Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Two posts in one day. I'm out doing myself. ;)
But, this one couldn't wait.
I got the call this afternoon to say that I'll be going into training with my new dog on February 11th. So exciting!
The trainer will pick me up that morning and we'll go to the bus station to get the other student. I'm assuming she's not living in Edinburgh. Then, it's off to the hotel to learn our way around and to get settled in. I'm sure I won't sleep all that much Monday night because Tuesday the dogs arrive. Again, so exciting.
It's still just under two weeks away and so somehow I'll have to keep my excitement under wraps or I'll drive myself nuts before the 11th. That said, it's so nice to have a date because now it feels like it's actually happening. :)

Explanation of the Evil Stick

Having been matched with my potential new guide dog, the excitement of being rid of the white cane is rising. If I'm being totally honest, I don't really use it as much as I should and thus my independence has suffered quite a bit since Glacier's retirement. Well, my independence sort of suffered a bit even when he was working because I was nervous to go out and work with him, but I was definitely getting out on my own more than I am now. Is my aversion to the white cane a good thing? Of course not and I know my new guide dog trainer was slightly horrified when I told him I was terrible with it and have hardly used it since being matched with Jetta in 2002, but I was just being honest. Not to mention, even though I don't use the cane, I am pretty comfortable in areas that I am familiar with and could give a sighted person directions if necessary. It's not the directions that confuse me or walking a straight line. It's not even the strange feeling like I'm floating out in space when using the cane. It's just that the cane is so slow and I get it stuck in everything. I've had this discussion with quite a few people, Mr. K being one of them, and he assures me it's because I'm using it wrong. I believe him.
When Mr. K takes the cane out he hardly ever hits objects and despite it gut checking him because the sidewalk is uneven, he really doesn't have the problems with it that I do. There's probably a myriad of factors that contribute to his success as a cane user and I am not, one of them being that I just hate the thing and can't seem to bring myself to learn to use it properly. I thought that when Glacier retired I'd get lessons and become at least an average cane user instead of a less than horrible cane user, but the instructors are so over booked that I couldn't even get on the waiting list. So, I remained horrible. The funny thing is I can get around better without the cane than with it. For example, I can walk Hermione and Otis both down to the relieving area without the cane just fine, but if I take the cane I run in to everything and get caught on the pavement. Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly ambitious and I know the cycling trail is going to be quiet, I walk the dogs-off leash-without the cane. I can walk a fairly straight line and just check the edge of the grass with my foot every once in a while to make sure I'm still along the side. If I didn't have to worry about strange objects and other pedestrians blocking my path, I could probably walk the streets without a cane, but put one in my hand and I'm all over the place. I don't know if it's because I'm deaf in the ear on the side  that I carry the cane and it makes me unbalanced or what it is, but I run into everything. Maybe it's entirely in my head. That is very possible.
When I attended a school for the blind for three years, I spent the last two years there running about the campus caneless. I used pavement/floor changes, the sounds of buildings and so many other cues to know where to go. Once you've been in a particular place long enough your body also becomes accustomed to turning at certain spots. The fancy technical term for it is "time distance estimation." I used it the other day when showing the guide dog trainer where I'd be relieving my new dog.
It was the day I told him that my cane skills were terrible. We walked from my flat, him guiding me, and me telling him where to turn or where to go straight. When we approached the relieving area I told him to turn right. He asked me how I knew that was the spot and I explained that the ground changed as well as my time distance estimation being honed for that area since I walk the dogs there multiple times a day. I don't really know how to explain time distance estimation, but it is probably the equivalent of a sighted person walking from their bedroom to the bathroom in the middle of the night and not turning on a light. You know how to get to the toilet without falling down the stairs or taking a wrong turn. Your body just takes you there. However, if someone leaves a toy in the middle of the hall or a door ajar that normally isn't open, you trip over the toy or run into the door. These things get in the way of your time distance estimation. I think this is where the cane and I start clashing.
