Saturday, March 29, 2014

Could It Be?

Despite our backyard fence still being completely buried up to the top and more snow being dumped on us Thursday evening, I think and hope that spring may be thinking about arriving.
Yesterday everything was melting and the temperatures were above freezing for the first time since November. I've heard a few more Blue Jays as of late and even though these are technically "winter birds," we didn't hear them all winter long. It was probably too cold for them: they were probably worried that if they bothered to open their mouths to sing, it would get frozen open. (Just a little factoid about birds: most birds don't sing from their mouths. The sounds come from their feathers instead).
Anyway, aside from my random knowledge about bird noises, I am excited to report that I managed to chip most of the ice off of my front steps; a first since about December. The little bush beside our front door is trying to poke through too. We haven't seen it since about December either. If you didn't know there was a bush there, you would have just thought we had a snow hill beside our front door for convenient sledding.
The truth of the matter is though that we are still buried under a good four to five feet of snow and even though it's trying to melt, I think it will take a while for it to go. However, with the temperatures warmer and snow still remaining on the ground, I am going to take full advantage of the ski trails. Coach T and I did a 4 K skate ski on Thursday, a 10 K classic ski earlier in the week and we're back out today. Technically speaking the cross country trails are supposed to stop being groomed after March 31, but sometimes if there's enough snow-and there will be-the club continues to groom. Once the snow has melted enough and they aren't grooming anymore, it's time to start running. Coach T and I are entering a 10 K road race in June, with the option of maybe switching it to a half marathon. Running a half marathon and ultimately a marathon is something I've always wanted to do and since Coach T is keen to do it with me, I may grab this opportunity and just do it.
But, that will be something we'll have to decide once we can actually start running. It's already April, basically, and if it takes most of the month of April for the conditions to allow us to run, it may be pushing it to be ready to run a half marathon. I'm a sprinter and used to be a swimmer...running and running long distances is definitely out of my comfort zone.
But we all know I'm a crazy person and so will probably end up doing it anyway. :)
For now though, here's to hoping that spring is really on its way.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Up and Over Part 2: Who Said Cats Can't Fly?

If you have read anything about Siberian Forest cats you will know that they are considered very trainable as well as great athletes. Often, they can jump great heights with hardly any effort. Apparently they are so easily trained that they are often used as circus cats, performing tricks.
Mr. K and I knew all of this when we settled on the Siberian. Sure, their athleticism was very cool as well as their trainability, but we mostly picked the breed because of its low allergen qualities in conjunction with a beautiful semi-long haired coat.  Most other low allergen cats don't have any fur and we really wanted fur. Also, most other low allergen cats require weekly bathing. This is not the case with the Siberian. So, the Siberian it was. As for our newest family member's jumping ability, there were instances where we thought it was impressive, but it wasn't until a few days ago that we found a new appreciation for just how well Rufio can jump.
I've been perusing different cat show schedules to see if there are any we could potentially enter Rufio in. I told Mr. K about kitty agility and we both had a good chuckle.
"What kind of cat would do that?" Mr. K asked. I shrugged. In the days since that conversation I think I know what kind of cat would do that.
As I've mentioned before, we have a baby gate blocking the living room from the rest of the house. It's to keep the dogs contained, especially when people come to the door. Nala has figured out how to jump over it quite easily now and so there's no containing her any longer. Thankfully, the other dogs haven't figured out, or just physically can't jump over the gate, but I think someone else has been watching. When we first moved in Rufio was small enough to squeeze between the rungs of the gate. Soon a little squeeze became a bit of a struggle and it eventually got to the point where he was just too big. He had to rely on us to get him in and out of the living room if the gate was closed.
If he wanted in he would meow until someone went and opened the door or lifted him over. He would do the same if he wanted out. He's a smart cat and figured out that making noise is the best way to alert us to what he wants. A few mornings ago his need for a human elevator ended. I'm not sure what prompted the change, but I was shocked when Rufio came sailing over the gate and landed in the kitchen.
I was in the kitchen getting the dogs some of the home made, dehydrated chicken treats I had made. Rufio likes them too and since the only ingredient is chicken, he usually gets one too. Apparently the dehydrated chicken was quite motivating because one minute he was in the living room and the next he was sitting on my foot. The gate is almost waist high on me. That's high for a cat to leap clean over.
At first, Rufio thought that he could only jump the gate from inside the living room and I had to keep letting him in, but within a day and a half he had figured out that he could leap both ways. He's even gotten to the point where he jumps on to the very thin top of the gate, balances there and then drops on to the other side. He's like a tight rope walker.
Show off.
The only problem now is that we had counted on that baby gate keeping him and his potential wife separated when not supervised. I think we're going to have to get a taller gate; perhaps a door?
If that's not a cat who can do kitty agility, I'm not sure what is. He's food motivated and athletic enough. He's already demonstrated that he's got some ups; further confirming that, to us, the Siberian Forest cat is the coolest cat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Up and Over

