam of our bedroom she was happy, but we couldn't sleep. She is just too active at night. If we locked her out she made every attempt to break into the bedroom; again, no sleeping.
So, around the beginning of December I started looking more seriously into finding her a friend. We had picked Kira in particular due to her curious and friendly nature. We had wanted her to be a companion for Rufio which worked. Since she's not a solitary cat, expecting her to be one, just wasn't working.
I often perused Pet Finder or classified ads. We applied for one kitten because she was a a Forest cat of some sort, but she was a part of a bonded pair. That wasn't going to work.
Last Wednesday I happened to be looking at Pet Finder again and saw our little guy. Mr. K said we should go see him and we did. We were both shocked at how over crowded the facility was. Cats were in their own kennels, but in the same room as dogs and dogs were in hallways. It's just the nature of the facility. We both left knowing we couldn't leave him there. When the worker placed him in my arms he barely moved, but suddenly his little motor started and my heart melted.
They kept King/Spock for  a few more days because he needed to be neutered, but when he went in for his surgery, it was discovered that he had an upper respiratory infection. Or, what we think may be more closer to the truth is that he already had one, they didn't know how bad it was and the vet told them how much worse it was. So, no neutering for him just yet.
When we brought him home Monday night he was sneezing constantly and you could hear his chest rattling. He had a bit of a temperature. Because of his infection, he's been sequestered in our bathroom to keep Kira catching from the infection.
I finally got him in to see our vet today and they gave him a heavy dose of antibiotics he's supposed to take for a week. They ran other tests to make sure he was feline leukemia negative which he is; thankfully. So, now we have to wait for him to stop sneezing and the medicine to take hold before he can meet Kira and the rest of the fur kids.
The vet suggested that we keep him in there for another week. We'll try to hold out, but the poor guy does not want to be in there. The vet said that if we can keep him in there a few days after the sneezing stops then Kira should be okay. We really don't want to have to treat her too.
But, until then, our Spock will have to live in the bathroom and be satisfied with his toys, food/water and his litter box as well as our periodic visits. He's pretty flaked out right now from all of the vaccinations he got today. We're still keeping a close eye on him to make sure he doesn't have any sort of reaction.
Here's to hoping that Spock will become a fully integrated family member soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nose Work and Problem Solving

At the beginning of 2015 I committed to working with Hermione on her nose work skills; if for no other reason, but to interact with her and give her an outlet for her energy. Every morning for quite some time now, Hermione and I play "find it" with her breakfast. It's been a really good addition to our routine. It's been a game that can take anywhere from five minutes to half an hour, depending on what kind of time I have to dedicate that morning. If I want a shorter game, I hide greater amounts of kibble each time I have her search, but if I want it to be more challenging and go on for longer I hide just one or two kibbles at a time..
This isn't the first time I've tried to be disciplined enough to work on nose work with her, but the first time I tried, I failed miserably. I think I tried to take too big of steps too quickly and ran out of ideas too soon. I also didn't understand what skills I was trying to work on with her, but this time around I have done more research. One important skill is obviously the sniffing part, but problem solving and the drive to "hunt" or search is also equally as important. This was something I figured out on my own after hours and hours of reading articles by various trainers and watching videos. A lot of what I read just told you what to do and that information wasn't very thorough either. By watching and reading as much as I did, I was able to put the pieces together and figure out these skills. I'm sure there are more, but I think three to start with is quite enough.
Knowing this, I have different goals for Hermione than before. It's not just about her sniffing things out in a box and then adding more boxes and letting her sniff. I thought that was it. I just wanted her to learn how to sniff and as soon as she figured out how to sniff things out in one box I'd add more to increase the difficulty for her and make it more interesting/challenging for her. I think she still enjoyed the training before, but now she's even more enthusiastic.
So, what am I doing differently to achieve our three, what I like to think of as, foundation goals?
Well, I started with the sniffing. Maybe this wasn't the right place to start, but I started here because I didn't realize at the time that there were other skills we needed to work on. I had noticed that if Hermione could see the treats or kibbles she would just use her eyes. A trainer recently told me that this apparently doesn't matter and that the important part is to encourage the hunting drive which I took to heart, but I still wanted Hermione to sniff. Putting things in boxes wasn't cutting it. She could hear it or see the box and automatically ran to the box, usually skipping the trail of kibble I had laid out for her to "follow" to the box. Then, I saw a random video where that person was using a towel. It got me to thinking that I should try a towel.