Because my cane wielding skills aren't great and I therefore get caught on cracks in the sidewalk, garbage bins, poles and whatever else may be sort of in my path, my time distance estimation gets interrupted. When I walk with a guide dog, that isn't disrupted. Ideally, we move smoothly and a particular speed is maintained. These fluid and uninterrupted movements allow me to feel more confident in my time distance estimation. I think that is why walking around without a cane on the cycling path and down to the dogs' relieving spot is more comfortable for me. I can just get there without the constant jolting and extra arm movement that the cane use requires. The only problem with this, or perhaps not the only problem but one of the greater ones, is that people don't know I can't see.
I can't tell you how long it took for people who I see regularly on the cycling path to realise I was blind. Some of them I told just to reduce some of the confusion and others eventually saw me using the white cane on longer walks with the dogs or walking sighted guide with a friend. My lack of identifier is problematic though in the instances when I don't see a person on a regular basis and I accidentally step into their path instead of moving out of it as intended. Once, I accidentally body checked someone in to a railing that runs along the top of the cycling trail because we both went the same direction. I think if I had had a cane at least they would have known to be more aware of which way I was going and then if I had still managed to body check them into the railing, they'd understand that I wasn't just a jerk.
So really, is the cane an evil stick?
Certainly not.
It functions well for a lot of blind people who have mastered the skill of walking with it.
Would it have made my life easier in the last six months if I had had lessons and learned to use it competently?
Of course.
And yet, knowing all of this, I chose only to use it when absolutely necessary and then only in very, very familiar areas. To me, it is still the evil stick and I will always prefer a guide dog over it. That is why I can't wait until I go into training with my new dog.
However, I have learned something in these last six months.
1. I can get better with the cane if I actually try. The first times I took it out on the trail with the dogs off leash, I hardly went anywhere because of how often it got stuck. I really don't have that problem anymore.
2. I really should learn to use it. No more explanation needed. I will just need an incredibly patient teacher.
That said, bring on the guide dog training class.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guide Dog Training Update

So just as the title of this post suggests, I'm here to give you a guide dog training update. Things have been a bit nuts with us originally thinking we were going into class on the the 25th of February, but the other student is apparently going on a vacation smack in the middle of the training session. So, the training dates may be moved up until the 11th of February instead. Since we're discussing dates, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this dog and I will be trained together and hopefully turn into a working team. This is all very exciting.
One concern the guide dog organisation had was the number of dogs in our flat. The concerns they expressed were logical, such as us having a space shortage, but it had me worried for a while that getting a guide dog was going to be a problem. There's a lot I could say about the whole thing, but in reality there's no point. I'm going into class and everything should turn out fine. It would just be interesting to know what people with children are told who are attempting to "qualify"(AKA graduate) with a guide dog.
So, I'm sure you'd like details of the new dog, but the problem is I was so wrapped up in the issue of having too many dogs that I forgot to ask if I could talk about HER. That's right: I'm getting a girl. I figure I can tell you at least that much. It's about time too: Hermione and I are outnumbered right now. ;)
Other than our little dilemma, the meeting on Wednesday went well. All of the dogs got along just fine and the trainer and I spent some time going around the routes that I'll be taking. If there is time, he is going to show her the routes in order to make the transition from training in the hotel to our area easier, but if the training dates are moved up to February 11th, there won't be the time to go through that process. Her trainer is also one of the only ones in this area target training his dogs. I really appreciate this skill because it means that she can find light poles and other helpful objects.
So, all in all, despite the one glitch, the meeting on Wednesday went pretty well. I saw her only for a brief few minutes and spent the rest of the time showing the trainer around, but it was good to be able to ask some questions and get to know the trainer a bit more. I don't know when I'll see her again, but I'm supposed to hear from the trainer on Tuesday to confirm the dates that we'll be training.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Happy Days!

I got the call. Wednesday afternoon my cell phone rang and on the other end was one of the Guide Dogs trainers letting me know that they had a potential match for me. He wanted to meet up Friday to see if the dog and I would work well together. He said that we were perfect on paper, but that was just paper. The trainer that I've been working with up until now had gone to see the dog and told this trainer to call me. That in and of itself was encouraging. So, we agreed to meet Friday for a walk and a chat.
