Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On The Move Again

Today Glacier, my mom, Dad and I will pack up my dad's new truck and head down to Toronto for our last Portuguese passport appointment. Then, tomorrow we'll start the long trek back to SC and Mr. K. I am excited to see him and Roscoe, but a little sad to leave my hometown. I will be back next summer for a visit though, so it's not like I will never be back again.
My parents will stay for a while and we'll use that time to get some things done for our upcoming move to Scotland. We will go through our things and get rid of a whole bunch of stuff. Those items that are in good condition will go to Good Will and the rest will get tossed. We'll also get the "space saver" bags and have my parents help us vaccuum pack a few items we won't need in Sc, but will need in Scotland like winter coats, dog boots and linens. Their visit will not be all work and no play.
We plan on going to the coast and visiting the ocean. I love the ocean and was disappointed that we only saw it once since moving to SC. The cool part about moving to Scotland is that we'll still be near the ocean and will be able to take public transit there. We may even make a trip up into the mountains. That is a trip Mr. K and I have not made yet and it would be nice to see some of SC before we move away.
But before all of the sorting, packing, throwing away and visiting can occur, we have a very long road trip ahead. Due to our stop in Toronto, we will probably arrive in SC on Friday. We'll miss Canada Day, but we'll still get fireworks for The Fourth of July, complete with Mr. K. We've been separated for about three months, with a two week visit around the wedding, so it will be very nice to actually spend time with my husband.
I will try to update from the road, but I am not sure what the internet access will be like. If I can't, I will see you guys when I get to SC. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I've Got a Bug Up my Buum

All right, so maybe not literally. And aren't you lucky? You get to listen to me ramble on about my crazy ideas twice today. So, earlier's post was about my triathlon stuff; crazy idea number one. Well, it's not my first crazy idea, but it's one of the most recent. Actually, the most recent one is this:
I want to be a dog trainer.
Normally this would not be a crazy idea, but who in their right mind will hire a blind dog trainer? I can't even get programs to let me enroll because they are worried about liability. And yet, I can't get the notion out of my head. Now wait a minute, what about physiotherapy and Scotland?
Well, Scotland is still a go, but I'm having problems with the Physiotherapy thing. Remember how I told you that Queen Margaret University lost my supporting documents and I was waiting to hear if they  found them. The documents were rediscovered , but they informed me   that because they had lost my stuff, all of the vacancies for this September are full and that I will be notified if anyone drops out. Gee thanks. There are a lot of problems with this, one of which is  getting student loans  that close to a start date and also getting my hands on textbooks in an accessible format, but I won't go all into that because this post isn't about how I'm raging mad and really annoyed. Nope. This post is about my latest crazy idea.
The plan is that once in Scotland I'll get a job as a massage therapist. What a novel idea since I did go to school for 2200 hours to become a stinking massage therapist. I also have a BA in Sociology, so I definitely will have options when it comes to getting a job, but this idea of going back to school had me all excited and now I can't go; at least not until September of 2012. So, why not become a dog trainer?
Well, there are a few logistical problems I am running into.
1. There aren't many accredited   dog training schools and they aren't very excited about a blind dog trainer. Could I get around this? Sure. Don't tell them I'm blind, but then what? I get to school and they sh** because here's this girl with her gigantic guide dog standing in front of them. I have found a few courses online, one of which does have a practical part, but the people who run the course said they would be happy to have me. And, they are located in Scotland.
2. It's expensive. That seems to be the theme of today's posts. The courses aren't exactly cheap and I'm not sure  student loans cover "dog training" courses. I suppose I could check that out.
and 3. So I go and get qualified and graduate, but then what? How many people with "problem" dogs would actually hire me? I think I could probably start out running Puppy Obedience classes and I'd probably get some clients that way. I could then move into training shelter dogs who have found new homes or working with Problem dogs. But will this endeavor put Mr. K and I into financial woe?
Mr. K is in school for his under graduate degree and I need to make money, especially if we want to live in Scotland. Massage therapy would get us that income as long as I could find a job. Could I work as a massage therapist and do an online course for dog training and see where it goes? That brings me back to how would I pay for the initial cost of the course? So many questions and I am afraid to research them because then I might get all excited and want to do it, but it won't be feasible. Mr. K might think I've lost my mind too. We've talked about it just joking around, but the other night when we had a campfire in my parents' backyard and I told my Aunt and Uncle of my Queen Margaret University issues, my Aunt told me to train dogs. I laughed, but ever since then I can't stop thinking about it. It's something that has always been at the back of my mind, but never thought it was realistic.
A friend of mine who I went to university with sent me a message on Facebook saying that she knew someone who would probably train me. The woman used to train police dogs. Would she be able to teach me over video conferencing and chat? We'll be a fair distance apart, with her in Ontario and me in Edinburgh Scotland.
With all of that in mind, I know this is something I could do. I would love it and I would excel at it, but would the general public give me a chance? I can't train dogs if no one will bring their dogs to me or if companies won't hire me. I even thought of a name for my company:
A Blind Eye, A Seeing Heart: Innovative Dog Training Centre
Oh, I crack myself up. At least people would be forewarned. LOL
It's something Mr. K and I will have to discuss and see if it is  something realistic for me to do right now. If it weren't for the money factor, I'd do it; just to say I could, but that is not very financially responsible. Oh why does real life have to get in the way of my crazy ideas? :)

"But She'll Look Sweet, Upon the Seat of a bicycle Built for Two."

An integral part of training for a triathlon is making sure that you have all of the equipment you will need to be successful. For most athletes that isn't too hard, a good pair of running shoes, a decent road bike and maybe a wet suit, but for disabled triathletes especially blind ones, things are a bit more complicated.
We still need the good shoes and maybe the wet suit, but we can't use a regular road bike and if we are going to train outside, we need a guide. Yes guides are people, not quite considered equipment,  but they are pretty important. Guides tether their wrists to their blind athletes during the run portion via a bungie cord or rope; another tether is used during the swim that runs from the guides behind to the blind athlete's, somehow attached by the wet suits; and during the forty kilometre bike ride, they "pilot" a tandem bike, or more commonly known as a bicycle built for two. The tandem bikes that they have out now though aren't pretty, touring bikes, but light weight, fibre glass, racing machines. The guide sit in the front saddle-AKA front seat-and steers, brakes, gives the blind cyclist verbal feedback about the terrain and generally assists with keeping the bike balanced. Many totally blind people, like me, do not know how to balance a bike properly and therefore could not keep it upright on his/her own. That said, that does not apply to every totally blind person.
These tandem bikes that I need so badly for training and racing are not easy to get a hold of. First of all, we need one for training because when race day comes and e have been only on a stationary bike in the gym, we could run into a few problems. Both the guide and I wouldn't know each other's body language and this could cause crashes. The guide might not know how much verbal information I need; I may not know how much verbal information I need. Holding up a tandem bike is way different than a one person road bike or a stationary and it is really important for the team to learn how to work together in order to have the best success. As I've said though, tandems are difficult to acquire.
The most obvious difficulty is that they are not just available anywhere. You couldn't walk into a sports store or a bike shop and buy one. They are designed for a very specific population and/or purpose and so aren't just out there for the general public to buy. The store wouldn't make any money. The people who buy the tandem bike are usually either blind athletes, blind recreational cyclists, facilities where there are a large gathering of blind people at once-I.E. a summer camp run for blind people, a school for the blind, a rehabilitation training centre for blind people Etc-or tourist attraction companies. So, where the crap do you go to get one?
Have I mentioned the price tag? One of the racing tandem bikes is currently offered to members of Won With 1 for a discounted rate of less than 2000 dollars. You will not get a racing bike for that cheap anywhere. There are two problems for me with this.
1. I'm not a member of Won with 1 because I am moving to Scotland and they are a Canadian based organisation. I've been given a lot of support from this organisation, but I am not a member.
2. If I buy the bike in Canada how do I get it to Scotland? Very expensive shipping costs.
and 3. I definitely do not have 2 grand just lying around.
I contacted the Triathlon club that Mr. K and I will be joining upon our arrival in Edinburgh and asked if they could put feelers out to see what the likelihood of me borrowing a tandem from someone would be. It took the woman I have been corresponding with, we'll call her F, a few days, but she got back to me this morning and the news was much better than I thought. She gave me the websites of two different organisations, The Royal School for the Blind and another organisation that actually gets tandem bikes for disabled people. F also told me that one of the guides I was in contact had one, which I already knew but wasn't sure how often I would have access to it. There is another team member who has one set up as a "trainer," which I am not entirely sure what that means, but I'll find out. F said that I should contact the Royal School for the Blind as they may loan me one and/or the other organisation may be able to get me one. I'm just so amazed that something like this is actually available. The greatest hurdle with competitive sport for a blind athlete is cost. We have to pay for everything twice because we need our guides with us. Two airplane tickets, two meals every time you eat, two hotel rooms if your guide happens to be of the opposite sex-that has happened to me a few times-sometimes two entry fees, it really could go on and on. I'm sure things will be similar with triathlon with some costs being different, but nonetheless it is going to be expensive once I reach the competitive level that I want to. So, if there some way for things to be cheaper, or easier I am always incredibly grateful. I really appreciate F's effort in finding these organisations and I am even more excited about training knowing that if I can get in contact with the right people, I may actually have a bike to train and race on. Everything with regards to my triathlon training in Scotland is coming together beautifully and I couldn't be happier. The attitudes of the club has been amazing and even the governing body of Triathlon in Scotland has been great. This is encouraging and motivates me to train even harder here at home on my lovely elliptical so that I can really start training once Mr. K and I get there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Sunny Sunday

