Friday, January 31, 2014

Random Guide Dog Thought

In the last 24 hours I've been reading some blogs I haven't read in a while. I've also talked to a few people I knew a long time ago, but sort of fell out of touch with. Many of these people are guide dog handlers and for some reason I found myself feeling surprised when they talked about their dogs retiring and having/getting new ones.
I have a new guide dog. In fact, I had two new ones in a very short time period. A lot of these people got their dogs a few years after I was issued Jetta. So it would make sense that their little workers deserved a retirement. Mine sure did. But, it felt strange thinking of that person without their other dog and having to substitute a new doggie name.
I wonder if that transition is strange for anyone else? I.E., it was no longer "Jess and Jetta," but "Jess and Glacier" and then not much longer after that "Jess and Nala." Or, perhaps, no one else's minds get this bored and think up random crap. :)

Arrived Safe nd Sound

Thankfully, our 9 hour drive is over and Nala and I are comfortably sprawled in our hotel room.
That's right. We're on the road.
Probably not. We all know I don't stay still well.
This morning, very bright and early I might add, Nala and I loaded up Coach T's van with our gear and headed out to the Para Nordic ski Nationals being held in Ottawa over this weekend. I am racing all three events which should be interesting. We start off with the sprint skate ski tomorrow afternoon. Again, it should be interesting. I've only skate skied four times and tomorrow I'm racing. Tee hee.
Nala was a pro on our very long trip. She slept most of the way and relieved whenever we stopped. She got me safely into bathrooms and found toilets for me and went back to snoozing when we got back into the van.
We all took a walk after unloading our stuff into our rooms and Nala had some much deserved supper. I was really impressed with her guiding. There were a lot of people to work through and some really blended curbs. She stopped at all of them. Coach T and I found a little pizza place and had supper. I had a little twinge of guilt as I ate my non-gluten/dairy free pizza. Mr. K is making a lifestyle change and it includes cutting out gluten and dairy. It's working wonders for him and I'm doing it right along side him for support. I don't know if it's in my head, but I feel gross now after eating the pizza. I think my body is confused, but finding gluten free food in restaurants is going to pose a problem. Regardless, the restaurant  made me smile when we went in because I totally felt like I was back in a university city. It was just the atmosphere of the place-too many tables crammed into a small space, music way too loud for dining was great.
Other than that, today hasn't been too eventful which I'm kind of grateful for. An uneventful drive is a good drive in my opinion.
I'm kind of glad racing isn't until tomorrow afternoon. It gives us the morning to putter around, eat a good breakfast and not feel rushed to get to the ski trails. In keeping of that theme of relaxation, that is exactly what I am off to do right now.
Good night, all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Puppy Chaos