Friday afternoon came much too slowly in my opinion. I was very excited Thursday night and didn't sleep well. The trainer picked me up just after 1 and drove me out to the area that the dog's been training in. We chatted on the drive about the process ahead and the sorts of things that happened during training if we got there. At the training area, the trainer unloaded the dog from the back of the van and put the harness on. He explained that we'd be walking along both quiet and busy streets and that he'd have an extenda leash clipped to the dog just in case I needed him. I still was incredibly nervous. I was so worried that things wouldn't work out and I'd have to keep waiting. I was also worried that I'd decide that we were a good match and be wrong just because I didn't want to wait anymore. I had told myself the night before to try to be aware of anything I might not like and to mention them. I wasn't going to go down the same path as I had taken with Glacier. I had noticed things in training and had mentioned them to his trainer, but was brushed off. I was determined not to be brushed off again.
The first part of the walk took us along side a park. The dog was very focused and despite other dogs running off leash in the park, the dog kept us moving forward. Little reminders to "straight on" helped, but the dog was very easy to re-direct and re-focus. "Straight on" was a new cue for me, so I had to keep reminding myself to say the right cue. Leader Dogs uses just "straight" and so sometimes I'd almost forget the "on" part. At the first curb we came to, we hung a right and began walking along a busy street. My left arm/hand was very tense and the trainer asked me if I was okay. I told him that it was a bit scary since I hadn't done this in a while. I made a conscious decision to relax. I knew that the dog would be able to pick up on my uncertainty and nervousness which would make the dog uncomfortable.
The trainer warned me of a bus stop that was coming up. There was also a pole in the proximity of the bus stop that required the dog to navigate me carefully through. We approached the bus stop and I could hear people waiting for the bus and just as we walked up the bus arrived. I was a bit concerned about getting through the crowd, but the dog moved cleanly through, leaning towards the bus door as if to say, "in here?" A "straight on" was all that was needed to keep us moving forward.
The walk carried on from there with many obstacles for us to work around. It was garbage day and so there were a lot of bins/bags/boxes out on the curb that we had to avoid. Not to mention, your every day pedestrian traffic, other dogs, birds and at one point the sea. Along the section where the sea was on our left, I had to keep reminding the dog "straight on" and gave the dog one small collar correction when the temptation of the sea was just too much, but again, re-directing the dog was so easy. There was no heavy corrections needed, no harsh tones either. The dog seemed to respond well to calm, quiet cues and this is how I like to work. I also didn't have to play cheerleader the whole time we were walking.
When Glacier and I used to go out, I'd have to praise him the whole time and keep talking to him or he'd lose confidence and stop working. Thankfully, this dog doesn't need that. Jett had needed harsher tones to keep her focused; not agressive ones, just a sharper tone to "leave it" or "straight." Anything less and she didn't pay attention to me. Again, none of that was necessary.
We moved between parked cars, around a van blocking the entire sidewalk and past three dogs without incident. To be honest, I didn't even know we past the dogs until after the walk and I asked if there had been any dog distractions besides the ones in the park. Suffice it to say, I was very impressed.
I also learned a few more new cues and some new body positioning. The body positioning is very particular when you're crossing streets with regards to your foot position as well as when you need to go down a side street and the dog is in the way of turning that way. The trainer had to keep on me about relaxing my arm and remind me about foot positions at crossings, but none of those issues were with the dog itself. My biggest fault was the tense arm and I had difficulty remembering to slide my right foot behind the left before telling the dog to "forward," but that will all come with practice.
 The trainer has even trained the dog to "find the pole" at particular crossings. I'm so glad he's done this because it means that it is a transferrable skill to other areas/objects. When the dog is told to "find the pole" the dog walks up to the pole and touches it with its nose.