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Northern Ontario. We were coming off of a week of rain and so the shining sun was very welcome. I got up early as usual and Dad was in the midst of preparing bacon and french toast. We chatted a bit and then he asked me what I wanted to do for the day. I'm leaving this beautiful part of the country on Wednesday to return to SC, so I said I wanted to go for a hike. I love the wilderness up here and I don't know when I'll get to enjoy it again since Mr. K and I are moving to Scotland. So, after Mom got up, we had breakfast, packed water and a dish for the dogs, we hopped in my mom's SUV and headed out to a local park.
This park is particularly gorgeous with its own waterfall, lake, streams and rolling hills. The greenery is incredible with four different types of trees growing right on top of each other. There are blueberry bushes growing amongst purple irises and various types of mosses.  There are several trails weaving in and out of the forested areas which are used for hiking, running and biking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter. I am sure there are maps that a person could get to see where each trail leads, but we didn't think that far ahead and just struck out.
The first trail was a bit of a bust as it was a long boardwalk like thing that lead to a  set of stairs that went up to the falls. I didn't want to go up there as our walk would have only been about five minutes, so we turned around. The boards were a bit unstable and I think they kept pinching Glacier's toes. He was pulling like a mad man and my shoulder was aching by the time we had turned around. We turned left and took another trail, traversing a bridge that spanned one of the many streams. We stopped to do some doggie push-ups (you ask the dog to "sit" and "down" in rapid succession in order to get the dog's attention back on you) and continued along. He was still pulling, but at least he was watching where he was going now.
We followed a wide, gravel  trail for a while. There were not any ground obstacles for Glacier to watch for, but he had to pay attention to over hanging branches.  There were a few people out with their dogs on and off leash, but Glacier minded his own business and guided me along quite well. We took another left at an intersecting path to avoid another two off leash dogs and the trail got narrower. It was now just packed earth that was cleared of under brush. It was just wide enough for Glacier and I to walk on, with the over grown grass on the sides swiping my ankles. We walked along for a while and then ran into a few steep hills. Part of the reason I wanted to go out and hike was because of my triathlon training. I am not a good runner and the last leg of the triathlon is a 10 kilometre run. I wanted to see if walking 10 kilometres was possible and how I would feel after that.
Despite the steep climbs, I felt pretty good  and left my parents in my dust. The mosquitoes were horrible along this trail and apparently they chewed up Jetta pretty good. She was walking back with my dad and at one point, Mom and I lost them. Mom looked back, but if you stopped moving you turned into a buffet, so we kept moving. Mom figured Dad and Jetta had found a path out and headed back to the truck so that Jetta wouldn't be eaten alive.
We continued weaving our way along the narrow path. Glacier successfully navigated tangled roots, fallen branches and rocks. Whenever we came to the top of a hill he would slow down and pause slightly. He would pick his way down carefully and would patiently wait for me if a rock went rolling out from under my foot. I never fell or tripped for the whole hour we were out.
We found another path that we thought would take us back towards the parking lot and turned down it, Glacier leading the way. Spider webs clung to my face and legs and sticky mosquito carcasses stuck to my sweaty chest where I had squished them, but I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Challenging my muscles, my brain and mine and Glacier's working relationship was exciting.     Before I ever had a guide dog, I would have to lumber along hiking  trails attached to someone's sweaty elbow. It was slow moving and sometimes quite clumsy. Don't get me wrong, I loved it,  but I didn't know what hiking was like with a guide dog. Moving with Glacier through the woods is much more fluid and after his puppy push-ups he was fantastic. It is almost a freeing feeling.
Our new trail was a bit more treacherous with more downhills with steep angles and more dislodged, rolling stones. Glacier did very well though and it was a great exercise in trust and reading is body language. If this dog can guide me through a forest and keep me safe, his obstacle work on the streets will be stellar.
As we neared the bottom of a particularly steep hill, Mom realised we were at the top of the waterfall that we had walked to down our first dead end trail. There was a bridge that past over the top of the waterfall and after Glacier put his front paws up on the thigh high step up on to the bridge, we were off. I wondered how he would do being up so high and the water thundering below us, but he wasn't even phased. He walked confidently across the bridge, paused at the other end where there was another three foot drop down and waited without sniffing or eating greenery while I   scrambled down.
If the mosquitoes had not been so bad, that would have been a beautiful place for a picnic. There were weather smoothed rocks that you could sit on and the sun was shining through the trees' branches. The sound of the waterfalls could have put me to sleep, but as I said before, stopping meant you were bug food.
Mom went ahead at this part as it was incredibly rocky and was more of a small rock face than a hill to climb down. There were roots as steps and rocks as well. We even had a few sturdy trees to grab on to if we needed. I put Glacier on "long leash," which means I extended it from its normal three feet to six feet and let him climb down slowly in front of me. He's so long and big that if I had used his harness or held onto his "short leash" it could have injured him. He needed the extra length to maneuver himself. That said, He would wait for me at each little flat spot and for me to tell him to go ahead. He would let me place my hand on his back for stability and stared up curiously at me as I came scooting down the rocks on my bum. Actually, I was in more of a squat position: dropping  my centre of gravity down low to the ground made getting down a lot safer. Plus, I see with my hands and I was able to explore the ground behind and a bit in front of me before I slid down. It takes a lot of core and leg strength to scoot down a rock face, but we made it down with no problems. Glacier was incredibly patient and quite calm, which is amazing for him, since usually he is brimming with excitement and enthusiasm.
After our little journey down, we came to a set of rickety, wooden stairs that Glacier guided me down. He paused at each platform letting me know there was another set of stairs in front of me and was not nervous despite the stairs being open. At the bottom of the flight of stairs we hung a right and made our way back up the boardwalk that we had originally walked down. It was quite narrow and Glacier did an excellent job of pulling me away from some oncoming pedestrian traffic. He kept his nose to himself and got me back to the car where we found Dad and Jetta waiting for us.
I don't know if Glacier's puppy raiser ever did anything like that with him. I know it's a first for us and I was very impressed with how he handled himself. We've walked trails before where he's been off leash, but I wanted him to work yesterday and I couldn't have asked for a better performance. When there were roots sticking up he knew just how much to move me so that I would not trip, but also made sure I didn't step off the path into the over grown under brush. When walking down steep hills, he paid attention to my body language and would brace himself if one of my feet slid on a loose rock. When I was moving down the rock face in a squat position, he would patiently wait and only move on when he was told to. With all of the good smells of the forest and sounds of the waterfall that is a feat in itself. He didn't even falter when being bombarded by the vampiric, whining, black horde that followed us relentlessly.
Glacier was given a lot of praise and a nice cool drink upon reaching the vehicle. Then we loaded Jetta and Glacier up and took them for a swim at the dog park as a reward. They were hot and needed to cool down. Besides, if you have just guided your handler over rough terrain and she came out in one piece, you deserve a nice swim. That said, Glacier only goes up to his belly and was too busy playing with two Shelty puppies to really swim, but he still enjoyed himself. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Morning

