Friday, August 31, 2012

Carried Away

There is one thing that I have learned since moving to Scotland and that is: you can never count on the weather. If you leave your home and it's sunny, bring along an umbrella anyway, or if it's raining, you may want to wear layers so you can strip them off if it gets too warm. I've also learned that if you're going to let the weather dictate your life, you will never leave your house. So, yesterday morning when I took Hermione out for her first bathroom break and it was raining, I was fully prepared to have to get wet when walking her later in the morning. It was certainly a surprise when I left the flat a few hours later to feel the sun shining strongly. I had dressed for rain and immediately started peeling off those layers I mentioned because the sun was so warm.
The day before we had some crazy rain, mixed in with some hale and thunder and lightning and so Hermione had had a very short walk in the morning. It's one thing to brave a bit of rain, it's another to go prancing about in lightning and hale storms. Even if I had tried to go out for a walk, I think Hermione would have tried to drag me right back inside. Knowing that her walk had been cut short the day before and that I was heading out later on for a swim and she would have to go into her crate, I thought I'd make our walk a bit longer than usual.
We walked our usual path, meeting a few cyclists, runners and other walkers along the way. The paths are pretty quiet around 10 AM and so I was able to enjoy the sunshine and birds fairly undisturbed. Hermione pranced along beside me, trying to drop her nose to the ground a bit more frequently than normal. After it rains scents really come out for the dogs and she always is  all nose the day after a good rain.
We meandered up to a local park and I stepped off the paved pathway to let Hermione frolic in the grass for a while. When she is on leash walking on the paths, she is expected to walk nicely, but at the park I let her have a bit more fun. She always makes me laugh because she springs after flying objects and when she comes to the end of her leash, she stands on her hind legs looking after her "prey;" be it a leaf, blade of grass or a bug. I've thought that I should invest in a flexy lead, only to be used in a field for play time so that she can have a bit more running freedom.
After our little romp in the park, I wasn't quite ready to go back and after a quick time check, we took a different branch of the path we've never walked down before. I've run down this particular path on occasion when out training, but running it with a sighted guide and navigating it with a white cane are two different things. This path has also just been paved and much easier to use a cane on than some of the older paths. The smooth surface lets the cane just glide over the top, whereas, the more broken, jagged paths catch the cane. These catches often result in shoulder jarring, elbow wrenching, gut stabbing or a combination of all three. This is why I prefer to use a guide dog.
We strolled along, the sun soaking into our skin and/or fur. It was so relaxing that I hardly noticed that we had been walking for almost an hour; and that's an hour one way. As we wandered under yet another under pass-there are a number of these crossing above these paths because the paths used to be the tram tracks-I figured I should check the time. I was supposed to meet a friend to swim at 11:30. Since we had left the flat around quarter to ten, I thought we had plenty of time, but when my phone screeched electronically at me that it was 10:43, my state of relax quickly vanished.
I could not believe that we had been just sauntering along for almost an hour and I hadn't even noticed. It was so enjoyable and peaceful walking with Hermione, with the sun shining and the quiet that only a heavily treed area can bring. Everyone we had met had been in great moods and I guess I had just gotten into a groove, or the zone as we athletes like to call it, and time had just got away from me. I think it's really important to have something that gives you that kind of release.
Prolonged stress  can have so many adverse effects on your body that somewhere along the way, it's important to find an activity that just lets you breathe and forget what time it is. I think, humans on a whole and I'm not excluded from this, are really good at thinking ahead and being worried about what's happening next. As opposed to just being in the moment and really experiencing it. This theory could be applied to many aspects of life; just living in the moment and really experiencing it because at the end of the day, it's our experiences that we have left and we are the ones who shape them and take them for what they are. Yes, I was just walking my dog. Certainly it is not life altering, but that feeling of just living in the moment and experiencing it was so incredible and definitely not done on purpose. I'm surely not a great philosopher, nor have I been trained in some specialised field of psychology, but sometimes it's really refreshing to actually experience life instead of leaping ahead; especially when it just sneaks up on you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Little Favor?

Hello to all of the dogs and cats out there who somehow manage to get their paws on their humans' plastic moneys.
I am here to ask you afavor...
I have been, and it's been for a while, thinking about opening an online store with all kinds of great things for you...the dogs and cats. There are a  few human things too, but mostly for the important beings in the household. I have recently discovered a retailer that has some really cool stuff and was wondering if, you have some time, could you  go internet browsing on the site and look at all of the fantastic things for sale?
Then, I would appreciate it if you could email me at:
glaciers DOT goodies AT gmail DOT com
and let me know what a few of your favourite things are. I.E., things that you would buy on a regular basis. And then, in a different list, the things that you absolutely love, but would buy as a very special treat to yourself. I  also want to know about a few products that you would absolutely not buy and why.
Ssshhhhh...don't tell the humans. They may get protective of their plastic moneys.
Anyway, thanks in advanced for your help.
Happy browsing.

