Sunday, September 30, 2012

Complete Chaos

I know I promised an update only the next day after I announced Flick's arrival, but life has just been a complete whirlwind since my last post. With university reading/assignments, classes, accessibility meetings and so much more, I've hardly had time to do every day things like get my laundry done. So, what has been going on? Perhaps I should write this week's goings on in installments. Otherwise, you would have to hunker down with at least a pot of coffee and maybe a whole day's worth of sandwiches.
Where do I start? Let's begin even before we knew Flick was coming to live with us.
Probably about two weeks ago now, maybe even more, Mr. K and I met a little French Bulldog named Stanley. He was the coolest little guy with a great personality and he loved Mr. K and  Mr. K was smitten, but upon researching breeders, we quickly realised that French Bulldogs were very much out of our price range. So, that was that...or so we thought.
After not hearing from the rescue that had originally said that they may have a Hound for us, I began to think that we were out of luck with regards to fostering Greyhounds. I could completely understand where they were coming from, knowing that Greyhounds are sight hounds and most would certainly feel the need to chase Hermione. Last Friday I was browsing the internet, as I do, and came across a French Bulldog breeder that I hadn't seen in my prior searches. I liked the name of her "kennel" and so examined her website. Again, Mr. K and I were smitten, but were quite aware that we could never afford one. Okay, perhaps "never" is a strong word, but it would be something we'd have to save up for for a while. I told Mr. K that she had two puppies available and he told me to call her. I didn't want to, knowing that we'd have to save for a pup. I didn't want to call, ask how much her puppies were and then say "thank you very much" and hang up. I felt awkward.
It was at that moment that Hermione decided she needed to go out. So, I took her out and while I was gone, Mr. K called the breeder. He still doesn't know why. He just did and asked her about the male that she had available.
When I came in I could hear him talking to someone on the phone and quickly realised, by what he was saying, that he had contacted the breeder. She and Mr. K had a long chat and he finished the conversation with,
"let me talk to my wife and we'll get back to you tonight."
I was stunned.
Talk about what?! We couldn't afford one of her puppies, I was sure of it.
It turns out though, that we could afford this little guy.
French Kisses Mr. Sky Blue, his KC registered name, has a low grade heart murmur. Because of this, the breeder wasn't selling him. She was going to either keep him, or "give him to a five star home." She invited us to her home to meet Mr. Sky Blue, his parents and grandparents and also to get to know us. She basically said that if we all got along that we could take Mr. Sky Blue home with us.
Again, I was stunned.
So, the short of it is that Mr. K and I  hopped on a train this past Sunday to meet the breeder, her family and all of her dogs. We met Mr. Sky Blue and immediately fell in love with the smushed, wrinkled face and his snuffing. We met his parents and his grandma and were impressed by the dogs. We were also amazed at how professional, friendly and knowledgeable Mr. Sky Blue's breeder was. Apparently she liked us too because she said that we could take the puppy home.
It was with great excitement that we boarded the train with our new little bundle of joy. The breeder provided us with everything we could ever want, including collar/leash set, great amounts of food, bowl, blanket, a toy, chews, his paperwork and much more. Mr. Sky Blue even came microchipped and with both sets of vaccinations. She is truly incredible and I would recommend her to anyone who is interested in French Bulldogs. She also breeds another dog and those were also beautiful dogs.
When we arrived at home, we introduced Hermione and Roscoe to the new addition down on the cycle path, where everyone could run about and get their sniffing in. It was love at first sight for Mr. Sky Blue when he met Hermione and the two have been best friends for the past week. They play together and even curl up with one another for naps. I was a bit worried about Hermione since she is the Queen "B with an itch " around here, but she took to him without any issues.
Mr. K and I had both agreed on "no more puppies," but somehow this little guy found his way into our lives.
So what did we call the little dude?
We threw around a few names, but Otis seems to be the winner. His breeder really liked that one for him and so it has stuck.
Honestly, I don't regret a thing; at least, not with him.
Stay tuned for the next installment of "Jess's life gone mad because she doesn't know how to say no."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Welcome Flick