When our amazing walk came to an end, the trainer asked me what I thought. I told him I was blown away at how easily the dog listened to cues and at how responsive the dog was. It was also very obvious that the dog loved working and that was a relief to me. The trainer had warned me that this particular dog liked to anticipate and sometimes would rush because of this, but that wasn't really hard to deal with. I just had to remind the dog to "wait" at curbs sometimes and only twice I had to bring the dog back into a "sit." I like that the dogs here are taught "wait." It was something I later taught Jetta and Glacier, but it's nice that it comes built in already with these dogs. :)
The sitting at the curbs was something I had to get used to, but to be honest, I think that it was beneficial. Before now I didn't think having your guide dog sit at curbs was a good idea and perhaps in most cases it's not, but for the way I work and the way this dog works, it's a good thing. It keeps the dog from rushing and makes me feel more relaxed at crossings. I feel like I can take my time deciding if it's safe to cross.
We talked a bit more about how the walk felt and then the trainer told me that he had unclipped the extenda leash in the last half of the route. I had had my suspicions because he'd leaned forward once and then was walking in a different position than before, but I was too busy paying attention to the dog and trying to read the dog's body language that I hardly gave it any thought. Knowing that he felt comfortable enough to let us fly solo, so to speak, made me feel so much pride in our work. It also made me hopeful that this dog was the one.
I brought the dog into the heel position at the back of the van and the dog sat. Then the trainer instructed me to remove her collar and with it, the leash. The van door was opened and the dog was told to "wait." After a few seconds the dog was told that it was all right to get in. I can't quite remember what the wording was because my head was buzzing with a million questions and replays of the walk, but it was something like "in you get" or something like that.
The humans then hopped in the van to get warmed up and the trainer asked me if I liked the dog. Of course I said yes. He asked me if I liked working with the dog and of course I said yes again. Then he asked me if I wanted to go into training with the dog. I laughed and said, "yes please." He laughed too and said that he thought we were a good match and that he wanted us to train together. So, it was decided that I'd probably go into training some time at the end of February if everything went as planned.
The trainer took me to meet the volunteer that the dog is staying with during this phase of training. This too is different than most North American schools as the dogs usually stay in kennels during harness training. Here, the dogs stay with a volunteer family so that the dogs live in an environment that is as real as possible. After that, we headed over to the hotel where we will be staying during our training together. This is also different from most North American schools as well.
When I got Jetta and Glacier, I stayed in a very large, purpose built residence building on the campus of the guide dog school. In Scotland, they use hotels. This particular hotel is very nice and all of the staff that I met were very friendly and seemed helpful. I definitely won't mind staying in that hotel for two and a half weeks.
After the hotel tour it was back home we went. We made plans to meet again on Wednesday to have the dog meet my crazy family of Hermione, Otis and Roscoe. We'll also show the dog the flat and then we're going to discuss routes that I would take on a regular basis. The idea behind that is to teach the dog as many of the routes that we will be taking as possible. I'm so lucky to be training locally so that the trainer can start early on our routes. It should make the transition for both of us a lot easier when we come home after our two and a half weeks of training at the hotel. Once we return home, the training will continue for another week or so with us living at home. I think this is so that the trainer can help with any settling in issues as well as go over local routes.
So, the point of this gigantic rambling blog post is that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. I have met and liked my potential new guide dog. I have to wait a month while the trainer works on polishing skills with the dog, but from what I saw on Friday, I'm going to be a very lucky woman come end of February. I'm not going to share any of the dog's details just yet as I'm not sure that I'm supposed to. Besides, I don't want to jinx it. :) Maybe after our meeting Wednesday I'll be able to tell you more.

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Princess is One!

Happy birthday to Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia of the K Family.
I don't know how, but somehow you are one year old today. It seems like a running theme of late: I just don't know where the time has gone. Of course we didn't see Hermione when she was born, or really know we were getting her until she was about seven weeks old, but her birthday is still momentous in its own wright. I'm sure she doesn't know any better, but I do, so I shall celebrate for her.
To be honest, I had a few activities planned for her since "doing things" is one of Hermione's favourite things, but the constant down pour outside has sort of put a damper on those plans. If it were just drizzling I'd still take her for her big long birthday walk, but we both get soaked just going out for five minutes bathroom breaks.