***Warning: Very long post ensues.
Yesterday was another puppy outing for Nala, Mr. K, me, Kayla and her raiser. We went back to one of our malls and wandered a circuit around the mall, stopping in the anchor stores to do a bit of turn work with Nala. It took a few reminders from my wonderful walking companions to "slow down." Nala and I seem to have a need for speed because we kept leaving everyone behind. We saw Tenie at her work and told her to join us in the food court when she was done working.
We settled in the food court with some Subway and waited for Tenie. The dogs had been great on our walk around. Kayla is still full of puppy antics and wanted desperately to (play) attack Nala while we were working. Her Mom kept a good handle on her though and Kayla admired Nala's tasty looking jowls from afar. Kayla is a little celebrity and we stopped often to talk to someone or another who was so surprised at how big she's gotten already. Nala sat and waited every time we stopped and when the conversations got too long and boring, Kayla sprawled out on the floor and took a wee nap. For only 3 months old, I think that is pretty impressive. Everyone's behaviour was spot on in the food court as well. Kayla gave her Mom a few good "leave its" and one where cardboard had to be retrieved from the recesses of her puppy mouth, but considering how much stuff is dumped all over the floors in a mall food court, I think both girls did a great job. Once seated at our table, the dogs had a bit of water and then settled in for a nap. I don't think Nala really sleeps. I think she lies still and behaves herself, but like a little Black firecracker before her, her eyes are always tracking the goings on around her.
Tenie arrived and we sat still some more. I thought that Kayla would start getting antsy, but once she figured out that Tenie's coat was a cozy sleep spot, she passed right back out again. We sat there chatting for a good two hours and the dogs were great. Even with people stopping and getting in their faces, they handled themselves like pros. A friend from massage college once said that I needed a bulldog and that Mr. K was my bulldog; essentially, he's much better at heading people off before they can start fussing Nala. I've become better at telling people not to interact with my dog and explaining why, but sometimes words fail me if someone swoops in too quickly. If Mr. K is there when those moments of tongue glued to roof of mouth occur, he always sets the record straight about interacting with a working dog.
After our very long, but very enjoyable break, we headed back to Kayla's Mom's car. We had been sitting quite a long time and since water had been had, we had a pee accident; not that Kayla's to blame. We knew that she had napped and that meant pee time, but we just couldn't get to the door fast enough. We talked about how Kayla doesn't give a sign that she has to go yet, or
I just don't see it yet." Her raiser said, while sopping up the mess.
Both Mr. K and I started talking at once about how puppies at that age aren't physiologically able to hold it yet. They don't have the muscle strength. It's like a little kid: one minute they don't have to go, but a few minutes later they have to go so badly that they may burst. To Kayla's credit, the few accidents she has had, she's managed to hold it until we were near a garbage bin. So, disposal of cleaned up mess was quick and easy.
After her little, or not so little nap, Kayla was raring to go. Actually so was Nala. In the car, Kayla was a little monkey. She was determined that she would most certainly play with Nala now. However, she had to wait. She had no idea that when we left the mall she was not going home, but instead she was coming over to our fur filled, crazy house.
I have to say that the baby gate we've installed in the living room doorway was one of the best purchases we've ever made. It keeps the dogs left at home back from the door so that we can take off winter gear and put any packages down that we may be carrying before being bombarded by excited fur babies. Everyone was quiet when we first entered because they didn't know they had a guest. However, once they heard Kayla's Mom's voice and the jingle of Kayla's Leader Dog tag, all Hell broke loose. Again, thankfully the gate kept everyone at bay. Mr. K was de-wintereized first and let everyone out to go to the bathroom in the backyard. I'm not sure they even went, but it gave us enough time to get Kayla into the living room and fasten the gate behind us. Before long Hermione was jumping up and down outside the glass slider and Otis was running on the glass with his front paws; his signal that he wants in. So, we told Kayla's Mom to brace herself and Mr. K let the tidal wave of fur excitedness into the room. Nala had stayed outside, probably because she thought the puppy was old news, but the rest of the crew bounded into the room. At first there was so much paw scrambling and excited dog noises that I had no idea who was where and what was happening. I managed to figure out that Nala was outside and stopped trying to call her to me and instead switched to Roscoe. He came, albeit reluctantly, and Hermione came too. I had them both sit and wait while Kayla and Otis became acquainted. However, Otis was so over excited that he soon had to be removed from the room. He was placed on the other side of the gate to watch Hermione introduce herself next.  To be honest, I was surprised by all of my dogs' responses to Kayla.
First of all, Otis is the lover in our household, but he was so over stimulated that he kept trying to play too roughly with Kayla. Poor thing was so overwhelmed that she didn't know what to do with the little squished face dog who kept running full tilt at her. Otis's play privileges were revoked for the time being. Hermione also shocked me. She can be stand offish with other dogs. Since she's been attacked twice by bigger dogs, she often hides or growls rudely. She prefers people and usually growls at other dogs who get into her space, but she did really good with Kayla.
Kayla's Mom sat on the floor and Hermione was quite happy to go up and love on her, despite the excited little bundle of yellow fur. I was pleasantly surprised because normally Hermione would have stayed away from the person to stay away from the dog. That speaks volumes to Kayla as well as to Kayla's Mom's personalities. During the rest of their stay, if Hermione needed her own space she would jump up on to a dining room chair or go under the dining room table. If Kayla came barrelling too quickly into her space, Hermione would give a little warning growl and Kayla would back off. Kayla was a very respectful puppy and a quick learner. They even played a game where Hermione hid under the table and Kayla would play bow and bark at her. Hermione would come out a bit and then retreat back under the table; kind of like a chase game. It was really cute; especially since Kayla is already bigger than Hermione.
Roscoe was another one who surprised me. All of the times that we've had puppies, Roscoe was the indifferent, old man. He didn't want anything to do with the puppies. Even when Hermione was a baby, he was not interested in playing with the little wind-up toyesk thing licking his face and ears. However, the instant he saw Kayla, he flipped over and was rolling around on the floor with her. In fact, he, Nala and Kayla had a grand time wrestling. I was so happy to see him enjoy himself and play with a puppy.
The whole reason Kayla's Mom had come over was because she has tendonitis in her arm. I have been offering to fix her arm for over a week now and so she came over. I'm not sure how relaxing her arm massage was, Labradors/Labrador Golden Retriever crosses battling and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/puppy chase/vocalising, but I hope she got some relief. I couldn't believe how knotted up her forearm was. I definitely have more work to do. I didn't want to make her too sore, so I kept the session short and by that time, everyone was panting with tongues lolling. So, I gave Otis some water off on his own and brought in a giant bowl for everyone else to share. Hermione was, of course, the first to drink; her little royal highness bossing everyone out of her way. After she had her fill, which really isn't all that much since she is so small, the 3 Labragators made quick work of the water bowl. While they drank-bowl placed strategically next to the baby gate- I sat on the other side of the gate with Otis and had him sit over and over again and treated him. He listened very well and it broke some of his fixation on the newcomer. I decided to try him again and we introduced them in our arms. We started off with some space and slowly closed the gap, but Otis was much too intent on Kayla. She was fine with him sniffing her back end, but once put face to face Otis got too excited again. So, Kayla was returned to the floor and I held Otis on my lap, dropping kibble into his mouth every time she came by.
I've never had a dog react this way before and I'm not sure if I handled it correctly; mostly because I was so shocked by the intensity of his arousal level. I would like Kayla to be able to come over more often, if Kayla's Mom wasn't scared off by the crazy antics, but Otis will have to get himself under control. The first step in that is having him neutered. It's something we've talked about for a long time, but have been afraid to do it because of his heart murmur and also because French Bulldogs do not do well with anaesthetic. However, it's time to discuss it with a vet. I think he's healthy enough and his fixation on Jetta and now Kayla tells me he's more than ready. I also think it would be beneficial for him to meet Kayla on his own and not in the house. There was just too much going on which increased his excitement level even more. Maybe we can take them for a walk together or have them interact at the little park just down the street from our house. I've never had problems with him at dog parks with any kind of dog. So, that is part of the reason I think he was over stimulated. He certainly wasn't being aggressive, but he definitely needs to be in a calmer state; both for his own health and to make sure Kayla isn't being traumatised. No offence Mr. French Piggie, but she has a big job ahead of her and you Sir need to get your 'tude under control.
Regardless, all of my dogs slept like rocks last night. Seeing how much Roscoe enjoyed himself and how well Hermione reacted, makes me feel like having a little energy ball over from time to time is a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and having the little Yellow set of chompers about is helping me with my puppy craving for sure. Not to mention, Kayla's Mom is really enjoyable to be around and it's nice to have good people in your life.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Puppy Fix!