Last Saturday I wrote about how I love the mornings. I wrote about how I love the birds, the coffee and the prospect of having the entire day ahead of me, but I missed one important part that I think makes mornings even better.
I can't remember the last time I've awoke and not had an animal greeting me. There's something about a wagging tail or a loud purr to let you know that the morning is something special. Here are these creatures who are happy to see you. Now, part of their motivation is that they lack thumbs and  are excited about the kibble hitting the bottom of the food bowl, but I can't really blame them; breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? I've moved a lot lately and we have another big move coming, but regardless of where I am there is always  a fuzzy saying "good morning."
Here at my parents', for example, Glacier and Jetta take turns being the first to wake me up. Some mornings I am brought back from Dream Land by Jetta head butting the door, demanding to come in. Other mornings, the door isn't shut tightly and in typical Jetta fashion, she barges in, leaps on the bed, stamps around a bit and then settles on my feet. If Jetta hasn't managed to rouse me Glacier makes a go of it. He gets up on the bed, lies on his back with all four paws in the air, rolls around snorting and shoving me with his gigantic head. Between the snuffing, head butting and stamping, one of them gets me motivated enough to get up.
Once up, I not only have two hungry Labradors to contend with, but two purring, meowing, ankle side swiping tabby cats. Glacier and Jetta prance around, their claws clicking on the floor, Loki the male cat, nearly tripping me. Sisu usually looks on from a distance, probably concerned that her beautiful fur will be mussed by the herd of hungry hippos.
We make it to the storage tub where the food is stashed and both Glacier and Jetta are asked and expected to wait in a "sit stay" while I dish out their respective servings. While they are scarfing their kibble, I get a scoop of cat food and go to the front window sill where the two cats' bowls are waiting empty. Loki jumps up on the sill ahead of me and has his head so far in the dish I can hardly dump his portion out. Sisu is much more dignified and usually waits for me to turn away. Then she hops up with her little "Prrrr" noise, that sounds like something between a meow, purr and singing. After everyone's appetites are satisfied, each dog takes a turn going out and drinking water and I make myself breakfast and coffee between the opening and closing of the back door and filling and refilling of the water bowl. It's chaotic for about twenty minutes, but then everyone settles in and it's calm and relaxing. I'll drink my coffee watching TV or reading blogs and there will be at least three fuzzies squishing me on the couch and I wouldn't have  it any other way.
Every animal I ever had has made mornings the things I love. Sasha, my first pet dog, would bound about and knock me over with kisses and huge paws. He was a ninety pound yellow lab and I was a tiny six year old. Until Flash, a dog I adopted for my parents after Sasha's trip to the Rainbow Bridge, learned how to go outside, every morning you would step in a puddle of pee at the back door. She always made it that far and then just couldn't hold it anymore. She'd look up at you like,"Oh no. Woops, but I still love you." And then she'd try to wash your face while you mopped it up. Jetta's always been the stamper and Kyo used to wake me up by being shifty and moanie in his crate. He was incredibly exuberant once let out because he knew it was walk time. Each Dachshund greeted the morning in his or her own way too. Once we had all three it usually consisted of me running down the stairs with one on  a leash and one in each arm to make sure they made it outside to do their business. Otherwise, one would escape me and go off in a corner and "potty." Then they'd run around like crazy fools once back inside and hop about like maniacs until I had breakfast served for them. After the crazy play session and breakfast, they would always go back to sleep for a few hours. Despite Roscoe not being technically my dog, seeing how he is Mr. K's guide dog, he still is a huge part of mornings. He yawns noisily and follows me around relentlessly until his breakfast is put down for him. He would hop around and talk to me and would only sit still quivering when the "food closet" was opened and he was asked to "sit" and "stay."
Mornings are meant to be enjoyed with wet noses, wagging tails and insistent ankle weaving. How can you not like mornings when you have such enthusiastic greetings, even if they are food motivated? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fun Fact Friday: Kyo

Another Friday is upon us and in that honour I have another fifteen fun facts. It's about a guy I haven't talked about in a while, but I found some pictures of him in training and I wanted to write about him today.

Fifteen Fun Facts About Kyo

1. Kyo is a Lab/Great Dane cross I rescued from the Guelph Humane Society in March of 2010.
2. He is all black with a white spot on his chest/neck and his face is a darker brown.
3. Kyo is nicknamed Moose because he is even bigger than Glacier. He doesn't have a bigger head, but is taller and weighs almost ten pounds more.
4. He came to me over weight and unruly, but just six weeks after having him he had dropped twenty pounds and had learned "sit, down and stay." His recall was always great, but I think it was because of his separation anxiety.
5. After moving to SC we were not able to provide Kyo with the structure and schedule he needed. He is a very high energy boy and while I was in Cambridge I was able to attend to his needs, but the move changed everything. He started sliding backwards and all of the training I had done seemed to come undone.
6. After a long agonizing search, we found the perfect place for Kyo. PAALS, an Assistance Dog organisation, temperament tested him and once his elbows and hips cleared, they accepted him into their program.
7. Kyo is an incredibly fast learner and loves to work. Within having him in the "training room" at PAALS for a few minutes,  he learned how to open the dryer without treats.
8. Kyo passed his Canine Good Citizen test in February and we were given the good news that he would be moving into advanced training. This meant he would start learning specific skills to an assistance dog and was able to go out into public for more training.
9. Kyo had some serious counter surfing issues when we got him and that was a habit he held on to. Once while out in training, he counter surfed in the mall. The woman who runs PAALS and is the head trainer said that was a first for her. I'm sure he has given her many more "firsts." He is almost too smart for most people. I am sure he has kept her on her toes the last few months. That is why I loved him.
10. Kyo was the best cuddler. With the exception of Baloo, Kyo was the best. He would lay on his side, drape his front leg over you and tuck his head up against your chest. Best 85 pound teddy bear around. :) This trait actually may help him if he graduates from the program. If he goes out to work with a child with Autism, his snuggling will be important.
11. Kyo is probably about two now. We don't know his birth date or anything really about him. He was dropped off by a family at the shelter because they had three little kids and the dog had grown too big for them. They crated him for over eight hours a day.
12 Remember that counter surfing I was talking about? Kyo once stole six sausage buns off of the counter and swallowed them all whole in less than 30 seconds.
13 Mr. K's introduction to Kyo involved a lot of blood. When I got him home from the shelter, I found a healing wound on the end of his tail. In his excitement that we were home, he wagged it so hard the scab flew off and it covered the entire apartment in blood. We cleaned the tail, wrapped it with some gauze and taped a sock over it until we could get him to a vet. She said he may have to lose the tail if we couldn't get it to heal. Tail wounds, especially on dogs with skinny  tails, sometimes do not heal, but with some sea salt and careful monitoring,  the tail healed very nicely.
14. I am not entirely sure how Kyo's advanced training is going as I have not had an update since February, but if you visit the PAALS website found
you will see pictures of Kyo at the Memorial Day Pool Party and a few others. You have to click on the "gallery" link. There are also pictures of Kyo up on the PAALS Facebook page. The most recent is of him at a bolathon. It's incredible that this dog who was afraid of traffic can now sit in noisy places like that.
15. Despite his short stay in my life, Kyo has left huge paw prints on my heart. He is my inspiration to start a rescue one day. His beautiful spirit and great, goofy self gives me hope for all shelter animals out there. When most people think of Service dog they do not think mixed breed, shelter dog who was rescued at almost one year of age. Even if he doesn't graduate, I know that he will change someone's life for the better.
And as a bonus
16. "Kyo" means "big" in Japanese and Kyo is quite big. So, we changed his name from "Tank" to "Kyo." :)

So there is a brief snapshot of a very special dog. I think of him often and hope that he is able to become a full fledged service dog because I know that working is where his heart lies. Just before he went off to PAALS, I started training him to pick up objects and was absolutely stunned at how quickly he caught on. The head trainer at PAALS was astonished that he willingly retrieved the telephone in such a short period of time. I hope you have time and are able to go and view some of the pictures of Kyo. If and when I get an update, I will make sure to write about it.
Happy Friday. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rained In

So what happens when it's been raining steadily for two days and promises to do so for the next five? Do you:
A. hole  yourself up  at home and hope the dogs don't go too crazy?
B. Do you put on a rain jacket, grab a towel and head to the dog park anyway?
Yesterday Dad and I picked B and decided the dogs needed out of the house. We put on old running shoes, rain proof jackets and loaded Jetta and Glacier up into his truck. We drove around the city a bit and then headed off to the park. The rain was falling steadily, but it wasn't a down pour so we braved the wetness anyway.
Glacier was quite excited when we arrived at the dog park and started making little silly noises. I don't let him get out of the vehicle until his noises are under control because I don't want him thinking squawking will get him his way. Jetta was more confused. She hopped out of the truck willingly, but she didn't show any signs of excitement until we started walking down the gravel path that leads to the "off leash" area.
We didn't stay long, but it was long enough for Glacier to run like the wind and for Jetta to examine her favourite forested area. She goes into that one spot every visit and stays in there for a while just exploring. The rain fell and we walked. The wind blew and still we walked. It wasn't the most horrible weather I've been in and there wasn't any thunder or lightning, so we were perfectly safe. Both dogs ran hard despite the falling rain and even ran down to the  beach and played in the water; as if they weren't wet enough. In typical Jetta Fashion, little Missy decided she should roll in the sand as soon as she thought she was wet enough. Despite only being there for twenty minutes, I think the dogs thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They were both breathing hard by the time we got back to the truck and hopped up happily. Strangely enough, we were the only ones there.
So what do you do when you have two soaking wet dogs who like to get on your furniture? Do you
A. Keep them on leash when you get home and get them to stay in a "down" until they are dry?
B. Do you stop and get them chews at the pet store so that the "stay on the floor" experience is much more enjoyable for all parties?
As you can probably guess, I picked B again. There are many benefits to chewing besides keeping wet dogs off of the furniture-teeth cleaning, use of motor skills-and I wanted the dogs to continue getting stimulation. Plus, the bones were meant to last a few days and could be chewed on other rainy days. We stopped at two pet stores on the way home in search of "beef femur" bones. I like the "beef" ones because they seem to withstand Mr. Jaws of Steel much better, but the first store didn't have any. We checked the second and she only had one. The funny thing was that she had no idea what it was that I was looking for even though  she was the owner. I just had her hand me chews that looked like bones until I found the beef femur I wanted.  She showed me another beef bone of sorts, minus the marrow, and when I asked questions about it like:
"how strong is this?"
"do you know what is in it?"
She had no idea. Why do you have a pet store and sell products that you have no idea what they are. I understand some of the bigger chain stores the employees may not have answers, but this was a smaller "specialty" shop. I guess I assumed she would know. If I owned a specialty pet store, I would know what I was selling and be able to answer questions for customers...but you know, that is just me. Dad read me the label and I determined it was safe for Glacier since the only ingredients were protein, fat, moisture and calcium.
I decided to go with the beef bone thingy and just see how Glacier did with it. It was fairly large and heavy, so I figured it would last at least a few hours.
When we got home I peeled the plastic off of each bone and gave each dog their chew. Those things are nasty-little bits of grease and dried meat get all over your hands-but they love them. I sat on the couch and monitored Glacier's chewing and even though he was able to break two smaller pieces off in the first few minutes of chewing, the bone has lasted until now. I just removed the smaller pieces and let him continue. Glacier and Jetta chewed probably close to two hours, which means my goal was accomplished; they were dry.  I finally fed them their supper and they both took a break. After a nap on the couch,  Glacier was right back at it.
So what do you do when it's raining and your dogs and you are going a bit stir crazy? You wear a rain coat and take them to the dog park. It's more enjoyable than you'd think. Then you stop and find them a good quality chew to help with the rest of the pent up energy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I think I'll Need a Kilt

