Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Little Christmasy

You know it's Christmas time when Starbucks brings out their Toffee Nut and  Gingerbread lataes. You know it's Christmas when there are gigantic inflatable snowmen in the mall and decorated trees everywhere. You know it's Christmas time when...well, when things feel that little bit warmer and magical.
 I know Christmas is a favourite time of year for a lot of people and I am no exception. I just love it. It's that time of year when I feel like the magic of being a little kid is everywhere and according to social norms, it's okay to be a bit child-like. Sure shopping and preparing can be stressful if you let it, but for me, it's all just a lot of fun. The Christmas festivities haven't completely kicked off in our house, but we're getting there.
First of all, Carmen and I went Christmas window shopping on Monday. I had a few things on my list that I wanted to price check and so instead of trying to price check and buy all on the same day, which can be stressful, we've turned the whole experience into a two parter. Who knows, maybe we'll need three days; complete with Toffee nut from Starbucks. I can't say what I was browsing for because it was for Mr. K and I think he reads this blog from time to time, but I can say that I was quite happy with what I found. Carmen even had the forethought to bring a pen and paper and she wrote down the store's name, product and price. Go, go organisation!
Mr. K and I have already attempted to decorate, but were thwarted by the strings of Christmas lights we purchased for the front window of our flat. We tried to put them up with some very, cheap non-sticky tape. This means a trip out for some heavy duty tape and another attempt in our future. We also bought "Merry Christmas" garland to put up with the lights, but we didn't even bother with that when we discovered we didn't have the right hanging stuff for the lights.
As for music, I've been playing carols  when I clean, shower and pretty much every other activity. The little local cafe that we go to all of the time is having a sing along evening and Mr. K is going to play the guitar, I'm singing and one of our friend's is playing the bass. Last night was a quick run through of some carols for Mr. K and I.. We've never played/sang together before and I have to say that it was quite enjoyable. I think we need more practice though and I definitely need to figure out my lyrics.
We're trying to figure out the dogs' role in all of this. I suggested Roscoe should go to the cafe as a reindeer, Otis as Santa Claus and Hermione as the Sugar Plumb Fairy...or an elf.
Tomorrow night kicks off the festive season in Edinburgh and we're going to the Light Night which is apparently a big deal. We didn't go last year and so I am quite excited. It's basically when all of the city's Christmas lights are turned on, or at least that is what I can figure from the website. There is music and entertainment as well. Also, it means that the big German Christmas market opens Friday as well as the gigantic skating rink that is below the castle and the giant ferris wheel that shows the riders a spectacular view of the city; or so I'm told. ;)
So, things are, as you can see, slowly becoming Christmasy. The dogs' presents from Grandma and Grandpa have already arrived and just need to be wrapped. One of Mr. K's gifts arrived as well and I have a few small purchases for my parents. Mr. K and I were talking about putting up our little tree tonight and the various other small ornaments. Our singing bathroom snowman is already on his perch on the back of the toilet. Instead of holding a broom he is carrying a plunger and when someone walks in he sings "ho, ho ho, who's gotta go" to the "Up on the Roof Top" song. A great gift from my parents last year and a brilliant addition to any Christmas decor. We still have to get the dogs' gifts from us, but there is still time.
Last year's Christmas was different with Mr. K and I being on our own and I am really looking forward to sharing this Christmas season with Mr. K, our fuzzy family members and my parents. In fact, just thinking about it makes me a little giddy.
Did I mention Christmas may bring out the child in me?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Little Frustrated

I'd be lying if I told everyone that everything is just rainbows and sunshine over here. Most of the time I'm a pretty upbeat, happy person, but like any person I have my days. Today is one of those days. When I started this blog, I promised myself to write everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. My goal was to try to capture, as accurately as possible, what it was like to live as a blind person and so this is where today's post is coming from.
It's not really the most horrible thing in the world, but I have been without a working dog for four months now and I am going absolutely crazy. The last time I didn't have a dog, I was a teenager, living in my parents' house which meant that I usually had a way to get to where I needed to go. Not to mention, I had not experience what it was like to work with a guide dog yet.   My current situation gives me an even greater appreciation for what my parents did for me. Now, I'm a grown woman, living in a still somewhat foreign country, with things that need to get done and things that I want to get done and I can't. I'm stuck. I don't think I've ever experienced this in my entire life.