We got the news today that our first foster Greyhound will be coming to live with us by the week's end. If you haven't already guessed by the title of this post, her name is Flick. She is a young, small, Brindle girl who had previously lived in her trainer's home. So, she should be house trained. Most X-racers never get home comforts or even see the inside of homes. So, the fact that she lived in home is slightly amazing and a bonus for us with regards to house training.
Apparently, she's sweet, bouncy and loving. They don't know much more about her because, as the foster co-ordinator said on the phone, it's up to the fosterers to tell them more about the dog  in order to get the Hounds re-homed.
Flick was small dog tested earlier this week and was non-reactive to three or four small, bouncing dogs. She did react to cats though, so I either have to stay away from them completely or try to teach her that cats are friends, not food. I don't know anyone with cats and I'm not sure strangers will allow me to use their cats as training tools. So, Flick may stay a "non-cat" kind of girl. However, I do know a few flats that have cats hanging around outside . That means, Flick and I may be going for a walk past those flats, muzzle on and a pocket full of cookies.
To be honest, I had thought that we basically weren't going to be able to foster because of Hermione being classified as a "small fuzzy" and the nature of Greyhounds to chase "small fuzzies," but the sanctuary really worked hard to find us a dog to foster. I really want to give this little girl a good chance of finding her forever home. So, I am going to do everything I can to help her learn all about the world of being a pet as opposed to a racing, working dog. With all of our crazy adventures in our life/home, I am hoping to be able to teach her to be a well rounded girl who will fit into nearly any good home.
Since that is all the sanctuary was able to tell me about Flick, I'll leave it at that for now, but will definitely fill you in once she has arrived. I have other exciting news, but I'll tell you about him tomorrow. ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back to School

Yesterday was my first day back at school in just over two years. My MSc Performance Psychology course will run from September 2012 until August 2013 when I turn in my dissertation.  It was such a weird feeling to pack up my laptop bag and head off. Settling down into the little squishy desks was a familiar feeling and sitting through two hour lectures was also very familiar. Despite the cramped, uncomfortable desks,  I love it.
Monday night's class is Understanding Research Methods, another familiar thing. This will be the fifth research course I've taken over my university/college career, but I am thinking it will be a welcome refresher.
Today was a bit of a longer day with two classes, each running two hours with a two hour break in between. This means I leave the flat at 1 and don't get back until closer to nine, but again, both classes are interesting and I am really enjoying the content so far.
My only issue has been navigating the campus. Tenie had run me through the various buildings once when the head of the program gave us a tour, but I think I probably should have gone a few more times. Thankfully, Mr. K has been amazing, and since he still has the only  working guide dog, in our family he accompanied me these past two days and helped me find where I needed to go. "Two heads are better than one." I know today was a long day for him as he had to sit and wait through the two classes. I can't fully  express how much I appreciate his help. We really are in this together.
As for the work load, there seems to be quite a bit of reading, so I think Hermione and I will be spending a few hours a day holed up in the local cafe, drinking coffee and reading. Hermione will be sitting in the front window people watching. My instructor tonight suggested that we should be spending about nine hours a week on each class. To be honest, I'm not sure if he's going to get that many out of me, but I'll give it my best shot. That is a lot of time as a sighted person, imagine trying to do all of that listening to a screen reader yammering on at you. Completing course work takes at least half as long for a blind student as it does for a sighted student. Nine hours a class could very easily turn into closer to eighteen. I know the blind folk going to law school would probably mock my aversion to 27, or in blind time 60ish, hours a week of class work, but that is why I'm not in law school. That, and I'd be a horrible lawyer.
 I have one paper due in my Performance Planning class in twelve weeks that is 4000 words and another 1000 word paper for the Stress, Anxiety and Coping class. Plus, other various assignments and another larger paper. It's really not that bad and since it's a subject I enjoy, I think it will be easy to get it all done.
So, with a fairly long day behind me and a lot of reading/writing to do tomorrow, I think I shall "hit the hay," as they say.
Good night, all.
PS: We got another update with regards to our potential foster pup today. We were told her name, but I will keep that a surprise just in case she gets to move in with us.  She is a small female who is still in kennels and she is being small dog tested this week. If she is classified as "trainable" she will be moving in and I am so excited. So, keep your fingers crossed that F**** will come to be our first foster hound. Any guesses as to what her name may be?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Grey on the Way (Maybe).