Remember I mentioned a while back that things have been nuts and that I would update you? Well, here's the update: the very, very long update.
We haven't talked about Scotland for a while because, well, there were a few confusing things going on I was trying to work out and because the wedding was dominating my time and thoughts. Now that things have been mostly rectified, I thought it would be time to fill you in.
First thing is first. We leave less than two months from now. Our flight leaves the United States on August 18th and we arrive in London England on the 19th. When Mr. K booked the tickets I was over the moon. It made things seem so much more real. We've been slowly preparing for the flight and our transfer from London to Edinburgh. Because of having the guide dogs, Glacier and Roscoe, we have to land in London. There are only certain airline carriers that are allowed to enter the UK carrying animals, working or not, and they are only allowed to land in London. That meant a lot of researching to find out which flights we could take  and then determining which ones were cheaper. We could have flown for 750 American, one way into Scotland, but could not take that flight because of the dogs. We did find a decently priced flight and booked the tickets right away to ensure that we got seats on the "bulk head."
Mr. K is six foot five inches tall and Glacier and Roscoe are both large Labradors, so the bulkhead is where we need to be since it has more leg room. Not to mention, the dogs have to wear seat belt/harness thingies during take off and landing. Say what?
Service dogs in North America do not have to wear seat belts during flights, so I was surprised when I saw this in the airline's rules. It's also mentioned in the document explaining how to get your service dog into the UK. Thankfully, the head of training at LDB is originally from Scotland and has put me in contact with the guide dog school there. I have asked them what type of harness we will need and if they could provide us with the names of quality, local vets. I figure if the vets are good enough for their dogs, they will be good enough for ours. On top of all of this, we have to make a vet appointment with our current vet to have the dogs "flea dipped" (make sure they don't have fleas) no less than 48 hours before we leave. That is on my "to do" list for today. We also have to visit them and get the documents showing the results for the dogs' Rabies Tider tests that came back so that the USDA can charge us an arm and a leg just to stamp them. Each stamp is going to cost us 114 dollars. Don't you love governmental systems?
Also, because we are arriving in London, we have to figure out how we're getting to Edinburgh. So far, the loose plan is to stay over night in London Friday and then take a train, guided by Tenie who will come in on Friday via train, back to Scotland. That may change though as she is on a "dig" and does not have Saturdays off. Did I mention Tenie and Carmen are archaeologists? Perhaps Carmen will come get us? But this is after we arrive; back to what we must do before we leave.
I  have to make an appointment with the SC USDA officer dude to put his expensive stamp of approval on the dogs'  documents, which will happen in the next few weeks. I guess the USDA is responsible for ensuring that the procedure was performed correctly and also that the results are satisfactory.
At some point we have to fax off the dogs' Identification cards, showing that they are trained by a regulated facility, and their USDA stamped papers, vet records Etc to another government run organisation, this time based in the UK. They make sure we have all of the documents we need, the correct tests and that our dogs are actually service dogs. I don't think there is a fee for that, but when we land in London, they will check our dogs again and re-vaccinate for Rabies. The one thing that I would like to point out to these people is that that nice tunnel they built connecting them to the main land is a run way for rats. These rats are not USDA approved nor do they have Rabies tider tests done on them. Don't they think the rats could potentially spread the infection that they are so obsessed with charging the pants off of service dog users for? Of course I'll keep my mouth shut as I would like to enter the country.
Besides the dog stuff we have human things to work on. I've been slowly plugging away at the Portuguese passport stuff and will have to go back to Toronto for a third time to get my Identity card,  which basically says I am a Portuguese citizen and then apply for the passport. Thankfully the passport does not need to be picked up in person and will be mailed. This keeps us from having to travel nine hours  one way  a fourth time. This means I can return to Mr. K in SC. I've been staying with my parents the last three months to get this process done. This will allow us to enter the UK without a student or work Visa. There is another aspect of this though. Once I have my Portuguese citizenship, which I have now, I have to register mine and Mr. K's marriage with Portugal. If I don't do this, Mr. K would have to get a Visa to stay in the UK and it would cost us a lot of money. What is complicating the matter is that Mr. K and I were married in the state of Michigan so when I went to register our marriage with the Embassy in Toronto, I was told they couldn't do it because it was from a different country. I have been playing phone tag with people in the embassies in the United States to figure out how to register our marriage and with which embassy. We were married in Michigan but live in South Carolina, so the embassy that I originally was told handled our marriage does not. Did you catch all that?
Other things we've had to deal with is me having to  renew my Canadian passport. Even though I will carry a Portuguese passport, it is highly recommended that I keep my Canadian one. It will make entering Canada or the United States much easier when we come back to visit. On top of that we need to apply for a permit that basically states  that I have the intention of maintaining my American Permanent Residency, just in case we decide to come back to the United States. If we had known that we were moving to Scotland a year ago, we never would have bothered with paying for an immigration lawyer or anything like that, but what is done is done and I am now a Permanent Resident of the United States of America. I think I may have an identity crisis one day.
If that weren't enough, I had emailed Queen Margaret University about a week ago to find out the status of my application. Since I am planning to go to school over in the UK I can apply for "Extended Absence" for the Disability cheque I receive every month. In order to do that, I need to have confirmation from the university in writing to put my application through. I also want to apply for a Student Loan, which thankfully until now I have not needed to do, but again in order to do that I need confirmation from the university saying I have been accepted. Well, I got a reply telling me that my application had been closed in March due to lack of supporting documents. Whoa! Slow down! What?!
I was very confused as I had received an email on May 19th from the Senior Officer in Admissions asking me to resend my Personal Statement as they could not find it. The very first line in the email read:
"We are currently considering your application..."
So, how could it be that my application was closed? I sent off a very confused reply and began searching through my lengthy correspondence emails I had saved between myself, Queen Margaret University and my References. I found the email from May 19th and copied and pasted it into a polite email requesting that my case be investigated further. Then I phoned the next day when I didn't hear from them and was told, quite rudely I might add, that the person I needed to talk to-the same woman who emailed me on May 19th-would not be in the office until this past  Monday. So, I just had to wait.
When I woke up Monday morning and there was still no email-Scotland is five hours ahead-I phoned again and left a voice mail message for her. I had found her name and extension and decided that leaving a communication with her directly would be my best bet. Then I waited and prayed. My mom and I went out that morning to runs some errands-AKA open a new bank account where I wasn't getting charged twenty dollars a month just to have my cheque  directly deposited-and by the time I got home there was an email waiting. I was so relieved when I read that my application was "very much alive" and that I would "hear from them by the end of the week with a decision." Cutting it a bit close with my going back to SC next Wednesday and needing to apply for "extended absence," but at least I am getting an answer and my application is still under consideration.
With all of this there is still the packing-putting clothes and linens into "space saver" bags-selling our stuff-brand new washer and dryer and all of our little things like bread maker and dishes-and sending things off to Good Will-unwanted clothes and small household items we can't sell. There is so much in the details and yet a lot of this we cannot do until closer to our moving date. We need the washer and dryer until at least the 15th of August. Mr. K's car needs to be sold, but we need it so people can drive us to various appointments. We need to get rid of our dishes, but we still need them so that we can eat for two months. It's all a careful balancing act, but we will get it done and the end result will be one of the most amazing experiences a person could ever have. I think the process is a part of the learning experience and it will teach us a lot. I just know once we move to the UK there won't be any more moving for a while. We'll have to look for a place once we arrive, but we have help in Tenie and Carmen and the Guide Dog organisation has offered to show us around. In essence, the next three months will be a bit chaotic, but again it will be absolutely amazing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Glacial Progress