I got a small hand towel and initially hid quite a few kibbles in one place under the towel. This new idea seemed to work great. Not only did Hermione start sniffing, but because the search area was so tiny I knew when she hit the hidden kibbles and I could click to mark her behavior. As the days went on, I made the hide and seek game under the towel more challenging. I'd hide less kibbles; I'd put one kibble under each corner of the towel so she would have to keep searching; I'd fold the towel in half so it was harder to smell. Hermione loved it. She'd circle around her fan tail waving, her little sniffer working over time. I could actually hear her sniffing which she had never done before. She was learning to sniff and I think it was turning on her hunting drive as well.
Once we had been using the towel for a while and she seemed to understand that she should search an area and not just check one spot, I thought I'd try building on her problem solving skills. Again, we started off slowly. I started placing a kibble on top of the towel and one under a distance aways to get her used to the idea that what she was searching for wasn't going to be where she assumed it to be. I was also worried that she would only search with that particular towel, so I got a second one that was a different size and material. At first I placed kibble under the original towel and with every search moved them closer to the new towel which was laid out on the floor as well. Eventually, I was hiding kibble only under the new towel and then both. She needed a little encouragement at first, but she soon realized that she was supposed to search both areas.
For more problem solving I placed some kibble in her bowl and covered it with the towel so that she would have to figure out how to get to the food. I added new hiding places too like a small cardboard box, a few food storage containers and even my slippers. The key was for me to remember where I had put the kibble and praise her whenever she searched and found the hidden treasures. Today I saw some great improvement in her problem solving skills that she did all on her own.
As usual we started off with our towel search area. I placed just two or three kibbles under the towel to warm her up. I've noticed that she searches for longer now and so sometimes while she is searching I'll drop a kibble or two when her back is to me  into the towel or under it. That way, she is rewarded for her continued searching. She seemed a bit fidgety this morning. She was breaking her sit stay which has been improving with this new exercise as well. She wouldn't wait for me to hide her kibble and I'd have to put her back in a sit and try again. She was just too excited. A definite thought didn't exactly cross my mind, but I remember half thinking that she may be ready to try something a bit harder. I wasn't sure what, so at first I just would put out one random kibble for her to find nowhere near the towel. Well, I say nowhere near, but the area really isn't that big yet. I don't think she's ready for a five foot radius or anything. As I randomly placed kibble I noticed an over turned dust pan. Kira must have knocked it down. Not sure if Hermione would get it, I put a little pile of kibble just at the edge of the dust pan. When I told her to "find" she searched her towel first, but quickly moved away; her nose working. She found the kibble and was so excited. I brought her back to sit and decided to up the stakes again.
This time I put a pile of kibble underneath the over turned dust pan. I also placed some kibble in the same spot as before to help her be successful. She searched her towel again, sniffed around me and then moved away. She found the first pile of kibble too quickly for me to say anything and the next thing I knew, she was in army crawl position, front paws and head thrust under the dust pan digging out her prize.
We had a party. Honestly though, I think the find is enough of a reward for her. She loves it. In fact, if I love on her too long and don't hide things fast enough she starts yelling at me.
I did it again without her hint pile and she searched and searched. She eventually followed her nose back to the dust pan and was on her belly head and paws thrust under the pan again. At this point, there weren't very many kibble left so I decided to do something a bit easier to make sure we finished on a successful note.
I had her sit and hid a few kibble in and around the towel. She began searching and as she searched I would sneak kibble into her search area to keep her searching. The funny thing is she showed me up when she followed her nose to my closed fist at my side and whacked me with her paw.
She had nose worked her way to my hand full of kibble. That wasn't my plan, but I guess she's no dummy.
Wondering if it was a fluke or if she had seen me grabbing the kibble, I tried again. This time I hid a few kibble in the towel and purposefully held on to the rest of the food in my closed fist. She searched her kibble out on and under the towel and sniffed a circle around me. Just as before she sniffed her way to my fist and hit my hand.
I think my dog is smarter than me, or maybe she's just smarter than I give her credit for. It's so exciting to see her work and see her figure things out. I have to be careful that I don't move too quickly in my excitement. For example, even though today was so successful, tomorrow I shouldn't expect her to search  the whole living room for one kibble hidden under a couch cushion. Tomorrow we'll probably just work with the towel and maybe the dust pan, but we won't do anything new until she shows me she's ready. I think I'm beginning to understand her needs and in that way I will be a better trainer for her. In the long run, she will be more successful and hopefully continue to love the "find it" game.