It's been quite a while since Mr. K and I put in an application to foster X-racing Greyhounds. Our home check had gone well, but due to having the very small, bouncy Hermione, the rescue has been searching for a suitable foster dog for us. Greyhounds by nature are sight hounds and therefore chase small fuzzies and Hermione, despite being a dog, could fall into the "chase" category. So, it has taken a while to find a dog coming out of the kennels who is suitable to live with small dogs.
To be honest, I had given up on the idea that we'd get to foster Greyhounds because of Hermione being a potential chase object. I had originally suggested that our home act as a sort of half way home for hounds who were small fuzzy safe and nearly ready for their forever home. That way, that would open up a more experienced hound foster home for a "raw," as they call it," dog coming straight out of the kennels. That plan had almost been implemented last weekend, but at the last minute, the dog in question was placed somewhere else because they weren't sure how he would have done with Hermione. That is why, when I got a call this morning stating that they may have found us a dog to foster, I was pleasantly surprised.
I don't know anything other than that the dog is a small female. She is being both cat and small dog tested soon and will then be moved out of kennels and hopefully into our home. The woman I spoke to said that she thinks the dog is quite sweet and that the dog may be a match, but she obviously couldn't promise anything. She said that we should find out by the end of the week if this particular hound is small fuzzy friendly.
I really, really hope that she is. It would be so good to actually be able to foster. There are so many great reasons for fostering X-racing Greyhounds, but most of all, knowing that she would be able to get out of the kennels sooner would be enough for me. I'm also so excited that I hope that it doesn't take until the end of the week. That's just my "jump in with both feet" side kicking in. I know we weren't told much about her or given a certain yes because they don't want to get our hopes up, but mine have been slowly climbing since the phone call earlier this morning. I'll have to get those in check.
So, although we have to wait a bit longer, it is good to know that they are still taking our household into consideration when trying to place dogs. Fingers crossed over here that She will be  our first ever foster  hound.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

These Shoes Were Made for Walking

You know you have  really worn down your shoes when your husband randomly says to you,
"do you need new shoes? Maybe we should go look at some."
These are the words that came out of Mr. K's mouth Friday morning when we were at the mall waiting to meet a potential guide runner. I knew my shoes were bad, but I didn't know they were that bad.
Back in June, Mr. K and I both got new shoes because of how much walking we do. Since moving to Edinburgh, our main mode of transportation is our own two feet. So, it was no surprise that we wore out our shoes pretty quickly. This time though, it was just my shoes that needed replacing.
On top of the regular walking I would normally do-going to the grocery store, meeting friends for breakfast Etc-my amount of walking has increased exponentially since moving into our new flat. With having kilometres and kilometres of cycling paths just right outside my door, Hermione and I walk a lot. Not only do we stick to our normal routes, but as soon as I get comfortable with one path, I get brave and we go exploring new ones. Just today, for example, we walked for over an hour, navigating a few paths we already were familiar with  and then wandering down a branch we've never walked before. Yesterday our adventures took over two hours because Carmen came with us and having her sighted navigating abilities drastically increases the places we could potentially go. In the course of two days, my new shoes have already accumulated over four hours' worth of walking, if you include my trip to the local cafe and out to dinner Friday night. So, I suppose I shouldn't have been  surprised when Mr. K asked me if I needed new shoes.
I had known for a while that I needed new ones. My heels had begun to hurt when out for walks wearing my old pair, a tell tale sign that your shoes need to be replaced, but I felt bad saying I needed new ones so soon after purchasing the last pair. However, Mr. K had been investigating the state of my shoes the day before, which he told me later, and realised that I was in desperate need of a replacement pair. The backs are all broken down, with the plastic showing through on the inside and even the insides of the soles are worn down. The funny thing is that even though I knew I needed new shoes, I had no idea just how badly I did.
I had gotten used to my feet hurting when I got home that I was shocked when I went out for the first time in the new shoes and was pain free upon arrival back at home. My heels didn't hurt, the balls of my feet weren't aching and my arches didn't feel like they had been over stretched. Realistically, I should know better. as an athlete I've always been aware of feet health and in massage college the idea of good shoes/healthy feet was really driven home. But, as I said above, it was almost like I got used to it and completely missed the signs that my shoes were on the fritz.
I guess the point of my giant ramble about getting new shoes is that it's probably more important than we think to have good shoes and to replace them when they are in need of retirement. For people who have occupations where they stand or walk all of the time, or even just for people who recreationally walk a lot, foot care is so important. If you have foot, leg or even back pain, try getting a new pair of shoes. Pain in your knees/ankles/hips or any of the previously mentioned areas, is an indication that your shoes have reached the end of their life. I certainly was reminded of that when my husband so kindly suggested I get new shoes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Visiter