The shop can be found

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"A Bit Odd"

Today's post can be found on my other blog that is dedicated to my triathlon/marathon training. The post can be found
It is just a small blurb about the Paralympic Games opening ceremonies tonight and how it's "a bit odd" not being there. If you can, make sure you tune in to watch the second largest sporting event in the world.
Happy reading and watching! :)
PS: We were approved to foster and now we are waiting for our first Greyhound. :D

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can't Contain Myself

Two posts in one day! Should you be so lucky?
Because I know you are all sitting at home waiting in eager  anticipation for the next literary masterpiece that I shall bestow upon ye.
Okay, anyway...enough of my smart a**ness.
I wasn't going to write about this until tomorrow because it's not happening until later today. Also because then I'd have more details for you, but I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself.
Later this afternoon, Mr. K and I are getting a home visit from the Greyhound rescue we've been in contact with. They are coming in to get to know us and to see if we'd be an appropriate foster home. Other than that, I have no other details. Do you see why I should have waited? There's not much to tell you. Although the person checking on us did say,
"I'm not coming over to see if you dust or Hoover. I'm just coming to get to know you.
*Vocabulary Note: for North Americans, "hoovering" refers to "vaccumming" here*."
At least the woman has a sense of humour. Actually, everyone I've been in contact with have ben super friendly and quite funny. I really hope we get approved because I think this rescue would be a good fit for us and vise versa.
I have had a few people give me some logical and sound advice on perhaps holding off on the fostering, such as, getting Hermione into a reliable state before my new working dog comes home and that I am starting university in the fall, but Mr. K and I talked about it and think now is a good time.
Well, maybe we've convinced ourselves it's a good time. Or more accurately, I've convinced myself it's a good time. We're both incredibly excited-if you can't tell-and I think this will be a great experience for us.
Now, all we have to do is wait for our home visit and hope that we are what good fosterers are made out of.

Our Little Jumping Bean

Hermione has always been a happy, bouncy girl. She loves to hop about, especially when she is hunting bugs. So, she's been appropriately nicknamed, "Jumping bean," or "Bean" for short. Despite her breed's supposed couch potato status, Hermione has quite a bit of energy. However, a few training sessions,a good walk or a game of fetch in the flat and she usually has a good nap. Of course, she's still a puppy and gets into things she shouldn't, but the last couple of days I've seen a real improvement in her behavior.
*Knocks on wood*.
To be honest, she's a fairly easy puppy to deal with. The move from our old flat into this one put her a bit off balance though and it's taken her a while to settle in here. In that period of time, she's been much more excitable than normal, refusing to settle down when people come over to visit or just attempting to destroy things. It was a bit of a trial, but with some routine, training and those walks, she seems to be coming around. Yesterday we had two different groups of people over and she settled on the couch for most of the visits and relaxed. Sure, she had her little, "yay you're here!" hopping around, but she was more satisfied to sit on the couch and chew on a nylabone instead of running around and getting into everything. We've started a few new things in our training regiment and I think they've helped.
First of all, I've been asking her to "wait" at the tops of stairs and doorways and then giving her a "forward" when she is allowed to go through. It's an exercise in self control and she's caught on really quickly; no treats needed. She's happy to perform these tasks for praise and also for the reward of getting to go where we are headed to.
Yesterday we also started "off" and "on." I have done some basic "off" with her before if she puts her paws up on me when I'm eating or if she decides that climbing on to the kitchen table from the couch is a good idea. She's responded really well  to it in an informal setting, so I thought that it was time to introduce it to formal training.
We walked over to a park close to our flat and we began to practice "off" and "on," using a park bench. There weren't a whole lot of people around as it was a rainy Monday morning and she did really well. I was impressed that she was even willing to perform the cues even though the bench was wet. She seemed to take a liking to "on," but I think it's because it put her up closer to me and the kibbles I was using as rewards. We practised the cues for less than ten minutes and then headed home. The rain had started to really come down and you get better results when training in shorter sessions anyway.
I've also been working with her in public spaces. She usually gets so excited it's hard to refocus her and she tries to do her crazy, "there's a spring in my butt" jump. There is a cafe just down the street that we love and they allow dogs. So, it has become our training grounds. I was really impressed with Hermione the other morning when a person sat down beside us and even though she went to hop over to him, a quick, firm "no" from me brought her back. I asked her to "sit" and her bum instantly went down; a very big change. Usually she needs food rewards to perform "sit" or "down," but it seems that "sit" has gone beyond that now. I was even more impressed when she sat quietly, just looking out the window (AKA puppy TV) while I ate breakfast. She didn't even try to go back over to the man, just feet from her.
It would appear that our little Jumping Bean is starting to grow up a bit. I don't ever want her enthusiasm for life to dissipate, but there is a time and a place for that and being able  to get herself back under control when it is time to chill out is great. It's definitely a work in progress, but all training is. Learning should never stop whether you are human or a dog.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going grey

No, not me. Just because my 29th birthday was a few weeks ago does not mean that I'm the one "going grey." Nor is Mr. K, or at least, I don't think he is. I am blind after all. He could have a full head of grey hair by now and I would never know. I wouldn't be surprised if he did, having to put up with me and my constantly buzzing about like a busy bumble bee.
 Roscoe has a few grey furs, but who wouldn't living with us, and Hermione is way too young to be "going grey." So what in the world am I talking about?
Can you guess?
I'll give you a minute...
Do you know?
Well, I'll tell you:
Mr. K and I have decided to open our home to X-racing Greyhounds. We are going to become foster parents. Well, as long as we pass the home check and all the jazz, we'll become foster parents.
I'm so excited.
I'm not entirely sure how all of this happened. It was all sort of quite quickly. I had contacted a Greyhound rescue based in Scotland a while back to ask if they needed volunteers; it was about the same time I had gone out to visit that Greyhound rescue. The one that had left a lot to be desired. Anyway, I hadn't heard anything and then just a few days ago I received a call asking me if we'd be interested in fostering. I guess they really need foster homes and I told Mr. K that the volunteering they really needed was foster parents. I figured he'd be opposed. He really does humour me with all of my crazy   dog stuff and with Glacier having just left, I thought he was good with just Roscoe and Hermione. He surprised me when he said he'd be okay with fostering. We had a short chat about how it was a good time since I don't have a guide dog and who knows when I'll actually get one. Fostering has always ben something I've wanted to do, but haven't because I was worried it would negatively impact my working relationship with my current guide dog. Without that relationship to worry about, I can be free to foster.
Another perk to fostering is that we can see how Hermione does with new dogs in her home. Eventually, I will get a working dog and it may be good for her to have other doggie companions between now and then. She'll have to share me with a guide dog, and although she did that with Glacier, since he's been gone, she's been the object of my attention even more. It may be shocking for her in six months to suddenly not have me all to herself any longer.
So, if all goes well, we shall have "the world's fastest couch potato" moving in at some point. I am really looking forward to being able to give my time and effort to a cause that I feel strongly about: re-homing dogs...especially X-racers. I won't go into all of the politics of racing and the treatment of some dogs and all of the unhappy stuff about racing because, really, the important part is that if we are able to foster we are improving the lives of these great creatures one dog at a time. And that, is amazing. Just think, by opening your home to a rescue dog you can make a difference.
I've always felt like I've had to sit on the sidelines with regards to rescue. I've tried countless times to volunteer with organisations and for one reason or another, it's never worked out. Providing safety for dogs is something I get all fired up about and until now, I haven't really been able to get involved. I thought in order to actually rescue dogs, I'd have to open my own rescue organisation and that seemed like a far fetched idea. However, that is no longer the case and I am so excited about finally giving a dog a second chance. I won't go so far as to say that I'm rescuing them from horrible life or death situations, but it's a second chance in that they will be better prepared for home life with a family and thus more adoptable. Again, to me, that is just so incredible. I am also very excited to work with this particular rescue as they seem very open, considerate and definitely have the dogs' best interest at heart.
So, fingers  crossed that we "go grey" sooner rather  than later.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Health Checks