Glacier and I have been back from retraining at Leader Dogs for the Blind for almost two months now and every harness walk we take he just amazes me. We've done a lot of work since our return, including the streets of Toronto a very large city in Ontario, and even though he impressed me there,  last night was just as impressive.
As of right now, my lifestyle does not require that Glacier and I get out and work every day. That said, I am working very hard to make sure we work, if not every day, every second day. I want to keep both of our skills sharp and continue building our communication skills. The way we communicate now is easy and although a sighted person watching may not think so, Glacier is a strong worker. He moves me at the last minute and a lot of people are afraid he'll run me into things, but we are a well oiled machine and last night was a prime example of that.
After my dad and I finished supper we decided to go for a walk. Glacier had gotten some indoor work in the morning as I needed to run a few errands, but I really like him to get street work as well. Each type of work requires different skills and decision making for both the handler and dog. It was a nice evening and so I harnessed up Glacier and Dad put Jetta's leash on her. Both dogs were very excited to get out.
I think what was the most impressive about last night was that almost every lesson we learned at LDB was incorporated into our walk. When leaving my parents' house we walked along the shoulder of the road and had to "indent" at an intersecting street. That would have covered the "sidewalkless or country travel"lecture at LDB, which we covered in retraining. Glacier did an excellent job of keeping me on the shoulder and taking me out just far enough on to the road to get by a car parked along the shoulder, but not too far out that I would have been in danger. I felt his huge head swing past my thighs as he checked the street and then gently maneuvered me on to the road, around the car and then back on to the shoulder. All without any cues from me.
Good dog.
Our next interesting test for Glacier was to merge onto a sidewalk from the shoulder of the road and he did it perfectly. We encountered a branch blocking the sidewalk and he moved me around it with a small step to the right. If you hadn't been watching closely you may not have even seen his movement. Quick and precise. These movements were part of my problem that I learned about in retraining. Glacier's a big dog, but his guiding is precise and unless you know him, his movements may be imperceptible.
After our branch encounter, which I wouldn't have known was there if my dad hadn't told me, we crossed another street and a set of railroad tracks; another LDB class lesson. Leader Dogs are taught to stop at railroad tracks to indicate to their human that there is something on the ground. Most dogs lose this once out of class because most people don't run into train tracks every day. Glacier doesn't quite stop, but slows down kind of pauses and picks his paws up really high before stepping over them. It's this high front paw stepping that indicates to me that there are tracks. The trainers at LDB would prefer that he stop, but I can read his body language and don't mind. He doesn't do this for any other ground obstacles, so we're all good.
We then crossed at a lighted intersection with five lanes of traffic and just as we stepped off the curb, some jerk zoomed right in front of us. Glacier slowed and pushed me back. Again, good dog. We cross the street safely and then crossed again with the light. There was an island in the middle of the road and Glacier did awesome by stopping at the "down curb" of the island before proceeding across the road. This pause let me know there was a step down and also gave me enough time to assess the traffic and determine we had enough time to get across  the second half of the street.
We walked along the very busy street for a while and at one point Glacier took me up on to the grass on the right side of the sidewalk. I was about to correct him, but then heard the clicking and whirring of a sprinkler. I busted out laughing. Glacier had decided the sprinkler spray was an obstacle. As soon as we past the spray, Glacier gave a very sharp move to the left and got us back on the sidewalk. Good dog!
We continued along our path, crossing grocery store parking lots and streets. We worked our way through a residential  area with sidewalks and Glacier's "traffic checking" ability was tested twice more. We were halfway across the street when someone drove in front of us at a four way intersection. I was pissed. The third and final traffic check came at a  "stop" sign and the person who was supposed to stop didn't. There hadn't been any traffic coming and I had determined it safe to cross and about three quarters across the street, the car drove in front of us. I tried not to lose it in order to keep Glacier focused. Dad told me later that he gave the driver the finger. Glacier found the curb, but it wasn't where you would step up on to the sidewalk. I told him, "left" and he followed the shoulder up onto the sidewalk
Oh, Glacier. You are so good. He handled himself well in a stressful situation, with the proper responses and was confident in his harness.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful as we were on the home stretch. No more a**hole drivers and Glacier maneuvered the branch and parked car perfectly on the return trip. He was very happy to find the house and the door, which lead him to having some water and a cookie for his efforts.
Every time I am out with Glacier, I am grateful for our working relationship and that we were able to retrain together. There is not a trip where I don't get down and give him some good loving once we've reached our destination, but there are trips like last night that really blow me away. His work was practically flawless and his enthusiasm for his job is amazing. His "decision making" skills were tested last night and he made great decisions that kept me not only safe, but dry as well. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

"I fought the Law, but the Law Won:" For Now

Recent events had me looking into Ontario laws with regards to animal abandonment and neglect. Lawfully, people must provide their animals a shelter, water and food if left outside: I already knew that. The rest of it shocked me and made me quite angry and frustrated. Let me explain what happened and how the laws, or lack thereof, apply to this situation.
Last evening around six Lindsay phoned me to let me know she had an unknown puppy in her house. Her parents are super intendants at a "geared to income" apartment complex. There had been a pretty bad fight the night before between two tenants and Lindsay's dad discovered a little puppy out on the apartment's balcony. It would appear that the pup had been out there all night and most of Sunday when he finally couldn't take his crying anymore and called the tenant to tell her he was entering and taking the dog until she returned. At that point it was not certain as to the pup's name, breed or age and when the woman was coming home to claim him. Lindsay said she would keep him for as long as was necessary and also said that she would keep him until a suitable home was found just in case the previous owner did not want him anymore.
I went over to meet the mini fluff ball and to talk about options for his future. The instant I scooped him up I was in love. I knew I couldn't take him, considering I have just recently rehomed all of our Miniature Dachshunds, but I wanted to help any way I could. I was angered at the selfishness of both parties leaving this small creature out all night by himself. We're pretty sure he isn't even eight weeks yet because he is missing a lot of puppy teeth and there is a distinct belly button. That made me even more mad-how was he supposed to temperature regulate being so small? It still drops under ten C here some nights and what if it had rained?
We spent the night supervising Glacier, Baloo and Mr. Nameless. He was spunky and full of puppy play. He definitely had puppy breath and little sharp teeth to go along with it. We deduced that he was some kind of Husky mix, but had no idea what the rest of his genetics were that made him such a beautiful gold colour or where the two black spots on his tail came from. We talked about our options and I kept wondering if there were any laws preventing the woman from claiming him. Knowing he was safe for one night, I left it alone and headed home, but when I woke up thoughts were nibbling at the corners of my brain.
What could I do? What was the puppy's best bet? Could we convince the woman to give him up so that we could foster him and find a good home for him?
I started my morning feeding my own dogs and cats. I fed myself and drank coffee, the wheels still turning. The anger was subsiding into action and a clearer mindset. I started making a few phone calls and got some answers. Not the ones I wanted though.
I called the local Humane Society and was informed that there was nothing we could do unless Lindsay's dad wanted to fill out a bunch of statements. This was a lengthy process and it was not a guarantee. The woman even put me on hold to consult with a colleague and the answer was the same: we had to give him back. She told me we could try convincing her to give him up. I kind of assumed that was the case. It wasn't defined enough as abuse or neglect and it would take time and a lot of paper work to even try to get him taken away. Then came the part I was not aware of. Animals in Ontario are considered property. Okay, I sort of knew that, but since they are property if there is an eviction or anything like that and animals are left behind, the landlords/super intendants have to hold onto the animals for thirty days just like the rest of the tenant's property. There was a letter circulated to shelters about two weeks ago telling them that they are not legally allowed to go and remove abandoned animals from evictions or tenants just up and moving out. Their hands are tied.
So what does this mean?
The incidents of animals being just thrown out on the streets will probably increase. What landlords or super intendants are going to look after someone else's abandoned animals for thirty days before surrendering it? There will be more animals dropped off in the "night drop box" probably because that will be the only thing landlords or super intendants can do. The worst thing could be an increase in the unnecessary killing of animals by landlords and super intendants who may not know where else to turn or what else to do. Either way, this is a huge problem.
Our little friend-who we  were later  informed was named Talon-is being returned to his neglectful owner and there is no way we can stop it. The only good thing is that Lindsay's dad is in a position to keep an eye on the situation and if another incident of neglect or abuse occurs, he will file the proper paper work and have the dog taken away. Either  that or the puppy will magically learn how to fly and  disappear off of the balcony.
The scary thing is that is only one case that we know of. I am sure there are hundreds more in our city alone and probably much worse circumstances. What is frustrating is that there is nothing we can do. If I were staying In Ontario I would start a rescue that holds animals for the required thirty days and then would endeavor to find them new homes. It would be a good alternative to dumping them in Humane Society drop boxes in the dead of the night or abandoning them on the streets. But besides that, how do we save the Talons of the world? How can we possibly make this world a safer place for animals? I truly believe that if people learned how to treat animals properly, then we would be nicer to each other. If I could see, I would be a person who pulled my car over and got collarless dogs into the back seat in order to find their home or to foster them until I could find them one. Unfortunately, I don't own my own car and I'm pretty sure Glacier would retire himself if I brought strange animals home every few days, but it brings me back to "what can we do then?!" There has to be something!