I was also going to take her to the cafe this morning with us, but the rain made me decide to leave her at home. Those beautiful Spaniel feathers get so wet and muddy that I didn't want her tracking that into the cafe. She likes to sit on a bench that runs in front of a window that looks out on to the street and if she were to get up there with her muddy, furry feet, the next person to sit down would end up with mud smears on their butt. So, again, she stayed home.
However, it will have to stop raining some day and when it does, I'll pretend it's her birthday that day and we'll do all of the things we were supposed to do today.
As for her present, I'm still torn between a raincoat and one of those LED flashing collars. Roscoe got one for Christmas and it's great for off leash runs when it's dark out; especially since it gets dark here so early in the day. The collars obviously have no effect on me, but it lets cyclists know the dogs are there and also sighted friends if they are walking with us. On the other hand, the raincoat would mean I wouldn't have to spend nearly ten minutes after we come in from just going potty scrubbing her dry.
Neither of those gifts are very fun for Hermione. So, I have plans of baking her a doggie birthday cake. I'm excited since it's my first attempt at cake. I seem to have the cookies down pat, but cake is a whole other story.
I also think either her squeaky cupcake or an elk antler is also in order. Otis got an antler for Christmas from his Grandma and Grandpa and both dogs love it. So much so, I have to hide it sometimes because they argue over it. So, perhaps the antler is the way to go.
What do the next few years hold for Miss Priss?
She'll continue to wow me with her crazy antics: just when I think she can't do something even more crazy, she goes and surprises me. I've also been in touch with some agility clubs to see if she and I can start basic training.
Other than that, she'll continue to be my beautiful little nut who makes me laugh and go crazy every day. It's amazing how she went from this little fuzzy ball that kind of looked like a wind-up toy to this fully feathered, weighing five kilograms, pretty dog. Mr. K always says-after she's done something a bit nutty-"at least she's pretty."
Happy birthday Hermione Sophia. This last year has been so much better because of this little dog.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Six Months Old

Mr. Sky Blue, as he is  known in the Kennel Club registry, is six months old today. It's amazing to think that three months have already passed since we brought him home. It's even more amazing to think that he's gone from fitting in Mr. K's palm to weighing at least seven kilograms. He's definitely heavier than Hermione now. He's still shorter, but definitely thicker as his Bulldog ancestry would dictate.
Otis is probably one of the easiest puppies we've had come through our home. He's a relaxed, chilled out  guy who likes to nap, puppy battle with Hermione, eat and nap some more. He likes to sleep in until at least ten in the morning, and probably would sleep longer if Hermione or I would let him.  Even with his late sleep ins he will also  happily take two hour afternoon naps. He's been really easy  to re-direct as well when he's misbehaving. For example, when he was teething he would chew on the corner of the pillows on the couch. All I would have to say is  "no" in a quiet firm voice, hand him his Nylabone and he'd automatically focus his full attention on the new object. Hermione used to do that, but within ten seconds would go back to the forbidden object. I had to keep on her a lot more than Otis. He also  hasn't chewed anything up even though he's definitely capable of doing some damage and he is nearly house trained. If I stick to a schedule and make sure he gets out, then he never goes in the house. He still doesn't know to hold it or ask to go out, but as long as I'm consistent with outside time, our floors stay puppy accident free. This in and of itself is a miracle.
Otis also loves everyone and has no ill will towards human or animal. He's always happy to greet everyone on our walks and has no fear when other dogs, big or small, come up to meet him. He does, however, feel he should protect Hermione which is very cute. I've read that you have to make sure French Bulldogs don't get "little dog" syndrome, so I've been really careful about staying on him about behaving, greeting others nicely and not letting him boss others around. I think, so far, he's doing well.
My only complaint about this little dude is his lack of motivation to go for walks. If you try to take him for a walk, he sits down and refuses to go. I thought that if Hermione or Roscoe were running out front he'd be more inclined to walk, but I was wrong. I wish we had a backyard because I think he'd be the kind of dog who would be happier pottering around at his own pace, smelling what he wants to smell and going where he wants. He just runs at a slower pace than me, Hermione and Roscoe. It's part of what I love about him-his chilled out attitude-but at the same time walk times are frustrating. I still take him for walks though as he needs the exercise and also the structure of walking on leash. Admittedly though, some days I leave him at home and just take the other two because I just want to walk and not have to play games to get him to walk. I may be investing in a squeak toy to see if that has any impact on his forward momentum.