Yesterday was Roscoe's six month check-up. When we signed on with the Guide Dog Organisation, one of the requirements was that all of the working dogs were examined by a vet every six months. Since the organisation is fronting the bill, I don't really mind. Plus, I actually think it's a good preventative measure; a way to catch a problem before it gets out of control.
We have just switched vets since our move and yesterday was our first exposure to the new practice. Mr. K and I were both impressed by the vet's personal skills and his "bed side" manner. Since moving to the UK we have both found that most of the vets we have been in contact with have sort of had a "car salesman" kind of feel to them. The last vet we were with always wanted to give Hermione vaccines and procedures that we deemed unnecessary. For example, they wanted to give Hermione the Kennel Cough vaccination when there is a very low chance of her contracting Kennel Cough. Not to mention, based on her reaction to vaccines, I want to avoid putting foreign things into her little system as much as possible. She was also only twelve weeks at the time and had just had her last set of vaccinations. Adding another foreign body that she would have to fight off seemed a bit much. Despite my protests, they kept trying to force me into booking an appointment for the vaccine. As I would try to leave, various members of the staff  would ask me when I was coming back in for Kennel Cough. They also attempted to convince me to have it done right then.  They even phoned to ask when we were coming in for Kennel Cough. I felt cornered and it really put a sour taste in my mouth with regards to that particular vet practice.
 They were also very pushy about microchipping her. I think microchips are a great idea, and we plan on getting her one, but it is my personal belief, from research I have done and understanding puppy growth, that it is better to wait until the puppy stops growing before inserting the microchip. I just feel more comfortable inserting something into her muscles once they have stopped developing. Again, just my personal feelings.
They also were very pushy about us bringing her in for her six month check-up and a whole bunch of other appointments that they tried to convince us she needed. I think perhaps it was their approach more than anything. Other vets we contacted when we were planning on moving, gave the same impression of trying to sell us something. So, it was a relief when we found this new practice.
We made it to our appointment on time and did not have to wait to be seen. The vet checked Roscoe over; ears, eyes, teeth, heart Etc. He told us that he was very impressed with Roscoe's condition and was surprised to find that Roscoe was five and a half. He basically told us that Roscoe is perfect and he said with regards to diet, "don't stop what you're doing." It's always nice to get that kind of confirmation when you work so hard to ensure your dog is getting what he needs to be healthy.
I guess my once a week grooming schedule, purchasing of quality food and making home made treats (and monitoring treat intake of course), has really paid off. Both the vet and vet nurse thought Roscoe was a very handsome boy, which as Mr. K pointed out, we had nothing to do with, but that is still nice to hear.
As for Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia: he took some time to look in her mouth even though the appointment wasn't for her. Mr. K and I had become concerned that her puppy canine teeth had not fallen out when her adult ones came in and the vet confirmed that that was certainly the case. He said it's not worth knocking her out just to remove the teeth, but when she is spayed, they will take the puppy teeth out then. We had a frank conversation about spaying Hermione and he said that it was their practice to usually spay the females after they had had one season, but that if it was going to be an annoyance for us that he would do it whenever we wanted. Again, I liked that he presented the facts and let us decide. Whereas, our previous vet told us that things had to be done a certain way even if we knew differently.
The vet explained that there is some anecdotal "proof" that spaying a a female dog after her first season cuts down on the possibility of her becoming incontinent. He emphasized "anecdotal" and did not try to push us either way.
I think we will try to have her spayed before then because it will be extremely inconvenient for us to have a dog in heat.
As for when we have the surgery done: we walk her down to the vet's office close to us, the vet drives her to their downtown location and then returns her at the end of the day, whereupon, we pick her up. No fussing with the bus system, no trying to get her to her appointment many miles away. Our previous vet had a downtown location as well where Hermione had to go for her little emergency, but we had to figure out how to get her there and how to retrieve her in the morning. With this vet practice, all of that stress-and it is quite stressful when you can't see-is eliminated. He also said to bring Hamish along on that day and he will go in for neutering at the same time. Again, very convenient for everyone involved.
Our new vet seems to be just what we're looking for: the perfect fit. And, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that the important thing? Perhaps the "car salesman" feel of the other places was all perception, but at the end of the day, I am the paying customer and I want to feel comfortable with the service I am receiving. I don't want to feel like someone is trying to sell me unwanted or unnecessary products and it is important that I feel that   my animal's best interest is what is actually their primary concern.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Up, Up, UP!