Sorry, but better late than never!

 Tenie helps me with my dress down the stairs.

 Mr. K just HAD to bring out the banjo after the ceremony

 Me and my girls, Carmen, Tenie, Lindsay and Kendra (with flower girl, Ava and Ring Bearer Noah)

 Mr. K and I with the wedding party, Matt bribing the Ring Bearer off camera with a quarter.

 The wedding party after Matt successfully bribed the Ring Bearer to join us. 

 My proud parents and I

 Kendra excitedly opened and poured wine in the SUV limo!

 3 of 4 bride's maids. Tenie, Lindsay, and Carmen, they all went to high school together

 Mr. K and I trying to kiss outside the chapel doors, but I just couldn't stop laughing!

 Finally, a kiss!

 Mr. K and I outside the chapel

Me and my girls again! 

Ok, so these are just pictures from Lindsay's camera from outside the chapel. When I can get my hands on some reception pictures, I'll be sure to post them!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bright and Early

I love mornings. In fact, I always have. I find that if I've had a late night and sleep in past 10 I'm usually cranky for the rest of the day. I also need quite a bit of sleep. I think it's partly due to being blind; you are always thinking. Even if you are walking from the living room to the fridge to get a glass of milk, you are concentrating on the floor in front of you with your feet, the sounds you hear and whatever other information you can glean. All of this ensures you are not  bouncing off of walls or blundering over Granny's favourite china tea set. In familiar places the concentration levels are lower and you don't really notice you're doing it, but, if I go back to my point, I need a bit more sleep than the average person. If we go even further back to my main point-I love mornings.
How can you not? The air is fresh and usually there are birds singing. You can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and know that you have the entire day ahead of you.
That is why this morning when I woke up before my alarm was to go off at 7:30 I was quite happy. I laid in bed for a few minutes and then climbed out when Jetta head butted the door. I'm pretty sure she knew I was awake. I started the morning by feeding Glacier and Jetta and my parents' cats, whom they inherited from me, Loki and Sisu. Then each dog took turns going outside and drinking water and I had myself some breakfast.
Mango juice, a glass of milk, eggs/vegetables/bacon     and a SMALL cup of coffee.
Wait. What?  Small cup of coffee?
No, I'm not trying to cut coffee out. I actually don't really drink that much to begin with, if you compare my consumption to other people's. During the week leading up to the wedding I was a coffee drinking fiend, but normally I have a larger than normal cup in the morning and that is it. But this morning's was smaller than normal, and I was up bright and early because I am off to the pool this morning for my second official triathlon training session. Tuesday's workout went so well that I feel confident going back this morning. However, Tuesday's workout also made it obvious that I have quite a bit of fitness work to do.
When I first hopped in the water I couldn't believe how good it felt. I realised that is why I used to love the sport. It's been nearly three years since I've actually gotten in and swam lengths. After I retired in 2008 I had no desire to go near a pool. I didn't want to hear one, smell one or be near anyone who was associated with one; recreational swimmers excluded. I had begun to loathe the politics that had gone along with competitive swimming and in turn it left a very bitter taste in my mouth in relation to all. Things were different on Tuesday. I loved it! I was hoping this would be the case since it is an integral part of training for a triathlon. From everything I have read, swimming is most triathletes' weakness. Not for me; mine will be running.
The water felt great and my body moving through it felt even better. I reached my goal of 1 kilometer and even surpassed it by 100 metres. I felt like I could go further, but as I'm just getting back into it, I stopped there and set the next day's goal for 1.5 kilometres. I am excited this morning to jump in and start. There is not a doubt in my mind that I won't finish.
I haven't done anything fancy; no interval work or speed work. This is about fitness. It's also about getting used to the water again. I'm also trying to change a bad habit that I swam with for my entire career, which may take some work. I used to breathe to one side and every second stroke. This interrupts your stroke and slows you down. I am still breathing to one side, but now focusing on every fourth stroke. It stretches my lung capacity, especially right now, but I think in the long run it will be beneficial. Swimming in open water is going to be much wavier than in a pool and the longer I can keep my face in the water, the faster and further I'll be able to go.
With a new distance goal in mind and a new breathing pattern to practice, I will sign off for now. I hope everyone has a fabulous Saturday and enjoy the part of the day you love most.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Puppy Shower

A puppy what?!
Jess have you completely lost your marbles?
Perhaps, but I threw a Puppy Shower anyway. When I first had the idea I was convinced that I wasn't the first person to think something like that up. I hopped on Google and was astonished at the number of websites dedicated entirely to puppy shower planning. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. We pet people will not stop for anything; even if your friends think you're nuts. Despite some strong opposition from a few people, I went ahead and began getting the Pawty ready.
I found a lot of suggestions that were really neat, but with funds being tight since we are saving to move to Scotland and being short on time-I had to get it in before Tenie went back to Scotland-I decided against some of the more in-depth ideas like actually sending out dog themed invitations. I just let everyone know a few days ahead of time and then made three stops; the Dollar Store, Pet store and Grocery store.
The night before the Pawty I put together Goodie bags for all of the dogs who would be in attendance. I decorated the bags with dog stickers and filled them with:
-1 Air Kong Tennis ball
-1 Granny's Potpie Sausage roll (grain and preservative free),
-20 Vanilla scented poop bags
-20 grain free, home made cookies bought from a local pet store (blueberry, bacon and pumpkin).
Originally I was going to write up a puppy fact sheet and put that in the bag as well, but my mom's printer was not cooperating.
After the bags were complete, Mr. K and I set to work making frozen treats that were also grain free. Beatrice, a rescue dog and now Doc's sister, is allergic to grain and so I wanted to make sure she could partake in the feasting. If you are going to have other dogs to your pawty, check in with their parents to ensure you are aware of any allergies. Mr. K put the treats together since he is much handier in a kitchen than I am and I scurried about getting the ingredients he needed. Here is the recipe we made up for these very easy,  very healthy, very tasty treats.