It's been much too long again since I've written. So much has happened already in 2014 and I really should have wrote it down when it happened; instead of waiting almost a month to make a blogging appearance. (BTW, thanks for everyone who still reads and leaves comments). Although a lot has happened, I would like to tell you about mine and Nala's latest adventures. And, as the title would suggest, there is plenty of puppy involved.
Don't worry, we haven't gone and got another one. That said, it seems like this time of year always makes me want a puppy. Hopefully our newest friend will keep me out of trouble.
As most of you know, puppy raising for guide dog schools is something I've always wanted to do. Due to life circumstances, and one school flat out refusing us, Mr. K and I just have never had the chance. No, we're not puppy raising, but by the grace of some pretty amazing people, Nala and I get to be a part of a pretty incredible thing. Our latest adventure is two-fold, but one came about because of the other.
It all started with me talking with a fellow blogger about her adventures as a puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind, the school where I was matched with Jetta and later Glacier. LDB has recently embarked on a new adventure themselves and she was telling me all about it. As soon as I learned about the new program, I was hooked. I knew that I would do just about anything to help out. And, thankfully, they've agreed to have me along.
As many assistance dog schools are doing, LDB has started up puppy prison programs. Specially selected inmates are given Leader dog puppies to raise and from all accounts the prison raised puppies are incredibly successful as working dogs. What was more exciting for me was that one such program was recently implemented at a prison close to where I live. After a few email discussions, the puppy raiser said that I would be welcome at the prison as a part of puppy training days. I was over the moon. However, I missed my first opportunity due to bad winter weather and was quite disappointed. In the mean time, we had continued chatting and in a strange twist of fate, I ran into another of LDB's puppy raisers while out for lunch. Little did I know then that she and I would start spending time together, giving her 11 week old Yellow Lab some experience following around a trained guide dog and also as importantly, providing Nala the opportunity to work more while ignoring a very cute and persistent distraction.
We didn't initially connect on our own, but our lovely blogger friend put us in touch and we've had two outings now with the girls. She's also made it so that Nala and I have a reliable form of transportation to the prison program which makes things easier for me. Our outings have been to two local malls with a stop for coffee of course. It's been great swapping puppy stories and actually learning more about the training that the puppy raisers are responsible for. I always thought Nala and I caused chaos wherever we went, but it's nothing compared to two dogs-one of them being an adorable puppy-out in public. Nala and Kayla' puppy in training, are similar in colour and many people think that Kayla is Nala's baby. It's also been nice being around someone who is as crazy about dogs as I am. ;)
If all goes as planned, tomorrow we'll load the girls up and head over to the prison for a training session. She will swap her puppy for a dog who is almost ready to move on to advanced training for a few days. Jail breaking the puppies from time to time helps round out their training. Mr. K and I have discussed this aspect of the program and have considered applying. I know I'm more than willing. This upcoming Thursday marks another delivery of pups to the prison and an official puppy raiser training day. I had plans of attending, but somehow things have been turned on their head again. The cross country ski nationals start Friday and Coach T and I are driving the 9 to 11 hour drive to the venue on Thursday. So, unfortunately, this time is not our time. There will be another meeting though and come Hell or high water, I will be there.
Despite that disappointment, I still get my fill of puppy teeth/fur/breath with our unofficial training outings and also get to still go to the prison. I am so excited and grateful that Kayla's mom takes us along.
(For more information about LDB's puppy prison program you can go to the Leader Dog website or check out the blog Puppies Inside. After reading that blog I was very moved).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Case of the Stinky Mouth Monster