If you've read my blog for any length of time you will know that Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione Sophia is slightly defective. (I say that with all of the love in the world)! However, we picked the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed for its lap dog qualities and our little girl is the the furthest thing from a lap dog. We had picked her breed so that we could do therapy work with her: those plans may have to be placed on hold until she's a senior citizen and no longer a Jumping Bean. She certainly loves her people, but she needs vigorous daily exercise and  a lot of stimulation. It doesn't bother me most days, but since it's been below minus 10 C most days this winter getting her out for her exercise has been difficult. We're all going a bit stir crazy.
So, for quite some time I've been trying to come up with an activity I could do with her to keep her little brain and muscles stimulated.
We tried scent detection, but she acted like more of a sight hound.
I thought Rally O, but she became so bored with the activities no amount of high value treats or toys could keep her interest. "I already know how to do that Mom!"
Then, one day, when talking with Brooke from the blog "Ruled by Paws" the answer was found.
Brooke and her husband Huib and their fuzzy gang picked Rufio, Otis and Hermione up from the airport for Mr. K and I when we moved back from Edinburgh. The animals were arriving before us and they really needed some guardians until we could get back. In those few days, Brooke got to know my little energiser bunny. She suggested to me that we try Fly Ball with Hermione.
Why hadn't I thought of that?!
It was something I had thought would be fun, but knew it wasn't something I could do with the dogs I had at the time. The first time I read about fly ball I had a guide dog and guide dogs are not to be chasing balls, never mind jumping hurdles. I had completely forgot about the sport until Brooke suggested we try it. So, off I went to research how to start a dog on Fly Ball.
Initially, I was worried because Hermione's not fantastic at fetch. She loves chasing the ball, but I wouldn't say she's a ball obsessed dog. This apparently is a good thing. Sometimes dogs who are too ball obsessed won't make good fly ball athletes because the ball is way more important than the running of the hurdles Etc-or so I've read.
There was an exercise that I read about that is used to start a dog. It is called "dead ball" or something like that. Basically, your dog has to want to still retrieve the ball even if it's not moving. I knew Hermione would chase a ball and get it if it was moving/bouncing/rolling Etc, but I wasn't sure what her interest was if the toy was still. So, testing her interest in a stationary ball has been what we've been working on. She loves it. All I do is set the ball down, release her from a sit stay and she goes tearing after it. I'll even randomly just carry the ball around with me, set it down and see if she takes interest. She does. I started with a ball that Kim so nicely gave to us. It has a bell in the middle which makes it possible for me to know if Hermione's playing with it. I knew she loved that ball: it's her favourite toy and so that is why I started with that. Now, I'm going to have to switch over to tennis balls since that is what is used in Fly Ball. I probably could have started with a tennis ball, but the number one rule in dog training is to always set your dog up for success. I was counting on Hermione's love for that ball to help her be successful. I don't think she even knows we're training.
My next step is to get her used to jumping over things or at least stepping over them to start. We have a long narrow hallway and I am going to place a broom handle across the entrance of the hall. The handle will start on the floor so it's not super high and intimidating. I'll see how she does with that very unobtrusive obstacle and slowly start raising it. The idea behind using the entrance of the hall is to ensure she has to go over. There is no way for me to know 100 percent if she goes over instead of around if I placed the broom handle down in an open area. This way, she doesn't have a choice; except for not going over I suppose, but at least I'll know what she's doing and adjust training accordingly.
Once she's got some of the basics down it will be fun to find a club and start training with others and maybe one day competing. But, I won't get ahead of myself. First we have to start jumping and bringing the ball back to me consistently.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stinky Girl