Yesterday afternoon Tenie, Carmen, Roscoe and I climbed Arthur's Seat. Hermione was not invited as there is no way her little puppy legs would have gotten her to our destination. Arthur's Seat is a gigantic dormant volcano that can be seen for miles around Edinburgh. We can actually see it from my flat window, despite us being kilometres away. Since arriving in Edinburgh, I have wanted to climb the summit, but we've just never had the chance yet. So, when Tenie said it was on her bucket list of things to do before leaving Edinburgh, I was very excited.
We had a tasty lunch at The Haven, a little cafe that has the most amazing food, and then hopped a bus downtown. Roscoe came along as a non-working dog and I think he thoroughly enjoyed his time. The only unpleasant part of the whole excursion was this crazy, little yappy dog on the bus to Arthur's Seat who was snarling and snapping at people, babies and Roscoe. Of course the owner wasn't interested in doing anything about it and just kept saying, "oh, he's harmless. He's just a puppy. He's just noisy."
That dog was not a puppy and there is a difference between being noisy and lunging for babies' faces. I'm surprised the bus driver didn't ask the woman to get off the bus. I would have been mortified if any of my dogs behaved in that manner.
Tenie took Roscoe and walked him so that Carmen could guide me. The 255 metre above sea level climb took us just under an hour and it was quite enjoyable. The sun was out for the most part, which is a rarity in Scotland, and there was a light breeze. There were a lot of other people climbing the peak, including a tour group from Italy who cheered when each of their members reached the top.
The climb itself had various parts that proved challenging in their own right. The first part wasn't bad, just a gentle slope with stairs cut into the side. We then walked along a road that gradually climbed upwards. It was after this road that the part that demanded a bit of fitness came along. It was a fairly steep incline up a grass covered hill. It was here that Tenie unleashed Roscoe and he took off like a shot, running as fast and as hard as he could. He charged right over to some Australian tourists and introduced himself enthusiastically. They loved him and rough housed with him a bit. He then found his next victims; some people having a picnic. He tried to take a sandwich and so he went back on leash for the rest of the climb up, which was fine because after the grassy slope, the terrain turned quite rocky and we didn't want him to injure himself running about like a maniac.
We picked our way over rocks and used man made foot holes to propel ourselves up. In places the rock was quite smooth and finding the correct place for a foot became tricky. We just went slowly and I felt with each foot before planting it. Tenie and carmen were also good at watching where my feet were going and would often help by saying, "move left" or "right and up a bit."
As we got closer to the top, the rocks became even smoother and I found myself doubled over feeling with my hands before stepping forward. There were sheer drop offs on one side and so I thought this style of climbing was safer.
Once at the top, we stopped for more photos and then found some weather smoothed stones to sit on and have the oatmeal cookies Tenie had brought along from The Haven. It was amazing being up so high. Of course I didn't get the benefit of the view, but you could hear noises from down below that you otherwise wouldn't have heard due to noise pollution. For instance, there was a marching band playing lively tunes that kept floating up to us. At one point, it began to sprinkle, but the sun was still out and going down would have taken another hour, so we weren't in a hurry to go anywhere.
After hanging out at the top for a while, we slowly made our way back down, carefully picking our path. The climb down included a lot of me squatting and sliding from one rocky out cropping to another, but once we made it back to the grassy slope, it was smooth sailing. We let Roscoe run again and he bolted straight for another tourist, but thankfully she was excited to see him. She took a lot of action shots of him bounding through the tall grass and running on the straight stretches. We were all very impressed by his athleticism. He definitely had to be brushed free of the grass seeds that attached themselves to him during his mad galloping.
The bus ride home was not nearly as eventful as the one to Arthur's Seat and when we got home, we all pretty much flopped on to the couch and didn't move. Roscoe was still tired today, sleeping in late and napping for most of the day. If only Hermione could have come and been that sleepy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hermione: the Great Fluffy Hunter!