When this all started, I thought I'd be okay. I figured that a few months and a dog would be found, but it's going on  four months, which feels like a life time right now, and it's not easy. I hate relying on others to get me to where I need, or even, want to go. I feel like I have to pick and choose what activities I need to get to, or want to get to, so that when the really important ones come up, I can get there. It's like I have so many "I'll get you here" tickets and I have to "spend" them wisely and a lot of times those get spent on things that I have to do as oppose to what I want to do.
Is this precisely what's going on? No, not really, but this is just how I feel right now. I think what worries me even more is that the month of December is a complete write off and so it will be going on six months by the time a dog MAY be found and there's no guarantees with that either. It's just frustrating.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Going, Going, Going!

I'm not entirely sure where the time has gone since my last post. I thought it had been only a few days, but in fact it's been over a week; at least. It's funny because some days seem to take forever, but in the grand scheme of things, this last little while has just disappeared. I've got a few things on my agenda right now and that may be where my time and energy has gone.
My parents are coming over for Christmas and the last time I did a count it was a month to go. Today, while out for a walk with Carmen and the pups, I realised that it's just over three weeks. So exciting. I've been browsing the internet for fun things for us to do while they are here and so, that is where part of that time went.
I've also noticed that every day things always end up having an element of adventure around here. I think I should have
"never a dull moment"
tattooed on my forehead.
Just the other morning, for example, I was heading on to the university campus for the entire day. I took everyone for a quick off leash run to release some of their energy so that Mr. K could get some school work done himself. I was nearly back to the flat when I realised that Hermione and Roscoe had run off. I began to panic after I stood calling them for over five minutes. Not only was I going to be late to my meeting with my professor, but I had just lost two of my dogs; despite Hermione wearing a bell. Eventually, a neighbor came down, still wearing her jammies, and was calling them with me and when she spotted Roscoe I felt a bit better, but it was short lived because Hermione wasn't with him. Mr. K came out because I had called him and just as he arrived so did Hermione, panting and frothing at the mouth. I still have no idea where they went. Surprisingly, I made it to my meeting on time.
It was on the heels of that incident  that Roscoe pulled a similar trick today. Again, nearly home after a long off leash run and romp in the park with other dogs, he takes off. It had started to rain on our way home and we were all soaked. Carmen had stuck Otis down the front of her water proof jacket because it was raining so hard. After I realised that Roscoe was gone, I leashed Hermione, who had thankfully stuck around this time and we spent the next ten minutes wandering up and down the cycling path calling for him. Mr. K was called again and he came out too. Roscoe must have been closer to him because when he called Roscoe, the big black fur ball came running. Mr. K said he thinks Roscoe was looking for us. I don't know if he got ahead of us in the wooded part and then didn't realise we were behind him or what, but he got home safe and sound. He did have a small cut on his paw that was bleeding a bit, but Mr. K put him in the bath and Roscoe and his injured paw were washed thoroughly. I think it's time for some obedience and recall refreshers for Mr. Ranger Roscoe. Wherever he went was very muddy. All we were trying to do was go for a walk!
On top of the usual doggie stuff, like Hermione having the crap scared out of her by some dog that chased her all of the way home-that's another crazy story-I've been researching for/writing essays, intermixed with group project meetings, classes and everything else you could  possibly do for school.
I also have two personal projects on the go: fundraising/training for my big run from Edinburgh to London next November and working on the logistics of setting up an online doggie boutique complete with bakery. Each project is big enough on its own, but put everything together and time just gets away from me and so does the laundry/dishes/all other house work that needs to be done.
Admittedly, some of this time escaping is my own doing in that I've taken on a lot, but on the other hand, the random weird happenings of my life, like having an entire bottle of dog shampoo bust open on the bathroom floor when I am trying to clean and making an even bigger mess, is not. I know I'm clumsy, but sheesh! Give a girl a break! :)
So what's on the agenda for tonight?
Well...I've got a load of laundry in the dryer and another in the washer...oh and one folded already. I've finished cleaning the kitchen, but still need to vaccuum the flat. That may need to wait until tomorrow though as my neighbors may not appreciate the noise. So, that scratches house stuff off the list; except for the laundry I have to finish.
I do have research for essays to complete and I probably should write some more, but I already did some today and I'm not quite in the mood. Besides, it's Friday night, right?