Yesterday Kim and future Leader Dog puppy in training Kayla, Nala and I went to the mall for some work. We're still clutched very tightly in winter's grip and it seemed that everyone else in the city had the same idea we did; get out and walk in the mall. The place was packed. Kim told me when she picked me up that the food court had been re-arranged and had been outfitted with new tables and chairs. She figured it would be good work for both girls.
We arrived at the mall and begged the girls to relieve quickly. The wind was whipping the snow into tidal waves of cold, wet and painful attacks. They complied and we hurried into the packed building. I don't think they wanted to be outside either.
We did a good circuit of the mall, Kayla working on her loose leash heeling and ignoring distractions. Her biggest distraction was Nala of course, but she tried her very best to ignore, what she considers to be, her friend. Nala's not so convinced yet.
Nala worked well. She was a bit silly, but I think it was because the mall was so busy. She had to work hard to avoid people and obstacles, whereas, usually she has a pretty open path. One such obstacle was a pylon. She walked up to the thing and just stopped with my toes touching it. It was like she was showing me an obstacle that was blocking a sidewalk. She had plenty of room to go around, but she really wanted me to recognise that the pylon was there. I tapped the pylon with my toe and praised her. I asked her to "forward" and she paused for a few seconds, thinking about her options. Then she very confidently went around the pylon and brought me back to Kim and Kayla who were waiting for us on the other side.
Eventually, we ended up in the recently renovated food court with coffee and some lunch. Considering how busy and hence stimulating the place was, both girls settled in nicely. Our usual long winded conversation started and finally Nala interrupted by thrusting her head into my lap. Kayla had started to become restless too and so we thought it was time to move on. As I rubbed Nala's ears as I prepared to leave, a very familiar and unpleasant odour struck my nostrils.
Nala had an ear infection. I was sure.
"She's got an ear infection." I told Kim abruptly interrupting our conversation. "I need Witch Hazel and Tea Tree oil."
With that we were off to the health store where I managed to find a bottle of Witch Hazel, but they were out of Tea Tree oil. As I paid, Kim had to rush off to take a very desperate Kayla out to relieve. It had been a while since her last park and she had had some water. I waited for her outside of the store and when she returned she said we could try another place. We left the mall and went to a smaller store front that had what I needed. The clerk was also helpful by suggesting that I buy a small bottle with a dropper as its top. At first I didn't think I needed it, but after making Nala's ear concoction, I'm glad I bought it.
Ear infections were something that we dealt with with Roscoe until we found a food that didn't cause an allergic reaction. I'm not convinced Nala has food allergies as this is the first ear infection she's had since I got her just over a year ago. Not to mention, she is eating a grain free, fish based food. So, that should, in theory, eliminate any food allergies. She has been out playing in the snow quite a bit though and I think, and hope, that it's just that moisture got trapped in the ear.
Aside from the very definite stink of an ear infection, people can tell if their dogs have an infection if the ear wax is discoloured. In Nala's case, it is nearly black; not good.
So, why did I buy Witch Hazel and Tea Tree Oil?
For me, I'd rather treat a simple ailment with natural means if possible. Often when dogs go to a vet they are given anti-biotics or steroids for an ear infection. Ever since making my own ear cleaning solution, I have been able to avoid going to the vet for ear infections. Obviously though, if the infection persists after treating it naturally, a vet visit is necessary! Natural treatment is good, but sometimes medical intervention is necessary.
As for Nala's current predicament: I wipe the stinky and discoloured glop out of her ear with a dry tissue and then apply the mixture of Witch Hazel, Tea Tree Oil and olive oil into her ear with the dropper. To ensure the mixture stays in the ear, I gently rub the base of the ear with her floppy bit flopped over. She's only had one dose thus far, but it already smells better. The only thing I will say is that if you decide to use a home remedy, make sure you know what the ingredients can do. For example, Tea Tree oil, when ingested, can be toxic to humans and animals; especially cats. It is okay as a topical treatment for dogs, but make sure they can't lick it. If you are unsure, consult a vet or if you'd like to go a homeopathic route, contact a holistic vet.
I'm not really sure why I've just written a giant rant about treating your dog's ears naturally. It was more meant to be a story about Nala's stinky ear, but there you have it. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Prison Day Number 3