I've said a million times before that I'm more of a big dog kind of person, but since we live in such a small flat, we're better off with little dogs. That said, the two small breeds that we've chosen to bring into our lives, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the French Bulldog, are some of the coolest little dogs around. Mr. K said he'd love to "have an army of Otis's." He loves the laid back and comical personality of the French Bulldog, and more specifically, our little guy.
So, happy six months little dude.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

My Strange and Wonderful Spaniel: Part Two

If you are ever bored, why not drop by for an afternoon? Hermione will keep you entertained for the whole day. Well, that is until she wears herself out and finally takes a nap. She is currently curled up beside me taking sed nap, but earlier today and last night that certainly wasn't the case.
Last night was our final night with my parents visiting. I thoroughly enjoyed having them here for seventeen days and found that it went much too quickly. We spent our final evening at a local restaurant that Mr. K and I really like eating and talking until we realised that we should head home so my parents could finish packing. Upon arriving home the dogs were all super excited to see us as is normal in our home. I have been fighting a cold and so my dad helped me take everyone out for the final bathroom break of the night. Since Hermione slept the whole time we were gone, she was a complete nut when we got back inside after relieving.
She was running around, wagging her tail and squeaking Roscoe's squirrel he got for Christmas. She was also demanding that someone throw the squirrel for her, or her bear or her tug toy; it just depended on what toy she brought back to you.
I'm not sure if I've ever told you, but Hermione would have a drinking problem if she were a human, or at least had thumbs and could open beer bottles for herself. I'm not sure why since neither Mr. K or I are big drinkers, but whenever someone has a beer, and apparently other alcoholic beverages, she's all about what's in the bottle, can or cup. Last night my dad poured me a small amount of porte into a plastic cup. He said it was to "burn the sickness out." I wasn't convinced, but I started slowly sipping on it anyway since I know hot toddies definitely work. As I was perusing the internet, taking my time with my Porte Miss Diva Queen must have noticed the plastic cup on the coffee table because the next thing I knew porte was flowing over the edge of the table and the little weasel was licking it up. Of course we cleaned it up quickly and stopped her indulgence, but none of us could stop laughing. But that wasn't the end of it: it never is with her.
This afternoon I poured myself a giant glass of water and set it on the coffee table. Hermione's been all out of sorts all day; probably with the change of the population in the flat. I think she had become used to my parents hanging around. So, she had been running herself ragged all day. She usually has a nap around noon, but not today. Death shaking squirrel, tug toy and attempting to shred a magazine was much more important.
Even though she was being a nut and she had knocked over a cup the night before, I thought nothing of the glass of water on the coffee table. I figured she had gone after the cup the previous night because it was flimsy and easy to knock over and also contained an alcoholic beverage. Apparently none of these things were factors for her, either that or she learned that knocking over things was fun, because she tipped my glass of water over and started slurping up the dripping mess. There was so much water that it splashed on to the couch and created puddles on the lower shelves of the coffee table and on the floor. I'm not even sure how she knocked it over. Maybe she used her nose, but more likely she pushed it with her front paws. I think her nose wouldn't be enough to tip over that much weight. Either way, there was water everywhere. This time though, there was more mess and Otis thought he'd join in cleaning it up.
At first I was irritated, but then I laughed. It was just water and it just meant I was mopping up the floor.
I don't know what gets into her head sometimes, but she very obviously is plotting. Not only that, she's incredibly persistent. My parents had to close their door last night while packing because she kept going in and stealing my dad's leather gloves out of his suitcase and racing off with them.
As I've said before, she's a complete nut, but I wouldn't trade her in for anything. Life would be much too boring. ;)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy Dogmany!

It's 2013. All I can say is "wow." We had a very good New Year's Eve, celebrating in a local pub that looks out on to the water. There was a band playing, good food, even better company and a really relaxed yet festive atmosphere. It really was an enjoyable evening, even if I did wear five inch heels and walked all of the way there and back. Oh the things we do for fashion.