Ingredients: 1 jar unsweetened apple sauce, cinnamon, peanut butter, 2 bananas , muffin cups
Step 1: mush bananas and unsweetened apple sauce into large bowl
Step 2: fill bottoms of paper cups with peanut butter. You are kind of making a base.
Step 3: pour mushed ingredients on top of peanut butter base- fill cups about half way full.
Step 4: add little amounts of cinnamon to top of each treat. Press cinnamon down into top of mixture if it is fluffing off and flying away.
Step 5: stick tray into freezer for about 12 hours.
Step 6: remove paper and serve to each dog.
(I suppose steps 2/3 can be combined. You can put the peanut butter in and then immediately put the mushy ingredients on top).
I am not entirely sure how many it made. Maybe 2 dozen or so? There were six dogs: they each got one at the pawty and each got to take one home at the end of the night. We also have leftovers waiting for a hot day in the freezer. I also don't have a name for them either-perhaps Doggie Deliciousness will work? LOL
The day of the Puppy Shower I decorated with balloons and streamers. A lot of the sites I read suggested using blue or pink just like you would for a human baby shower, but I used rainbow coloured decorations. I did however put out Whinny the Pooh napkins and blue plastic plates. I put bowls out with the human munchies and hung dog collars from the bowls' rims to make things seem a bit more doggie themed. One website I had looked at suggested using new dog bowls to serve the snacks in and I loved that idea, but dog bowls are stinking expensive. The next time I throw a Puppy Shower I'll definitely use the dog bowl as snack bowl idea.
I also read that in order to set the tone of the party as a pawty the host should hand out pink or blue bandanas at the door, but again since funds were being taken into consideration and I am not handy with scissors and sewing apparel, Mr. K cut out dog bone shapes and we made name tags out of them. He wielded the scissors because again, I'm not so talented in the scissor department.
When the guests started arriving, I handed out name tags and a card to put your guess on for the "guess how many dog treats are in the bag" game. I had put 26 cookies into a ziplock bag and covered it with dog stickers. I instructed the guests that they were not to pick up or feel the bag. Later in the night I circulated a pen, squares of paper and a box for people to write their dogs' names on. This was later used as the Door Prize box. Again, the websites had many suggestions on how to make this more dog themed, like using paw print shaped pieces of paper, gluing a milk bone to the slips of paper and a few others, but my lack of scissor abilities dictated squares.
Besides the door prize and the "guess how many" game, we played a few other games. The first was an obedience game where I made Glacier and Roscoe sit out. I didn't think it was fair for the two guide dogs to play an obedience game. The key to the game was to get your dog to do the cue that was called out the fastest. We had one four month old puppy named Jasper and I made sure to mention that we didn't expect him to be able to do these things. He had only been in his new home for two weeks and was still learning his name. We only did "sit," "down" and "come when called" because a lot of the dogs were new to their people. Balloo has gone to my friend Lindsay and didn't do too badly with "sit" and his recall, but "down" is still elusive. Doc sat and eventually came, but again he's only been with his new family for a few weeks and still learning that he must listen. Beatrice, who has been with her family for the longest and is older-four years old-won that game since she was able to perform all three cues quickly. She took home a collapsable bowl for her efforts.
Our next game was a doggie trivia game where Mr. K and I called out a question and the guests were expected to answer it. Whoever got it right was awarded a point and whoever had the most points by the end of the game took home a prize. I was impressed by Lindsay's knowledge and she ended up winning. It may be because she's been around me the most the last couple of months and I am always rattling off little dog factoids. Baloo brought home a package of tennis balls, which I know will make him a very happy little Dachshund. :)
After the games we all dug into some people grub and I dispensed the frozen treats. Jasper didn't quite know how to eat his and Baloo ended up scoring it after Jasper abandoned his efforts. That Baloo still can eat. I told all of the humans to look on the bottom of their plates and whoever had the puppy sticker won a prize. Tenie was our lucky winner and Jasper took home a package of poop bags and another collapsable bowl. The door prize was drawn and Baloo took home a giant stuffed duck that kind of squawks. The toy is bigger than him, but he loves it and even insists on bringing it to bed. Doc was given a Bottle buddy-a plush toy with a stuffed head, this was a penguin, and its body is a water bottle that can be replaced when it has been squished-for his efforts. Since Glacier and Roscoe were the host dogs they just got an extra frozen treat after everyone went home.
Some websites will tell you not to bring any four legged friends except for the puppy that the shower is being thrown for, but I think it depends on the situation. If all of your dogs are well behaved and socialised, then bringing them is probably the best thing for a new puppy. Our pawty was in Baloo, Doc and Jaspar's honours as they were all in new homes and Jasper was really the only brand new puppy straight from the breeder. I knew that all of the other dogs would enjoy the playing and everyone would be gentle with Jasper, so I encouraged everyone to bring their dogs. If the puppy was absolutely brand new, didn't have its shots and wasn't well socialised at the breeder's, then perhaps leaving the four legged guests at home is a better idea. If you decide to throw a puppy shower, take into consideration your crowd of dogs and the needs of each individual dog before deciding against or for pups being present.
By the time everyone went home, the pups and humans were worn out. My parents' house was a bit furrier than it had been a few hours before, but that is what a vaccuum is for. If you have the option to have your pawty out in a fenced in backyard, that might be a great idea, but my parents' yard is not fenced in. So we all stayed inside and each dog was ran out for bathroom breaks.
I think the Puppy Shower was a success. We had a lot of fun and it didn't cost any more than 45 dollars for the whole thing. Next time I'd love it if the new puppy parent was able to make a wish list and people could get the new puppy things it needs, but we had three puppies of honour and that would have been a bit much to ask everyone to buy three puppy gifts. I've also decided that if Mr. K and I ever get a new dog-rescued adult or puppy-we are having a shower. It's an excellent socialisation tool in a structured environment and it's just a lot of fun. The best part is that everything I have read says that it is not tacky to throw your own Puppy Shower. Unlike human baby showers, it is perfectly acceptable for a new owner to throw his/her own Puppy Shower. So, for all of you out there considering getting a new dog, or maybe you just got a new dog, throw  yourself a Puppy Shower and remember the sky's the limit. Everything I have listed here is just the beginning. One woman asks her friends to come all dressed up, kind of like a Black Tie event, to her Puppy showers and some people glue milk bones to the rims of the guests' plates for effect. Just have fun wit it: I sure did. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yummy In Her Tummy

Gone are the days of grocery bought dog foods; at least in my house. I had a Yellow Lab named Sasha growing up and I have no idea what my parents fed him, but when Jetta my first Leader Dog was issued to me on July 03 2002 I became a dog nutrition nut. I can't say I was very good at it almost nine years ago and I wouldn't claim that I know everything there is to know about dog nutrition now, but I have learned a thing or two along the way and take every opportunity possible to educate other pet owners about the benefits of feeding your animals a well balanced diet. I love the idea of a "raw" diet, but it's not exactly feasible at my life stage right now, so I try very hard to make sure I am buying my dogs a nutritionally sound commercial dry food. The reason I am on this tangent this morning is because I've been looking around for a new dog food for Miss Jetta.
Jetta is now ten and a half and it is time my parents put her on a more suitable diet for a Senior dog. In the last year I have watched Jetta's once slim waist line grow and been disturbed by this. I think I'm a bit more anal about her nutrition since she was a working dog and I feel she deserves the best. One of the stipulations to my parents taking Jetta for her retirement was that they would not allow her to gain weight. Well, that has gone out the window and I'm concerned for Jetta's health and eventually her length of life. She is still "Jetta the Jitter Bug," full of energy and life, but carrying that extra weight around will take its toll and I'm afraid that I'll get a call while I'm in Scotland to tell me Jetta's crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
I also know that she needs a better food because her eyes are incredibly goopy and we are constantly cleaning them. Her ears thankfully are healthy, but her coat is a bit greasy. The food she is on now is an "all life" stages food, but the fat percentage is extremely high at 18 percent. Jetta is only getting one cup of food a day and the reduction in food is hardly helping. With that in mind, I set myself up with a cup of coffee and my Laptop and began the tedious task of trying to find her a more suitable food.
The first problem I ran into is that most of the Senior formulas have chicken in them. Jetta became allergic to chicken back when she was still working and a switch to a fish based food fixed her ear infection problem. The first food I looked at  was Orijen, which is what Glacier is eating. It is made in Canada and the quality of the food is quite good. I would venture to say that it's one of the better commercial, dry foods out on the market. Glacier eats the Six Fish blend and let me tell you, that stuff stinks! At least I know it's real fish. He has done quite well on it, with his poop being normal sized for him, healthy coat, not so stinky dog breath and clean eyes and ears. So naturally, Orijen was my "go to" food, but I was disappointed to see that their Senior's formula had chicken in it. It wasn't the only source of meat, but it was there. I moved on.
I cannot tell you how many dog foods I read the ingredients of and how many times I found chicken. It wasn't the chicken that was a problem anymore though. All of the Senior's foods that I looked at were full of grains like pearled barley, brown rice and one was labeled just rice or wheat. I was glad to see that none of them had corn or corn meal, but Pearled Barley?! Where in the world do dogs naturally get pearled barley from?
It's a common misconception that dogs need a high percentage of carbohydrates to function. This is not so. Dogs are primarily carnivores and although they do need some fibre to clean out their systems,    rice does not have any real benefit. Now, this is my personal opinion and it comes from years of researching, but I am not a dog nutritionist and nor have I attended a dog nutrition seminar, but that doesn't mean that my opinion is any less valid. I once had a pet store clerk try to convince me that since Jetta was a senior that we needed to decrease her protein intake and increase her carbohydrate portions. She stated that she had taken a dog nutrition seminar and when I asked her who sponsored it, it was the three dog food companies that she was promoting. Need I say more?
Back to my pearled barley and chicken problems.
The other thing that bothered me was that a lot of these foods had some sort of meat as the first ingredient, but then after there were five or six different kinds of grains listed. What does this mean? Some of us believe, me included, that dog food companies list each grain individually so that it looks like meat is the primary ingredient. If the grains were to be listed as one grain, then they would be number one, thus making your dog's diet completely carbohydrate/grain driven. Not good.
It's also important to look at the percentage of ingredients; just because it's listed it doesn't mean there is a whole lot of it there. I saw in two of the Senior formulas, including Orijen, that there were probiotics in the food. These are natural organisms that live in the intestine of dogs and humans alike that assist with digestion. They kill bad bacteria and are your friend. That said, the one food that claimed to have this very helpful probiotic only contained 0.000600 percent of it or something ridiculous like that. I lost track of the zeros that came after the decimal point. Basically that means, the amount of it is so low that it really has no benefit for your dog's digestive tract and you better supplement if you want your dog to have that particular probiotic.
This all brings me back to my chicken dilemma. I have ruled out all of the other Senior dog foods on the market that I read about-eight in total-due to lack of nutritional value and chicken ingredients. I could put Jetta on Orijen as it is far superior to anything else I read about, but there is chicken in it like every other one. I could resume my search and compare the fat content in fish based foods and then pick the one that is lower in fat. I could also just try her on Orijen and see how she does since chicken is not the only protein source. My final option would be to pick a "so so" food for her because it is a Senior formula, but then I am feeding her an "okay" food complete with chicken. So, basically my options are:
1. Good food + chicken = see how she does, but risk aggravating allergies.
2. Don't feed her Senior food = find fish based food with lower fat content. Do Senior dogs really need a Senior formula? Continue researching.
3. Feed her Senior formula from "okay" food = may aggravate her allergies and not be any better than what she is on now.
I guess since technically Jetta is no longer in my care, I'll have to pass this by my parents and see what they say. The only problem with that is I feel like I am talking over their heads when I start yammering on about dog health. Well, maybe not over their heads; I just don't think they are interested or think it's as important as I do.
Regardless of what food switch is made, Jetta must lose weight and her exercise regiment must be increased as well. I told my mom yesterday that if Jetta's weight situation doesn't improve soon, I will be finding a way to get her to Scotland because her lack of exercise and over weight issues will inevitably cut her life short.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Triathlon News