This morning Kim, Future Leader Dog puppy Kayla, Nala and I are traversing the bridge that defines the Ontario/Michigan border to go to the Michigan prison where other future Leader Dogs in training are being raised. I had set my alarm for 6 AM, but woke up a full hour before the chimes rang out.
Because I am so excited!
Kim and I had met earlier this week for an outing which Mr. K accompanied us on. We went to one of our malls and walked Nala and Kayla around and then settled in at the food court for a conversation that required two cups of coffee, a Subway sandwich and two park sessions for the wee pup. Get us together and we can gab!
Of course in all of that talk there was a lot of dog talk and we also discussed what we were going to do today at the prison. A lot of it is training stuff and of course we'll have a question and answer period at the end. I'm going to demonstrate how i pattern Nala to find an object, the door for example, so the raisers can see the value of training "touch" well. Whoever taught Nala "touch" did a really good job because she transfers that skill to touching door knobs or cross walk poles when I pattern her to them. Touch has also come in handy when I can't quite find her. I can just reach my hand with the palm up out and she will run her head into it. This, of course, could just be Nala's little quirks, but it's beens super helpful for me. The funny part is that as excited as I am to get Nala to be a show off and demonstrate her mad skills, I'm more excited about how excited the raisers are to watch her. I'm also excited to train with them because they are such good raisers with really good insights and questions. A common misconception about guide dogs is that once they are trained and handed over that they are trained and all training stops. That couldn't be further from the truth. As most dogs trainers will tell you: training is a lifelong process and that sentiment holds true for guide dogs as well.
Do you know what else is exciting?
Puppies! Lots of them! Need I say more?
Anyway, in my excitement I've sort of run out of coherent things to say. If I keep writing I'll probably write "I'm so excited" about ten more times and I think you guys already figured that out. So, I'll go for now and begin the routine I was meant to start once my alarm actually went off since it's now after 6.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Patty the writer of Plays with Puppies and now the Puppies Inside blogs has just received some very exciting news! Her most recent puppy has just been matched with his new handler! You should go read about it: it's her post that got me even more worked up. LOL (It's just an exciting day)!