In my defense, they are the prettiest red heels ever!
Anyway, the point is, it was a very good night.
But what is this "Dogmany" you may be asking.
In the UK, or at least in Scotland, New Year's Eve is called Hogmany. It's a huge deal here with fireworks being fired off from the castle every hour and a gigantic street party. Apparently, this year's Hogmany street celebration pulled in somewhere around 75 thousand people. This still doesn't explain Dogmany right? I'm getting there.
Dogmany is a fun day spent in one of the city's larger parks where sled dogs race and the general public are encouraged to bring their dogs. It's held on New Year's Day and as I'm sure you can guess, we went. There's no way there is going to be a massive gathering of dogs and me not be there.
My parents and I hopped a cab downtown and brought Hermione and Otis along for the day. Mr. K was not feeling well-no, it wasn't from drinking too much the night before-and so Roscoe stayed home with him. We met a couple of our friends at the park and spent some time watching the sled dogs racing. There were races between teams of three and then races between teams of two. In one of the races with teams of three, a kid of about ten won the heat. It was pretty exciting to watch. There were so many different types of sled dogs around I hardly knew what to do with myself. It was amazing. Of course there were plenty of pet dogs about and I spent a lot of time petting other people's dogs and having photos taken of mine. There was even a novelty dog show set up and I entered both dogs.
Hermione was to be shown in the "Waggiest Tail" category and Otis was entered in to the "Prettiest Eyes" class. There was some time to kill before the show so we wandered around a bit more, getting stopped about every fifteen feet for someone to pet/stroke/hold/take a photo of Otis. Hermione was admired as well, but it was a different kind of dog person who appreciated her. It was actually interesting to take notice of the people who were drawn to each dog. Otis, for example, drew in families, young couples and just your average dog lover. Hermione on the other paw, drew in people who were breed experts, serious gun dog handlers and people who are a bit more serious about their dogs. Of course little girls were smitten with her too because of her fluffy ears and feathery tail. She truly is a princess.
When it came time for Hermione's class to be shown, I missed the call for us to enter the ring. It was really noisy, Otis was being kidnapped by a small child and I was honestly distracted by a fourteen month old Dog DaBordo who weighed 3 and a quarter stone. For those of you who don't know "stones" that is, in my opinion, weight measurement for bloody huge. I was disappointed she didn't get to go in the ring, but Otis was up next and he was a hit.
The "judge" had us all enter the ring and line up. Then she went around looking at each dog and squeaking a small squeak toy at them. This was to get the dogs to look at her so she could judge who had the prettiest eyes. The funny thing was even though it was fun and we were joking around, waiting for her judgment was actually tense and I got a bit excited. The judgment came back that a gorgeous Springer Spaniel had the prettiest eyes since he/she sat perfectly still staring at the judge during the squeakathon. Otis, my little charmer, won second prize and a mixed breed of some sort won third. When the winners were announced we all lined up to receive our prizes and the dogs were given medals and a certificate. A goodie bag with a few treats was also part of the loot. Then, the dogs, and owners I suppose, got to strut their stuff around the ring to show off for the crowd. It probably was one of the most fun things I've done with my pet dogs and to be honest, it's kind of addictive.
A lot of novelty dog shows are run in the name of charity in Edinburgh and I've thought of entering my dogs into more just for the fun of it. It would give me a reason to work with them on their obedience, a way to meet new people, give to a good cause and have fun while I'm at it.
By the end of Otis's victory lap, my feet were frozen and I think my parents had turned into snow people, or at least frost people, as well. We said our good-byes to our friends and found a cab to take us home.
It was a warm shower and a hot cup of tea for me and a well deserved treat, courtesy of Otis's winnings, for the puppies. We all spent the rest of the evening curled up on the couch just relaxing as it had been quite an eventful previous evening and next day. I think it was the perfect start to 2013.
Happy 2013 to all of you and wishing you the best in 2013.
hugs from Jess, Hermione, Otis, Roscoe, Mr. K, Hamish and Lola