As most of you know, nearly from the first days Hermione was allowed outside to start learning how to potty like a big girl, she has been delivering me very strange and sometimes scary as Hell gifts. There have been so many incidents of her carrying in rocks, sticks, branches and chunks of concrete that I have lost count of how many times I've had to stop her at the front door, check her mouth and say,
"Hermione, drop it."
She just can't help herself. If it blows in the wind or sticks up out of the ground, you can pretty much guarantee she is going to try to carry it away and attempt to sneak it in the flat. There have been a few times where I've been half asleep or pre-occupied and she's managed to get an item or two past me: like the fully intact banana she brought up for breakfast one morning, or the disgusting tampon she smuggled into my bed. She's brought home a vine from grapes, completely stripped of fruit; a hunk of soggy bread; leaves; flowers; feathers...the list could go on and on. So, it's no surprise that last night she added one of the oddest things to her ever growing  treasure list.
Before purchasing Hermione, I did hours and hours of research on small breed dogs, trying to determine what breed would suit Mr. K and I the best. When I read up on the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel I thought the breed sounded exactly what we were looking for. All of the websites agreed that the Cavalier is the ultimate lap dog and fantastic companion. We were sold. The problem is, none of the websites warned us that these little toy dogs still maintained some very strong hunting/seeking instincts. In the last month, Hermione's performed and held two perfect points without any training. Sure one of those points was at a bug-the other was at a bird-but the form was perfect regardless.  She seeks and destroys bugs with a relentless ferocity and she most certainly is going to murder her favourite stuffed bear with her vicious death shake.
Lap dog, my butt!
Last night, Hermione demonstrated her honed hunting skills yet again, delivering one of the most strangest prizes.
When returning from the last potty trip of the night, I noticed that Hermione was just a bit too eager to get back to the flat. This is a sure sign that she has something she shouldn't. Upon inspection, it was confirmed that she had something clenched in her little chompers, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
"Hermione, drop it." I intoned and she spit her coveted prize on to the hard wood floor. It hit with a strange thunk; a sound not resembling a stone, chunk of concrete or a stick. I had her sit and began searching the floor in the vicinity of where I had heard the foreign object fall and was completely appalled wen my fingers struck something soft and slimy.
"Oh! Babe!" I shrieked from the hall.
"Hermione...!" I spluttered.
"She...erm, I think she got a snail!"
At least, I hoped she had got a snail. I didn't want to run down he list of my other options of creatures that were slimy and squishy. Mr. K said that he wanted to see this strange slimy critter, so with Hermione's collar in one hand and a clean poop bag in another, I scooped Mr. Slime up  and brought him into Mr. K's office, where I promptly turned our visiter out on to his desk top.
Mr. K, not having much more vision than me-which is nothing-gently, and bravely might I add, poked and prodded the little guy. After his thorough inspection, he confirmed that Hermione had indeed carried in a snail and miraculously had not injured him. As we sat and discussed the oddity of a puppy carrying home a snail, Mr. Slime started poking his head out of his shell in order to explore the foreign world he had just been so rudely plunked into.
Not knowing anything at all about snails, but knowing that he was uninjured, Mr. K and I decided that Mr. Slime should be returned to his natural habitat. I had a vague idea of where Hermione had probably snatched him from and so back outside I went, proud puppy bouncing along in one hand and slimy snail clutched  safely inside a poop bag in the other.
Mr. Slime must have decided that the bag was safe because by the time I got him back to approximately where he had come from, he had attached himself rather firmly to the inside of the bag. I think me shaking him out was more violent than his trip in Hermione's mouth. He plopped out on to the dirt with a "thunk" and after making sure he was upright, Hermione and I  headed back home; to bed where we were supposed to be going in the first place.
When I relayed our adventure to the owner of the little cafe down the road-where we go pretty much every day-she told me that after it rains here, all of the snails come out. It all made sense, but I hadn't even thought about snails just hanging out where Hermione could make them her midnight snack. Either way, "all's well that ends well" and I think this slimy situation ended well, with the snail back outside and Hermione and I  snug in our own beds...snailless.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Good Deed of the Day Gone Stinky

This morning I woke up much earlier than the rest of the people in my flat. I say "people" because Tenie had come over for dinner last night and some massage therapy and didn't feel like walking home. So, she stayed the night. Hermione seemed anxious to be up this morning, so I got up fed her and Roscoe and decided to take them for a walk along the cycling path. I took Mr. K's cane since mine still has not arrived, and headed out with the thought that I'd let Roscoe run leash free. That way, I could use the cane, keep Hermione under control and Roscoe could still come along; tiring him out for Mr. K.
It wasn't particularly early-around 10-but I figured the paths would be empty since most people would be at work during this time and the kids are going back to school tomorrow. I've walked this path probably close to a hundred times now and it's not all that busy during the mid morning. I don't worry about Roscoe off leash as he's quite friendly, well socialised and knows to stay out of the path of cyclists, but his over enthusiastic greetings seem to be a bit much for the majority of the UK population. It's something that I've noticed before and still can't figure out: dogs here-and I am generalising-are not expected to greet people while they walk by or to play with other off leash dogs.
Personally, I think it's impressive that people can walk down a path and their dog, for the most part, ignore the other dogs on the path. The trend in North America seems to be that dogs meet and greet others around them and then carry on their merry way. Not so much here.
The first part of our walk went pretty well. Roscoe greeted a few other dogs, but usually stuck near me. I think he felt responsible for me even though he wasn't working. He's not my guide dog, but he takes himself very seriously and he shows signs of concern for my safety as well as Mr. K's. There would be times when Glacier and I would fall behind, or get cut off from Mr. K and Roscoe due to crowds, and Roscoe always stopped and waited for us without Mr. K even needing to say anything. So, I think this sense of responsibility may have been at play during our walk this morning.
He found a few dogs to say hello to whose owners didn't seem to mind and he stopped to greet a family with a small child. He is a larger Labrador, but incredibly gentle and the parents took the time to help the child pet Roscoe in order to demonstrate that big dogs are ice.
As we carried on, I was beginning to become concerned at the amount of people on the path. I thought about leashing him, but we were at least a half an hour's walk from the flat and fighting with cane, Hermione and Roscoe just wasn't something I was excited about. We continued on a bit further, Roscoe running ahead and always returning to see where I was; Hermione hopping along on her leash. We came across a man with another Black Lab who seemed a bit put off that Roscoe wanted to play with his dog. He explained that his dog had been attacked on the weekend by a Pitbull and that his ear was very injured. I called Roscoe back to me and had him sit, waiting for the man and his injured but leash free dog to get past us.
I think when out using public spaces such as those, people have a mutual responsibility to be respectful of the other people and/or animals. I didn't mind having Roscoe sit and wait until they had passed, but I think it was the man's attitude that sort of irked me. He acted as though that because his dog was injured, all other dogs should leave him alone despite him running free and engaging the other dogs in play. If Roscoe had some sort of injury I was concerned about, or Hermione for that matter, they would stay on leash to minimize any damage and accidents that could occur. It's not someone else's fault if my dog is injured and I let him/her run free and their dog wants to play with him/her.
Anyway, maybe he felt badly about being sharp because he told me to make sure I stayed on the pavement when walking because there were lamp poles in the grass that he didn't want me to walk in to.
After our little encounter with Mr. Grumpy/Helpful, I started to rethink my overly ambitious good deed of the day. As we moved away, I released Roscoe and he took off like a shot in the direction I was walking. He had been panting pretty hard and I guess I shouldn't have been shocked when I heard a gigantic sploosh from the other side of the path. All I could do was laugh. Here I was, trying to do a nice thing for Mr. K and the one thing he hates the most happens; smelly, wet dog.
I called Roscoe back, but by that point there was nothing I could do. He was soaked from the top of his head right down to his tail. I don't know if he fell in or dove in, but he was dripping wet and so stinky.
Between my walks with Hermione and some of my runs, I have been down that branch of the path numerous times, but I was completely unaware that there was water down there. The worst part wasn't that he went swimming, or wading or whatever he did, the worst part was the smell. The water must be stagnant and so the stench coming off of Roscoe is something else.
After his little dip, I put his leash on and just dealt with the difficulty of using a cane and walking two dogs at once. I put Roscoe's leash around my waist and that seemed to make the whole thing a bit easier. Considering how badly he smelled and how wet he was, I wasn't about to let him go running down the path to greet people and get them soaking wet and stinky. Goes back to that mutual respect thing.
Luckily, Roscoe dries quite quickly and he was practically dry by the time I got home. I toweled him off and laid a towel out for him to lie on. He still stinks something fierce and I haven't quite decided what to do about that. I could either give him a bath, which I really don't want to do. He sheds so much and bathing him in our bath tub would be one giant pain. I've also thought about running over to the Azda nearby and picking up some dog specific anti-bacterial wipes and dry shampoo in the hopes of getting the stink off of his fur; and whatever is causing the smell.
Whatever I decide to do, something needs to happen because my good deed of the day has gone very stinky.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Evil Stick