Snow Queen

I've always liked the snow. I grew up in a part of Canada where winter can potentially last five months out of the year. Usually the last month or so it sloppy with melting and re-freezing and maybe a new snowfall, but for the most part it is what skiers like to call "dirty" snow. There is debris in it and it is so dirty from all of the sanding done to keep the roads safe for drivers. This year it seems to be one of those years where winter just hangs on. However, it's even worse than normal. Tomorrow is the first day of spring and we had more snow fall today; enough that I had to shovel it. There are still snow banks taller than me and this weekend the temperatures are dropping back down to minus 20 C. I like winter, but dude, enough is enough.
And the shovelling. Oh, the shovelling.
I've been lucky enough that a kindly neighbour has snow blowed for me a lot this year as well as a few others have shovelled but tonight I was back out there, scooping away the two to three inches that has already fallen today. Thankfully our driveway is really not that big, but have you seen a blind person's version of shovelling? It looks like what I would imagine would look like a patchwork quilt; just not that organised or pretty. It is certainly not smooth nor does the driveway ever become perfectly clear of snow. There are usually little ridges, bumps, patches and just trampled areas that I missed while attempting to rid the pavement of the fluffy intruder.
I had a neighbour once tell me that she didn't want to squash my independence, but that she would take care of the driveway.
The thing is, I actually enjoy shovelling most of the time. I like being outside and doing something. I found myself sneaking out at 5 or 6 AM this year to shovel; long before the sweet neighbour was awake just so I could shovel my own driveway.
No one stopped me tonight, but I don't think they were home. Of course when we get half a metre in one day I appreciate Mr. Snow Blower man. Not to mention, Old Man Winter, you have over stayed your welcome this winter. Sure I have thoroughly enjoyed cross country skiing and even shovelling from time to time, but Sir, I would like to stop wearing 800 layers when I walk from my front door to the car because it is so cold out my nose hairs freeze in 30 seconds. I also would like to start running and wearing shorts and sandals. Even before the shorts and sandals I would like to smell the grass growing and hear the birds returning. I can't believe it's the end of March and I haven't heard one robin yet.
Not one!
So even though I love winter, I am definitely over it for this year.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bravo Comes to Visit: Last Chapter

After writing my letter to Bravo's puppy raisers I felt as though I had written a bunch of vague and disorganised information. I really wanted them to know Bravo's strengths and what a great job they are doing with him. I also made some suggestions for things to work on, but I really wanted the summary to really focus on the positives because, really, Bravo is such a great guy. :) Here is what I wrote in summary. (Note: for some reason there are random letters. I'm going to try to get rid of those).

Bravo is a gorgeous, easy going dog. He likes to walk fast and that is good because there some people, like me, who have a hard time getting matched because there aren’t as many dogs who walk fast enough. He shows caution around new things, but not fear. Caution is good when a dog is guiding a blind person-caution keeps the dog and person safe and alive. LOL
Bravo is excellent at taking treats. He never once snapped my fingers off.
Bravo is great at parking on command. Despite our accidents, those were human error and not Bravo’s fault at all.
Bravo goes up and down stairs like a pro. He pauses at the top or bottom and walks up or down at a controlled, steady manner. If he gets too excited, a gentle reminder makes him slow down again. (Even though he really didn’t need to work on stairs, we practised in the house. I have some steep carpeted stairs to the second level of my townhouse and whenever I go up I take him with me to practice. Rufio the cat also has his food in the basement and every time I go down to feed him which is twice a day I take Bravo with me. He has to sit stay while the cat gets fed. The stairs down into the basement are slippery, wooden and open backed. He again is a total pro. Pretty impressive that he just sits there while I pour kibble into the cat's dish and then ask him to go with me back upstairs..
Bravo is not bothered by strange noises and doesn’t startle easy.
Once Bravo trusts you his response to commands such as “sit,” or “down” is fantastic.
Bravo bonds to his person really well; so important for guide work. He’s such a love bug.
Bravo is a quick learner. He picked up on “quiet” very quickly.  (Do remember though that you will probably have to start from the beginning of the cue as he probably has not generalised it yet. It was something he learned with me, in my house. It will be something he will have to learn in new areas with new people).