Thursday turned out to be a   really nice day, here in the capital of Scotland. I was a bit skeptical in the morning as it was quite chilly and the wind was blowing quite hard, but thankfully, the sun decided to make an appearance and it didn't start raining until our visiter had gone home.
When I heard a knock on my door just past ten AM Thursday morning, I happily ran to it and flung it wide.
"A boy!" I said excitedly as I squatted to put my arms around a very big, Yellow Fellow.
"And a girl!" I said just as excitedly as I hugged L.
If you haven't already guessed, L had brought Glacier to visit for the day. The best part was that in greeting, Glacier ran down the hallway picked up a toy and began prancing about with it; typical Glacier. When I released Roscoe from the living room, the two dogs went crazy, hopping around and trying to frolic in a very small space. Hermione was excited too, but I think it's just because everyone else was excited. I think she remembers Glacier, but she has always been more strongly bonded to Roscoe.
Realising that the dogs definitely were not going to calm down any time soon, L and I took all three across to the cycling path and released the two big boys. Glacier and Roscoe made quick business of "doing their business" and then took off like shots, running along together like they always did. It was so good to see both dogs enjoying being together and also seeing Glacier react to L when she called him back or asked him to sit. He really seems to have bonded to L and her boyfriend and that makes me so very happy.
Hermione wasn't left out of the mix either. Eventually, I decided to let her off leash and see how she did. She impressed me. I had put her cat collar on with the bell, the one that allows me to know where she is and what she's doing, and off she went. She stuck pretty close to L and I, only venturing out if she followed Roscoe. She even was quite good at stopping on the grassy shoulder with L and I to allow cyclists to go by. I don't think I'd free run her by myself because she is so small and it is difficult to know what she may or may not be getting into, but it is good to know that Hermione can free run if there is a set of working eyeballs around.
Back at the flat, with hanging tongues and muddy paws, everyone was toweled off and all three dogs took a nap. Glacier curled up on my feet just like he used to and it felt nice to have him there again. At first it made me a bit worried, but when we decided to go get some lunch for the humans, Glacier was quick to look for L to see what he should do. We took the dogs with us to the dog friendly cafe down the street and both of the big boys passed out immediately. Hermione had a pee accident, which was completely embarrassing, but I guess that is what I get for letting her drink her fill a short period of time before going into a public space. We won't do that again; totally my fault. Thankfully, the cafe staff weren't angry and just simply said,
"it happens and who could really get mad at that cute face?"
Hermione was good about letting us know she had to go again and I got her out in time and set her down, where she promptly "insta peed," as we call it. All of this time, Glacier slept curled up in a ball right beside L's chair. He even got up to watch for her when she got up to go use the bathroom. Part of me was sad that he didn't look for me that way anymore, but a larger part of me was so grateful that he had bonded with them so well and was a thriving, happy boy.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just chatting and had one more shorter off leash run after the dogs had their supper. Again, Hermione went along off leash and although she was a bit more adventurous, she still came back when I called her. Glacier and Roscoe were the tag team of the cycling path, greeting every person and dog that went by, backing each other up like old times.
It was a very worn out Glacier that accompanied L out to the bus stop at the end of the day. Roscoe and Hermione were equally as tired and slept for the rest of the evening. As I always say,
"a tired dog is a good dog."
This was the first time I had seen Glacier in a month. He's been in the area a few other times, but I opted not to see him in order to ensure his bond with his new people was forming. I thought that enough time had passed, and L and her boyfriend had done enough with him, that it would be okay for us to see each other. I had also left it up to them to bring him by when they felt he was ready. Judging by his reaction to me, Roscoe and then to L, despite us being here, I would say he was ready.
Roscoe was a bit out of sorts the next day. I think he was a bit confused as to why Glacier only stayed for a short time, but after a good working session with Mr. K he seems to be back to his regular self.
Hermione didn't seem any different, but again, I think that is because she was always more of Roscoe's little sister than anything.
As for Mr. G: he is a big, healthy boy who hasn't gained any weight. His coat is healthy and he is definitely happy. L tells me stories all of the time about the things they have all done together and I don't think Glacier could have gone to a better home. Just this week, Glacier's been to the beach at least four times, digging in a dirt pile at an archaeological dig, to visit us and, of course, to the pub multiple times. It was so good to see him  and strangely enough, the visit didn't make me miss him more. In fact, it did the opposite: seeing him so happy and responsive to L, who isn't even his primary caregiver, relieved a lot of stress for me. It reassured me that by re-homing Glacier, I did what was best for him, and at the end of the day, that is what is important for a dog who has given so much of themselves to a working partnership.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guide Dog Replacement Update