Glacier has been officially retired for ten days now and although I wasn't working him much before his retirement, I had not been out with a white cane in nearly ten years. Up until now, I haven't had the need to go anywhere that would require me to venture out on my own, or perhaps more accurately, I avoided things that required me to venture out on my own, but Sunday morning I was scheduled to go for a run with a local running group and I didn't want to start missing practices just because I was terrified to leave my flat without a dog or sighted guide.
So, I mentally steeled myself as I left my flat, giving myself a pep talk and convincing myself that this was a necessary evil. I reminded myself that this was the first walk without a dog I'd done on my own in a very long time and that there was a lot of room for improvement. Knowing that I can always improve upon something is very encouraging to me and so I gritted my teeth and stepped out my front door; wanting very badly to turn around, go back inside and text my guide runner to say that I wasn't coming.
Two things kept my feet moving though: 1. Finding guide runners has been extremely difficult. If I start blowing them off, especially in this early stage, it is highly possible they will think I'm not serious/interested and will move on.
2. fear has never stopped me from doing anything before, why should it now?
For those people who are not optically challenged, I'm not sure how to explain the difference between working with a dog and a cane. For those of you who have used either one of the other or both, you may be able to relate. But for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me try to clarify a bit.
Guide dogs are impressive creatures who, at the end of the day, are still dogs. It is important to know that I do not say to my dog, "dog, go to the store" or "dog, take me to the gym." That is not how things work. If I am setting out, I need to know where I'm going in order to give the dog cues where to turn, which streets to cross and what doors to find. The dogs do the work of making sure I avoid obstacles, line up straight with curbs and get me across the street from one curb to another. In using a dog for the last ten years, I have lost some of the skill of walking directly from one curb to another without drifting one direction or another and this is where my mistake came from.
I set out at a slow pace, thinking that if I hurried I would be more likely to make mistakes. I also left with a lot of time to spare to account for any mistakes and for my much slower pace. As I walked along my street, my confidence began to rise and I started to relax a bit. I began to talk myself into the fact that I could definitely do this; I had to do this.
As I neared the end of my street, I quickly realised that something was wrong. The traffic noise was in the wrong spot and I could hear cars driving over cobble stones. Somehow, somewhere I had drifted down a side street. If I had gone where I should have, there would be no cobble stones and the cars' noise should have been coming from my right. I began to feel the first  flutters of panic begin to rise in my stomach. I took a few deep breaths and turned back around. If worst came to worst, I'd just have to back track. The problem was, at that particular moment, I didn't know where I had gone wrong. As I turned myself around, an older gentleman approached me and asked if I needed help. I must have looked completely freaked out because as I explained where I needed to go, he said he'd just walk me to that crossing. As he guided me along, we began to chat and I explained that this was my first walk without my guide dog. A sudden and surprising throat tightening made me stop as I felt the tears well up.
I missed Glacier. I missed working with a dog who wanted to work. I was more terrified than I had allowed myself to believe.
The gentleman got me to the crossing and I let him chat on, trying to calm my frayed nerves. I was closer to home than to the gym, maybe I should just go home?
My stubborn pride would not let me and the thought of potentially losing a guide runner. It was to be our first run together and I didn't want her thinking I was flakey.
He joked that his wife would think he had run off as he guided me across one more crossing. He teased me that I should have picked a route that was just a straight line and his good natured humour released some of the tension I was feeling. I thanked him and promised him that I would be fine from there on in. My voice sounded confident, but I didn't believe myself. At least he did and he went back the way he had come, ensuring that I was facing the right direction first.
I carried on, making one crossing easily, but completely freezing at the second. There are tactile bumps at the corners to indicate where to cross and for some reason, I had it in my head that they were shaped like a square and I was looking for the central spot in order to align myself with the curb across the street. I quickly found out that they are more cone shaped and until I figured that out, I felt the panic returning. I stood for what felt like an eternity on one corner debating if I was supposed to cross there or not. I even thought about going home, but there was just as much likelihood that I'd get lost on the way home as there was if I finished my journey. So, I went forward.
I crossed a few more streets, but because I was so frazzled I forgot to count the streets and ended up passing the entrance to the gym. I walked a bit past it and found a wide open area. It was possible that I had passed that open area with the dog and not known it, but my commonsense told me that it may be  the parking lot for the gym. So, back I went and was relieved to find I had made  the right decision as I walked down the sidewalk to the gym's entrance.
Eventually, I found the gym door and went in to find my guide waiting for me. I was just so relieved to have finally arrived that I could have just sat down and not gone on the run at all. I checked the time as we passed through the security gate and was shocked to discover that it had taken me a half an hour to walk to a place that should have taken less than fifteen minutes. Good thing I had given myself the extra time: at least I had made it in time to go for the run after all.
The physical activity of pushing myself over the 5 kilometre distance helped to unwind my nerves, but upon returning to the gym, I began to get worried about the trip home. I know I'm not helping myself at all and I'm sure things will get easier, but independent travel  with a cane is absolute torture for me: it is terrifying. I give props to those blind and low vision people out there who choose the cane over the dog. Of course each mode of transportation has its pros and cons, but for me personally, the cane is definitely not what I would choose.
Luckily for me, my guide runner offered to walk me home and to continue to do so until a dog can be found for me. I really appreciate her help and I will probably take her up on it, but at the same time, I also need to get used to using a cane and I also need to get better at it. Starting at the end of September I am going to have to navigate a university campus on my own with a cane and the quicker I get over my fears, the better off I will be when the time comes to go back to school. That said, my instinct is to light the cane on fire and throw it as far away from me as possible. Judging on how I did on Sunday, I might be better off without it. Then again, I'd then risk ploughing into obstacles, people and traffic.
So for now, I suppose I must accept my fate and somehow conquer the evil stick.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Staying Busy