To be honest, there's a whole lot I could do and probably should do, but tonight I'm putting it all on hold to sit down with my puppies, probably a husband, some wine and either a good book or a movie. Tonight I am not "doing" anything else-except the rest of the laundry. Tonight I'm taking the night off which means I should stop writing now. ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Puppy Antics

Today I was browsing through the pet section on Amazon, scoping out potential Christmas presents for the dogs-anything to get away from studying for my exam on Thursday. As I scrolled through the toys it became apparent to me just how different Hermione and Otis are. Sure, they're both puppies, but of different breeds and with very different personalities and play styles. My two puppies couldn't be more  dissimilar if we had done it on purpose. The two look nothing alike, with Hermione having long, feathery fur and Otis's coat being very short and smooth. Hermione's ears flop and bounce when she runs and Otis's signature French Bulldog ears stick straight up off of his head. Hermione has  long springy legs, Otis has  short stumpy ones. Hermione is  finely built and Otis is  built like a brick  sh** house. You get the point.
Their personalities are so different too.
Hermione is excited by everything in life. Leaves blowing in the wind, bugs fluttering just out of reach, smells along the path and crunchy fallen leaves she can frolic in. She even gets excited by things inside. She does take naps, but it's like she sleeps with one eye open, waiting for the next thing to happen. Otis on the other paw, is a lazy, snuggle in kind of guy who sleeps like the dead. Hermione plays hard, engaging in zoomies, launching herself from one couch to another and death shaking her toys; complete with her "wolverine" growl. Otis plays too, but more slowly and uses his paws a lot more. He likes to box and often waits for Hermione to go hurtling past to launch his attack.  Despite their differences, both personality wise and physically, the two get along so well.
They love playing with each other and although I think Hermione would love it if Otis could run faster sometimes, the two are really sweet together. When Hermione finally decides to have a nap, you can guarantee she and Otis will more than likely be cuddled up together.
It's these personality differences that have challenged me with regards to training Otis. Hermione was always, and still is, ready to go. She never really had a problem learning to move in a forward movement when she was learning to walk on a leash. She was just so interested in everything around her that she wanted to go forward to see what was around the next corner. Sometimes she'd sit down or not really walk, but this was usually because she was tired and also when she was really small and something had made her unsure. Otis isn't interested in being outside. He'd rather be tucked in on the couch with a fuzzy blanket.
His refusal to move  makes it difficult to get him out to socialise and to potty train. If you take him out and he doesn't feel like going anywhere, he just sits down and stares at you. I don't want to be one of those people that drag their dogs along behind them, and I don't, but I have no idea how to motivate him to simply move. I thought that if he saw Hermione and Roscoe running ahead he'd be more inclined to walk, but this just isn't so. It's something I've been working on with him and he is sort of getting better at it, but he seems to resent the leash and being forced to put his precious paws on the cold ground. I know part of it is because he's so young and small and because it's cold outside. I bought him a little skull and cross bone hoodie from Build a Bear to help with the chill, but I'm not sure this helped at all. Perhaps he should ask for a coat for Christmas.
With these differences in mind I picked out a puppy antler chew for Otis. He loves to chomp on his toys and enjoys more stationary play. Hermione's option was a purple Wabbah from Kong. It's a toy that squeaks, can be tugged and is great for death shaking. Ranger Roscoe selected a squeaky plush squirrel and all three requests were forwarded on to Grandma and Grandpa, who will be joining us this year for Christmas. I have a few other ideas for the dogs' gifts that will have to come from Santa Paws and Mr. K and I. Maybe I'll find something that speaks to Otis so much that he'll actually want to go for short walks.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Apparently I Can't Count

So, here I am writing away about my happy blogging benchmark of 600 posts...well, I seemed to have missed 100 of them.
Yep, that's right. How does one miss 100 of anything? I know I'd miss 100 bucks or even 100 buttons if they went missing. Why I'd have 100 buttons, God only knows, but I am seriously digressing.
So, if you read today's earlier post, insert "seven hundred" where  it says "six hundred" because it's really been 700 posts in the last 7 years.
Oh, and now it's 701. :P

Six Hundred and Counting!

That's right.
Nearly seven years since I started this blog and this is my six hundredth post. It's kind of amazing to think that I have managed to spew my verbal diarrhea out into the electronic world of the internet for this long. Seriously, who reads this stuff?! :)
It's also interesting to see how my writing style has changed. It's gone from "crazy, angry, advocacy" girl, to "more crazy, more productive, slightly more eloquent, still rants about certain issues" girl. Life is full of so many surprises.