Things have been kind of crazy around here  after the wedding, but I will have plenty of time to fill you in this week. The one thing I did want to tell you about right away was the movement forward on finding me guides in Scotland to train with.
In May I spoke with the founder of One with One, a non-profit organisation based In Ottawa Ontario. She was working very hard to help me find guides overseas and she has done a fantastic job. We've emailed a few times and just last week she sent me an email with four contacts in Edinburgh Scotland. Three were people who wanted to act as guides and the other was the "go to" person for the triathlon club located in Edinburgh. Armed with these four email addresses, I started firing out introductory emails and now have officially received a reply back from each person.
The woman associated with the club sent me a sign up form and told me that I should contact the Scotland Triathlon organisation with regards to competing as a disabled athlete. She said the club would help me with whatever I needed, but she was just not sure what I needed. As I'm not entirely sure yet either as this is a very new thing in my life, I will definitely be emailing Triathlon Scotland.
Each guide has emailed me back and two seem very enthusiastic. One has informed me that he has an older tandem bike we can use to train on, but he said racing on it might be a disadvantage when we get good enough to start competing. It's heavy and that would definitely fatigue us quicker and slow us down, but it's a start. The other potential guides have not guided a blind triathlete before, but are very excited to help out where they can. The one guy has actually guided a guy through a downhill skiing race a time or two. I think these skills will come in handy-I'm brave, but definitely not brave enough to race down a mountain. This particular guy's wife also works at a school for the blind and I am thinking she could be helpful as well. He also told me that he's spoken to a couple of swim coaches, including the head coach for Swimmers with a Disability in Scotland. It sounds like he's got his sh** together. I am so excited and thankful to these amazing wonderful people who are willing to risk their necks and dedicate heir time to my crazy dream. :)
With all of these exciting things in mind, I'm hopping in the pool tomorrow. I haven't swam laps in almost three years and so I am going to take things slowly. I am aiming for one kilometer, but we'll see how I feel. I don't want to over do it and then be set back with my minimal training just because I was over zealous.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Wedding Day Part Three: The Reception

As with the ceremony, the reception was just absolutely amazing. The hall was packed with close to 100 of mine and Mr. K's friends and family and the evening would not have been the same without them. I sat on Mr. K's left at the head table with my girls spreading out to my left and Mr. K's guys running the length of the table to his right. The head table was decorated with orange and purple accents and vases of beautiful Gerber daisies. There were little battery operated dragonflies dangling from the front of the table that lit up and orange and purple candles floated in the three centre pieces we had spaced out along the table.
Upon first arriving we had to figure out the logistics of fitting me on the chair with my ginormous dress, but after Tenie scooped me and skirt in, the best man tucked the chair under me and pushed me in. I felt like I was five again. :) Soon after getting situated the food started rolling out and we all were very excited about this.
The meal started with a traditional Portuguese vegetable soup and went from there with Ravioli and meatballs, roasted chicken and potatoes and green beans. Everyone thought the meal was over after the Ravioli and had piled their plates high. It was quite surprising to them when the chicken, potatoes and green beans were served. The food was amazing, as I knew it would be since Portuguese women can cook. We ate like crazy and most everyone enjoyed the three different types of home made wine placed out on every table. Between courses Mr. K and I were whisked away for pictures and upon returning to the table the "tuck and push" chair routine was implemented to get me back into a seated position.
At one point I had to pee since I had been downing water as if I were a dehydrated camel in the middle of the desert. My dress was heavy and it was quite warm in the hall. Tenie and Carmen, being the handy ladies they are, escorted me to the bathroom then Tenie grabbed the front of my dress and Carmen the back. They hiked it up clear up to my hips and carefully backed me into the Wheelchair Accessible stall. I had to figure out a way to get my arms around the ball of dress just to find my underwear. I will say another sharing line was definitely crossed, but these two have been my friends forever and their help was greatly appreciated. I decided that after our little dress maneuvering experience that I should cut back on the liquids.
After supper the traditional speeches and toasts started. Tenie went first and her speech was both funny and sweet. She started it off by giving me crap for holding out on the kisses and so made everyone count to five while Mr. K and I kissed. Mr. K's best man also delivered a very nice speech. He talked about love and how it's something that is deep inside a person and that someone special is who brings it out. He also cracked jokes about my horrible cooking and how I'll need patience because Mr. K can be cranky. My parents welcomed Mr. K to our family, but Mr. K's mom was too shy to make a speech. After the toasts my uncle who was acting as the MC, asked people to come up and tell stories about Mr. K and I. He kicked it off by telling a story about me as a child putting tape over my eyes and racing around a room shouting,
"I can't see! I can't see!" What an interesting child I was. ;)
The dances followed and even though we had to sort of stay in one spot because my dress didn't move so well, Mr. K and I had a very nice first dance. During the Father Daughter dance my dad wouldn't stop talking. I think he was trying not to be too emotional. It was very cute. Again my skirt got in the way, but I would just kick a foot back here and there and it would move out of the way. After the structured dances, all bets were off. The night started with "Ol' Time Rock 'n Roll" and the dance floor was never empty after that.
Mr. K and I were cornered for a few more photo sessions and at one point we did cut the cake. There were two minor problems with the cake-actually, one minor problem and a bit larger one. First of all, we originally were going to cut the cake with the knife my parents used. Well, in the craziness of the day, the knife never made it, so we used a yellow, plastic handled, ordinary kitchen knife. The second and more larger of the problems was something we did not discover until later in the night.
Our cake was three layers, chocolate, mystery layer and lemon; from bottom to top. Our fairy/knight in shining armour cake topper balanced nicely on the top and real roses decorated the layers. When we cut the cake, Mr. K and I got the top lemon layer and didn't really eat it. We were stuffed from supper and my feet were about to break from wearing those gigantic heels, which I promptly removed after the cake cutting. Carmen assisted me by pulling them off and then squishing the bones of my feet between her hands. She went off to get cake and returned to tell me that the mystery layer was *gulp* strawberry! Strawberry?! Mr. K is allergic to strawberries and I don't mean just a little allergic. Thankfully, for whatever reason, he didn't get any of the second layer and was fine. I just had to tell him to stay away from the cake, which I should have done as well because I almost lit myself on fire by nearly backing into the waist high candles burning by the cake table. Did I mention being a blind bride is very interesting? Whose bright idea was it to get a photo of me by flaming things anyway?  :)
Once I was barefoot the world was right again and I danced up a storm. I'm a horrible dancer and often dance away from whoever I am dancing with, but since I was in a building full of friends and family it really didn't matter. I tried to dance with as many guests as possible and talk with as many as possible. During the bouquet toss the song "Another One Bites the Dust" was played and apparently Carmen had no choice about catching the bouquet. I guess when I tossed it over my shoulder, it smacked her square in the face. Nothing says "meant to be" like a flower in the face. The garter toss went a bit the same, but the guy who caught it wasn't assaulted quite as roughly. Tenie's mom's boyfriend caught it and then proceeded to wear it around his head. If that is not an example of the fun we were having, I'm not sure what is.
Close to midnight I surprised my uncle-the MC uncle-by getting everyone to sing him "happy birthday." It was his fiftieth birthday the next day and I didn't want it to go unnoticed. Around 12:30 or so Mr. K and I were tired and ready to go to our hotel room. Tenie phoned the limo and my shoes were crammed back on my feet. We had a few last dances with everyone and then I was stuffed up into the limo for the last time.
The night was incredible. It is something I will never forget and not because it was horrible. It was full of fun-all of us jumping like maniacs to songs like "Home for a Rest"-and love. The atmosphere was the most amazing thing of all. There were all of these people in one room and they were all happy and joyful: it truly was a beautiful thing. My collar bones had dents in them from carrying that heavy dress around all night and Mr. K was quite dehydrated from over heating in his Tux, but as I've said before, I would not change a thing.
This brings me to the end of our wonderful wedding day. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it as much as I have enjoyed  writing about it. Three years ago I was completely contented being a single person, not wanting to ever get married. If I had known that a wedding could be so beautiful, bringing people together in such a fabulous way, I would never have been so resistant. :)
P.S. I promised photos and I will deliver! ...I just have to find some. LOL