I've never been one to sit still for long. Most of you probably already know that by now, but the last week has been particularly busy. I think it's a good thing with Glacier moving out last Friday and all. Everything's been so busy with university preparations, moving into the new flat, running practices, parties and working through Tenie's bucket list, I've managed to keep myself from feeling too sorry for myself. Admittedly, Monday I took the afternoon to stay curled up in bed, having a mini pity party, but after that time, I kicked my own butt into gear; way too much to be done to be wasted on pouting for a whole day. Besides, there's only so much lying around Hermione's going to let me get away with.
Tenie also came to stay with us from Tuesday until today because she was allowing her other flat mate's friends to stay in her room while they visited. Her stay  was great and having her around helped pull me out of my funk. Roscoe, who was definitely missing his Glacier, seemed to perk up as well. We did some more flat organising, hanging paintings Mr. K has painted and getting things into their permanent places. We spent a few late nights curled up on the couch watching TV shows and painting toes. I am so glad that I got to have that little bit of time with her before she has to leave.
Tenie found out a few weeks ago that she will not be getting the scholarship she was relying on in order to write her PhD. She had been accepted into the program, but she needed the funding to afford the insane international tuition fees. So, unfortunately, she will have to go home for a year as her post-study visa has expired and she won't be able to study without that financial support. She has started laying the foundations for a return plan for next September, and although I am going to mis her like crazy, I know everything works out the way it should. She'll be back!
Anyway, with her looming departure moving ever closer, she's made an Edinburgh bucket list. So, we're going to work through it before she leaves. Today we managed to strike two items from the list; the first being a complete fluke.
Last night we had a flat warming party and had several friends over for drinks and munchies. It was deemed a "mad hatters" theme and pretty much everyone showed up wearing hats. We had a few girls in what we like to call "old man hats," a princess crown (which the wearer felt suited her quite well), an Indiana Jones hat (we had over five archaeologists at the party, someone had to come with an Indiana Jones hat), Robinhood head wear and much much more. I had told my friends I wanted a wizard's hat and was pleasantly surprised when a few friends showed up baring my hat of choice. We had great food and in total loss on how to keep the drinks cold, I suggested we get ice and dump everything into the bath tub. Definitely a throw back to university house parties, but what are you going to do?
UK fridges are tiny and so there was no way we were going to fit all of the drinks into our fridge. I don't think a bottle of wine would even fit in there on its own. So, the bath tub and ice it was.
 The night ran late and a few someones had a bit too much to drink. I had stayed mostly away from the alcohol as I'm trying to stay healthy for training and drinking dehydrates a person drastically. Due to this prior event, today  we chose to take a cab into the down town city centre in order to avoid motion sickness from the bus. Since the Fringe, a huge nearly month long festival, is going on, we had to wait quite a while for our cab to arrive. We were about to throw in the towel when it showed up and it happened to be a taxi painted like the Scottish flag. Tenie has wanted to ride in one of those cabs since she moved here four years ago and this afternoon we were able to scratch it off her "to do" list.
We had the cab take us as close to the castle as possible and we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Edinburgh castle. I was impressed by the history of the grounds and was amazed at how dark some of it was. We got to see a military wedding taking place, which was complete with piper leading the procession away. We viewed the crown jewels and I got to read about them on some braille plaques that were posted. Some people were so surprised by me reading the braille that they stopped to take photos.
I wonder if they knew that I didn't come with the castle?
Roscoe was with us of course and he worked like a champ. He maneuvered Mr. K easily around other castle viewers and made sure Mr. K was safe on the uneven terrain of the volcanic rock that the castle is built on. If ever I was to show someone what a guide dog is supposed to do I would have used Roscoe's work this afternoon as an example. He was focused, which was amazing in and of itself because of all of the people and food around that must have been so tempting.
Of course this whole outing wasn't just work for Roscoe. He stopped at one point to nibble on some grass growing by one of the walls while we took photos. I guess he wanted his part of royalty too. At another point we stopped to take more photos and he started sniffing about and we were slightly concerned that he was going to do his business, but he was just being nosy.
Roscoe, don't you know that you can't poop in a castle?
The royal fun didn't end there for Roscoe. We stumbled upon a woman dressed in period costume who was going around crowning everyone. She crowned me, Tenie and Carmen and then it was Roscoe's turn. We had to try twice, but she finally managed to lower the crown onto his head. I am sure Roscoe will be expecting us to call him "your royal highness" for the rest of his life.
It was a really great afternoon that was finished off with me eating half my body weight in hamburger. Ever since I've started running on a consistent schedule, I can't seem to satiate my appetite. Mr. K pointed out that I yelled "because I'm hungry" at him twice in a three hour period. I think it'll be back to carrying around bananas and granola bars for me.
As for Tenie's bucket list, we have a few more things to do: going to the museum, seeing Brave in theatres in Scotland and going through the entire art gallery just to name a few. We have approximately two weeks to get all of these things done, but I have full confidence that her bucket list will be complete when she boards her plane at the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Waiting Game