I had started this blog to chronicle the adventures my first Leader dog Jetta and I had together. The blog has seen a few name changes going from "Jess and Jetta's Adventures" to "At A Glacial Pace" in honour of my second Leader dog Glacier. After his retirement this past July, I thought that perhaps it was time the blog had its own name, one that reflected me, but could also incorporate my successor guide dogs; whoever they may be. Hence, "Walking Barefoot in the Sand" replaced the previous titles. It's a long story as to where that name came from and maybe I'll tell it some day, but today, on my six hundredth post, I have some potentially exciting news that I think it quite fitting for a six hundredth post on a blog about a girl moving through life guided by a four legged companion.
In my previous post I talked about how a potential dog had been found to replace Glacier, but that he had been scratched off the list because he had skin allergies. After thinking about it for a few nights and talking to Mr. K about it, I emailed my trainer and expressed my certainty that I could deal with a food allergy. In fact, Roscoe has had food allergies in the past and I had forgotten about them because the allergies have been managed so well with diet. I also told the trainer that if it were an environmental allergy, such as being allergic to grass, that I was not prepared or equipped to deal with that type of allergy in a working dog. A pet sure, but not a guide dog. I then went on to say that I respected and trusted his judgment and was in no way attempting to convince him to train this particular dog for me. I just wanted him to be aware of where I stood.
A response came back this morning simply stating, "training started."
I'm not entirely sure what that means. Did he bring that dog into training or did the trainer himself go into class with other clients? I think it's the first so I have my fingers crossed.
There are other stages that the dog must pass in order for us to be matched permanently, such as us meeting and me actually liking the dog or he liking me, but at least this is a start. I'm trying not to get too excited just in case things don't work out, be it his allergies or we just aren't a good match, but it feels good knowing that something is happening. I am not just sitting around waiting. Well, I guess I still am, but  judging by my interpretation of the email this morning, things are progressing and progress is always good.
So, there you have it: the six hundredth time I've hit "create new post," wrote something potentially interesting or potentially not and hit "publish post."
Thank you everyone for reading! :)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Of Course It's About Dogs

Today's post will definitely give you  your fix if you're craving doggie news. It seems like my life the past couple of days has been entirely doggie centred. No different from most days I suppose, but yesterday was an extra dose of dog.
First thing's first, I said I'd bake cookies for a Guide Dogs fundraiser that was to be held on Saturday-AKA, yesterday. I thought I'd bake the treats in the morning in order to ensure freshness, but both batches were a bust. My Garlic, Cheddar Chicken bites didn't bake long enough and then my Pumpkin Peanut Butter cookies baked too long. That'll teach me to try to multi-task while baking for an event.
 Despite my baking fiasco, I was ready to be picked up by 11.45 to head to the venue.  I spent an afternoon at a working dog show, attempting to raise funds and awareness for Guide Dogs UK. The event was quite interesting as I've never been to a dog show before and I certainly got my fill of various breeds of dogs. Of course I was working very hard fundraising, but part of fundraising is chatting with people right?
...and petting their dogs...right?
I saw some of the coolest breeds, including a Mastiff who weighed 240 pounds. That dog was a stinking pony! He was beautiful though. I also got to pet one of those dogs who look like they have dredlocks. I can't remember what they are called...some kind of Afghan something or other. I asked how long it took to bathe one of them and was told that it can take anywhere from two to three hours.
There was also a lot of beautiful Border Collies, Huskies, Great Danes and Newfoundlanders that I just had to pet. Oh, and I can't forget the champion Pyrinese I got to pet. She was beautiful.
We did manage to raise some money, but I think most importantly Guide Dogs was recognised as being out in the community and was maybe given some publicity. I also think it's good to put faces behind the organisation and there were at least three  guide dog owners there with their dogs. I was there too, but certainly minus a guide dog. I was impressed by all of the dogs' behavior considering how many strange dogs were about, sniffing/barking/peeing on things. The three workers did their jobs and for the most part, kept their noses to themselves. A few of the puppies in training were a bit more excitable, but that's to be expected.
It was interesting for me to see each dog/handler team and the various breeds. Not one of those dogs were the same. There was a female Golden Retriever German Shepherd cross. Apparently Guide Dogs has had a lot of success recently with this mix of breeds. She was lovely. There was another female, but she was a Golden Retriever Lab cross. She was adorable with gigantic front paws. I've seen a few of those at LDB and they all seemed to be great workers. Then there was a male Flat Coated Retriever. I had never seen that breed before so it was a treat to pet him.