We all know, at least those of us who own dogs, that they just have stinky breath. There are sprays, treats and supplements all claiming to rid our dogs of their offensive smelling mouths. However, how many of those products really work? Many of those "breath busting" treats may contain parsley, or claim to, but how much sugar/salt/hydrogenated oils do they contain as well? While you may think you're busting your dog's breath, you may be giving him/her Diabetes instead.
Okay, enough of my rant against commercialised treats: my point today was to introduce to you our bad breath monster.
Meet Roscoe.
Of course all of our dogs have stinky breath, but Roscoe could peel paint. We've experimented with various foods, attempting to combat his bad breath, and have made some head way. It's not nearly as bad as it was, but his mouth still smells. It used to be so bad that if he even just yawned, we'd have to roll the windows down in the car. After a few food switches, his breath has decreased in potency, but it still smells. And, it's not just the smell that worries me. Stinky dog mouth, and I mean overly stinky dog mouth, can be indications for other problems; mainly poor oral health.
I think some of the offensive smells were coming from his stomach and that is why finding a better food fixed some of the problem, but Roscoe chewed on a rock as a puppy and broke a tooth. That tooth was removed and now there is a small gap in there where food and debris gets stuck. He's not really much of a chewer either; probably because he broke a tooth chewing. So, giving him bones to chew on to clean his teeth doesn't really work; unless they are bones with bits of meat still clinging to them. He is not interested in Nylabones at all. With Roscoe starting to age a wee bit-he'll be seven this year-I'm more concerned about his oral health than ever. So, I've instituted a new oral care regiment for Sir Stinky Breath.
I've always tried to be good about brushing my dogs' teeth, but honestly, brushing four dogs' teeth was just...well, gross. So, I'd think about doing it, and I did it some times, but not as often as is necessary. Once a week was about as consistent as I was. Not good enough. Well, probably good enough for the other three who all chew their food and on bones, but not good enough for Mr. Gulps his food down as fast as possible, swallows most treats whole and never chews on bones. So, I decided that in 2014 that I would become a better dog mom and brush his teeth every day. What's a three minute task daily in comparison to having to pay for dental care/surgery?
Everything I've read, including the stuff I took at the University of Edinburgh, says that the key to success is making something routine. I think I've misinterpreted that for a long time now, but something clicked the other day. I always thought that in order to make something routine meant that you needed to create a new routine and that is often where I failed. Forcing new things into a routine never quite worked for me; I don't think it works for most people. Obviously in some situations new routines need to be made, such as if you get a new job, but I think the key to success is integrating a task into an already existing routine.
For example, every morning the dogs get their breakfast between 9 and 10. The timing depends on whether I am skiing in the morning or not. The feeding routine has many steps, such as, collecting four bowls, dumping water out of them that the cat was using, scooping the right amount into each bowl. All of these little steps make up the routine. They have become so routine that you don't realise that that is what it is and isn't that the whole point? If something becomes something that you just do, without thought-it is routine- then you are successful at it: whether it is taking your vitamins every morning or going for an hour run. Part of our feeding routine is waiting for Otis to finish eating. He is much slower than the other dogs because of the shape of his little French Piggie mouth. I sit in the kitchen to make sure no one else bothers him while he's eating because he doesn't defend his food bowl from greedy Labradors/ Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses. That time was always just idle time-me doing nothing productive. I then began to think, "why not integrate grooming practices into that time? The drawer where I keep all of the grooming supplies was just a foot from me." It's time I'm already spending with the dogs anyway, why not use it for something useful?
And so, now, every morning Roscoe has his teeth brushed; both bigger dogs have a comb run over them; and sometimes someone gets their claws trimmed. One morning I managed to do all of that with Nala, Hermione and Roscoe while waiting for Otis to finish his breakfast. It's become so much a part of our routine now that Roscoe waits for his toothpaste and brush and no one runs off when I pull out the nail clippers.
So, what does this all mean?
I've met my goal in 2014 of creating a new routine-or should I say integrating new steps into an already existing routine- and grooming the dogs more frequently, thus being a better dog mom AND, most importantly, we are combatting Roscoe's bad breath one tooth brushing at a time. I've already noticed a difference. Instead of my nose hairs burning off when he breathes in my face, it's more like a light singeing. This strategy of integrating new steps into an already existing routine really works: now I just wonder if it'll help me get more motivated to wash the dishes.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