It has just been over one month since I retired Glacier and it is finally today that I've been put on the waiting list. Originally, I had been under the impression that I was put on the waiting list to get a new guide dog as soon as Glacier retired, but I was quite wrong. So, the three months to a year of waiting starts today. As I am sure you are all aware, this does not make me very happy. However, a guide dog trainer-the one we've been dealing with since we moved here-assessed me today and although I do not feel much better about the very long wait, I am feeling much better about the process.
The application process for this particular guide dog school is much different than that of Leader Dogs for the Blind, the school where I got both of my previous guide dogs. I think, in a way, each program has its pros and cons, but that in the long run, I will benefit greatly from the Guide Dog Organisation's approach. Sure, I have to wait much longer, but the success of the match is much higher.
When I applied for my previous guides, I did not spend any time with the trainers before hand. The interview process wasn't very vigorous either; with me just having to have a videotaped walk to get Jetta and not even having to do that to get Glacier. All the trainers had to go on was the answers I had filled out on an  application that didn't even address lifestyle, what sort of worker I needed Etc.
My assessment today was much more in-depth and that made me feel more confident in getting a good match. Also, having been involved with the trainer for a year instills confidence.
We chatted for almost two hours about my lifestyle, what characteristics I'd like in a dog, if I preferred girl/boy or breed of dog and many other important things that I think will make this matching process so much better.
We did an empty harness walk, which is similar to the "Juno" walk you do the second day you arrive at LDB. This walk is used to determine voice inflection and walking speed. This particular walk was also used to determine my ability to follow directional changes, posture, stride and my preference for how strongly the dog pulls on the harness.
We covered some other important aspects of a working dog suited to me, such as, willingness to work, adaptability and a few other characteristics. We discussed the various environments I would be taking my dog into and whether or not I ever left my dog at home. We even talked about what sorts of transportation I would take on a regular basis. Again, it all made me feel excited and confident about deciding to go with the UK organisation instead of flying back to North America.
The trainer reiterated that he couldn't guarantee a time frame, but that he'd rather me go two months more without a dog, struggling to get around, than get a dog quickly and spend the next four to eight years struggling with my working relationship. I've already been there done that. I do not want to do that again. I had to agree with him. He also said that he wanted to give me a dog that was brilliant when I got him/her, but was that much better at our six month check-up because I worked with the dog. I took this as a compliment and ensured him that he wouldn't be disappointed.
So now that all of the paperwork is done, all I can do is start my waiting game over again; a game I thought I had started a month ago. Sometimes there are necessary evils in life and waiting for the right working partner is just one of those. It stinks being reliant on others because my cane skills are so terrible, but once I meet and am matched with my new dog, it will be all worth it.