My guide dog trainer, and dude who is currently looking for my replacement dog, was my eyes for most of the afternoon. He was also my driver and we got to talking. Apparently, a week or so ago a potential dog came up for me, but only three days after my trainer heard about him, it was discovered that the dog has skin allergies. He's being tested to see what exactly he's allergic to, but it would seem that I will miss out on this one. The trainer sounded disappointed. I asked him if it were a food allergy and he said they weren't sure yet. I feel as though that if it were a good match and it was only food related, that I could deal with it. It's nothing to have a dog on a good diet and I don't mind cleaning ears frequently. I clean my dogs' ears about once a week now.
The trainer is always hesitant to give out dogs that have these conditions for a few reasons. First, a person who has been waiting for a long time may think that he/she can take on a dog with that sort of issue and will say yes, only to discover later that he/she really can't handle it. Then, everyone feels guilty/bad and the person just ends up on the waiting list again.
Second, it's hard to tell how an allergy, or something of that nature, will progress. If we can control it  with food now, will it stay that way for all of its life or will it become worse and worse?
Roscoe has food allergies and we control it by feeding him a fish based food, or raw feeding, and treats that I've made. Anything else and it flares up. However, I can see where the trainer is coming from and he is the expert. Fingers crossed that someone else comes up soon or that it is discovered that this guy's allergies aren't that bad and that diet can fix it.
That said, if it were discovered that his allergies could be controlled by diet, it doesn't mean I'll like him. Here in the UK, we get to meet our potential dogs first and decide whether or not we think he/she will work for us. If we think so the dog goes away for six weeks to complete his/her formal training and then we go into training with him/her. I very much appreciate that I get to be a part of the selection process. I just have to make sure that when the time comes for me to choose, I attempt to be as objective as possible.
So that's where that stands.
Mr. G has also sent an update as to his busy life as "Archio dog." It would seem that he is working in the archaeology field with his new dad and mom and being very helpful when it comes to digging; maybe a bit too helpful in some spots. His jaws of steel have also worked their magic and he has managed to destroy a hard hat...a hard hat! You know, the things that are supposed to protect your heads if machinery fall on them? Either that hard hat sucked or Glacier's got some impressive chompers. My vote lies in the latter.
As for the crew that we have now: Otis is growing like a weed. He turned four months old today and despite several growth spurts he's still quite small. That said, it's surprising how heavy he actually is. With how cold it's been out he has needed a sweater to do his business outside. We felt a bit ridiculous getting a sweater for a Bulldog, but Otis is now the proud, or not so proud, owner of a "Build a Bear" skull and cross bone hoodie. He looks damn cute in it. It was cheaper to buy him a hoodie from the children's store than to get him a dog sweater. Once he grows out of this hoodie we'll have to buy him a dog specific coat, but for now, he will keep wearing his Build a Bear hoodie. So cute!
And what about the other two?
Let's just say Roscoe has been nicknamed "Ranger Roscoe" and Hermione has been deemed "Hermione, the great Huntress." Whenever I go for evening walks, I always take both Roscoe and Hermione. It's kind of dark down on the cycling path and I feel safer having the bigger presence of Roscoe roaming with us. This evening I took the two out for an off leash run and both dogs assumed their respective roles.
Roscoe was off scouting through the under brush and popping out to check on me while Hermione was off holding perfect points at birds, squirrels and bugs. We stopped to talk to a woman who has a JRT named Florence, who was shocked to see Hermione point at a fleeing squirrel. She may be a toy breed, but her hunting instincts are still there.
Otis isn't quite big enough to accompany us on our longer walks, so we haven't determined his sudo personality yet, but if I were to call him anything right now it would be:
"sleepy, lazy Otis."
He definitely lives up to his Bulldog breed description.
As for Hermione the Great Huntress, she didn't catch anything. Probably because she was wearing her bear bell so that I knew what she was up to. Ranger Roscoe didn't seem to think there was anything threatening in the under brush. We have seen foxes in that general area and so I get a bit nervous walking later in the evening, but there are way less people you have to navigate at those times. As everyone knows, I am probably one of the worst cane users in the world. That not only applies to university campuses, city streets and shopping centres, but also to bike paths. So, our walk was quite relaxed and uneventful; despite the fireworks going off in close proximity. Neither Roscoe or Hermione were bothered by the loud bangs or bright lights. I'm not surprised by Roscoe's lack of reaction, but that seemed odd for Hermione. She's a nut about everything. Maybe she felt safe with Ranger Roscoe at her side. ;)
So, was that enough "doggie dish" for you?