She's Two!

Happy second Barkday Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia.
For some reason I thought she was turning three, but that is certainly not the case. Still, I can't believe she's two already. I had some grand plans for her birthday celebrations, however, the weather had other ideas.
There will be no free runs on Hermione's B-day thanks to the frigid temperatures, strong winds and crazy blowing snow. That said, there will most certainly be doggie birthday cake which she did invite one of her doggie friends over for. He politely declined as he gets nervous by other dogs. Poor little dude's been attacked twice and is still traumatised. So, she'll have to be satisfied with human company. Of course her other furry siblings are here too and so they shall partake in cake eating-once Mama gets off her butt and bakes it.
Even though we've been snowed in, Hermione's found her own entertainment for her birthday. She is currently attempting to murder the blowing snow through our glass slider. I tried putting her out, thinking that the hopping/pouncing/grumbling meant she really had to go, but she wanted right back in. Can't say I blame her-it's horrible out there. She keeps leaping into the air and whacking her front paws off of the glass in a desperate attempt to pin down the elusive, moving white stuff. Although she thinks this game is fun, I think I will have to put an end to it as every once in a while she lets out one of her surprisingly loud Spaniel barks and I'm sure the neighbours won't appreciate it...I don't appreciate it. So, in leu of snow murder, Mama will provide Peanut butter Kongs for all.
Grandma and Grandpa are supposed to come over later as well and Mama was supposed to go pick up Hermione's birthday present-most likely some Bully sticks-however, if the weather doesn't calm down, Hermione will have to be happy with peanut butter/banana birthday cake for now. The Bully sticks may have to wait for another, less blustery day.
With that, I better get those Kongs ready-the attempted snow murder game is getting even noisier.
Happy birthday, my little (strange and wonderful, slightly crazy), baby, princess.