It's been about four days since Glacier moved out. He took a few of his favourite toys with him and since then has been given some pretty cool new ones. One of his new favourites is a plush frog with a squeaky tennis ball inside.  From all accounts, Glacier is one happy guy and that makes this whole ordeal so much easier. Of course I miss him and our home is just that much more quieter minus the big Yellow Fellow, but the updates I've received are fantastic.
Glacier is having a great time going to the beach and digging in the sand. His new Dad even buried a bag with a treat in it for him to dig up; something he obviously could not do as a working dog. He's been to his local pub and has figured out quite quickly that the pub owner is the "biscuit lady." In the mornings, the door is left open so he can wander in and out of the house to the garden and he has been going into the office with his new dad. He even went toy shopping at lunch yesterday and played a game of "Monkey in the Middle" to help him to learn how to fetch. Things could not be better for Mr. G and I couldn't be happier. He is getting everything he deserves that I would not have been able to give him.
So, where does that leave me?
Well, life's not dull, that's for sure. It never is. My long distance running training is starting to come together, which if you're interested, you can find updates on my other blog.  Hermione keeps me busy, of course, and Hamish has improved his escape artist skills. Not to mention, we also got Hamish a wife named Lola. She is a Lionhead Lop and is absolutely gorgeous. The two are currently residing in separate cages because we do not want any little escape artists running about. Hamish is scheduled for neutering on Monday and then the two can move in together.
Roscoe is doing well, but he definitely is missing Glacier. He looks for him whenever people come over and once when I let him off leash to have a run, he took off into the forest to who knows where; probably looking for Glacier. He's a bit more clingy than normal and certainly seems a little out of sorts. However, having Hermione to play with has helped I think and we've tried to keep him busy with working and off leash runs. We were concerned that Glacier's departure would impact Roscoe's working, but everything seems to be okay for now.
As for me and getting around, I'm honestly going a bit stir crazy. For the most part, I have to rely on others-Tenie and Mr. K mostly-to get me around and I hate it. I hate asking them to take me and I hate having to fit my schedule to everyone else's; which only seems polite since they are doing me a favor. I have used a dog for ten years and it feels so very strange not having one with me. I have a White cane on order so that I can start getting myself around with that, but I am not a confident cane traveler and that makes me a bit nervous. I'll have to get over that quickly though because I have absolutely no idea when a new dog will be found for me.
Unlike most North American guide dog programs-not all, but most-the guide dog organisation in the UK does not bring a client in for training until a match is found for that person. In some of the North American programs, you arrive at the campus with the instructors only knowing what you've written on your application about yourself and match a dog to you as best they can from the string of dogs they have already trained. Here, that is not the case.
When I contacted my guide dog representative to ask if he had an average estimated waiting time, he basically told me that there wasn't one. He said that I would be brought in  once a dog was found and that based on my high standard of handling skills, the process would not be rushed. He wants to ensure I get a dog I can work with for a very long time. I very much appreciate his dedication to his job, but I wish I had some sort of idea. Am I going to be waiting for a month? Two months? A year?
I'm starting university in the fall and not having a dog to work with on campus makes me very nervous. Will I  go through my entire university year guide dogless?
I don't mind waiting. In fact, I prefer that this is a solid match and that I don't have to go through the same struggles I had with Glacier and even with Jetta, but having absolutely no clue how long it will be is difficult.
I guess now all I can do is wait and hope that the right dog comes up sooner than later, or that I get better at using a cane very quickly. Otherwise, who knows how long I will be reliant on others to get to where I want to go. This last option definitely does not work for me. So, with fingers crossed, I settle in to play the waiting game and to also get better at using a cane.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Strange Birthday Present

Yesterday was my birthday and it just so happened to be the day I gave Glacier to his new home. We had our last walk, heading over to the grocery store to pick up some food for my birthday dinner. I met Tenie there and we let Glacier run part of the way home on the cycling path. He was very happy to be running and our little outing just finalised things in my mind. He was much more interested in sniffing all things delicious in the store and was incredibly distracted by people. I wouldn't say it was a  beautiful walk, ending our working relationship on a high note, but I'm glad it wasn't.
If it had, I think I would have started second guessing my decision. Glacier isn't an older dog retiring due to age and so I wouldn't expect anything but what I've been getting from him for the last month.
Today, we're having "high tea" as part of my birthday celebration and the cafe we are going to is dog friendly. I think Glacier's new person is going to bring him along, apparently after Glacier's had a run at the ocean.
I couldn't be happier for him.
So, although retiring a dog is sad and surrendering your dog on your birthday might not be ideal, I actually think it was a kind of birthday gift. I got to see how happy Glacier's new person is and how excited Glacier was to go with him. Sure, I was a bit sad and our flat seemed a little empty this morning, but knowing that he's going to have the best retirement I could have hoped for him is definitely a great birthday present.
With all of this Glacier stuff going on, I haven't really been updating about the rest of the household. I have plans on remedying that in the next couple of days.