Keep on him with the barking. It’s easier to stop him before he starts. Most blind people are of a lower income bracket and probably live in apartments or townhouses. The dogs cannot bark incessantly the way he did the first morning I had him. He gives little signs that he’s going to bark and they are:
  1. he gives a little whine.
  2. B. He snaps his jaws together.
  3. C. He gives a little grunt; like he’s blowing air out of his mouth.
  4. If you say, “no, quiet” when any of these things, happen he will most likely not go into an uncontrollable barking fit. he often barks when he is over excited or over stimulated. Not all situations can be anticipated, but think about the situations you’re going into and if they will get him excited. If they will, keep him busy so he doesn’t think to bark. I.E., ask for touch, he loves to do touch and is really good at it.
    1. Bravo likes to rush to the end of his leash and pull. He’s a big, strong dog who has no problem dragging me around. Well, at first he did. I started knowing when he would do this and would stop him by either having him “sit” asking him to “touch” or reminding him to “heel” or “easy.” Often when he ran to the end of his leash I would ask him for a sit because it relieved the pressure on the leash and my arm. It showed him that it felt nicer than yanking me all over the place.
    2. Bravo also gets excited to go places-very good, but it means he  rushes doors; especially the ones that lead outside. We worked on this too. If he rushed a door we’d either go back inside and do it again; have him sit and stay and only move when he’s ready not to rush; and/or I’d use my body to block his passage so he had to go slowly. We had food delivered for supper on Friday and I had Bravo on leash and sitting while I got the food. He got many kibble after the door closed because he stayed put. I had to keep reminding him, but he did not rush the door. 
    3. I would say these three things are the areas that can be worked on. Name recognition when spoken by someone he’s not used to being handled by would be good as well. I think Kim has suggested this to others and I will suggest it to you: swap dogs. You guys have an amazing resource having all of you there raising puppies. It will help the dogs generalise the cues. Yes, someone else may do things a bit differently, but that is not a bad thing. it is a learning opportunity for you, for that handler as well as the dog. Once the pups are back at Leader Dogs they will be handled by many different people and ultimately their blind handler. I can guarantee you, having been through four training classes, that not a one of us handle our dogs the same or say cues the same or use the hand gestures exactly the same. Guide dogs have to be able to listen to someone else willingly even if they say or do things a bit differently.
    4. You guys are doing such a good job with Bravo. Whoever gets him in the end will be so lucky. My husband said that he wanted him back if he doesn’t become a guide dog. LOL Thank you for allowing me to have him for the weekend and experiencing such a fantastic dog. It was so fun and he has so much personality. We got so many compliments on how gorgeous he is and how well behaved. The people who asked about him were absolutely shocked that he was still just training. I think I’ve  written a novel here, but I keep remembering little things to tell you. I still feel like I forgot funny things that he did-like when he climbed a snow bank taller than me to park. His leash was extended and he decided that pooping above my head was better than any of the other snow banks around. After much stomping and spinning he did his business, but I told him that there was no way I was going up there to pick that up.
I obviously couldn't get rid of the letters.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bravo Comes to Visit: Part 3, More Mall Work

The days that Bravo were with us seemed to fly by. Reading my letter back now and posting it, I feel like I didn't tell his raisers enough. I also feel like I sounded a bit critical which wasn't my intention at all. For the record, Bravo was a great house guest, a very smart dog and a pleasure to work with. I learned a lot from him which I will post tomorrow in my summary. I was going to do the "Sunday" post along with the "Summary," but I have to hurry up and get ready to go cross country skiing; Coach T is on his way to pick me up very shortly. So, for now I will leave you with our Sunday adventure. :)

Bravo went to a different mall Sunday. He peed outside, but pooped inside. Human error again. I thought he was good since he had gone back at my house. These things happen to us in guide dog class-it's just a matter of not knowing the dog or his/her signs. and he wasn’t acting like he had to poop after peeing. So, we went in. No worries though-we cleaned it up and carried on. The mall wasn’t open yet so we walked up and down the halls for some exercise and to get Bravo moving in a forward movement. He likes to stop dead and refuse to move. Nala acted as a lure again, with us walking in front of him. He wasn’t bothered when one of the stores opened their giant gates right beside him. He did very well passing children, elderly people and a Dad with his little kid being silly in a little photo booth. There was absolutely no barking out in public.
Once the stores started opening we headed to the food court and had some lunch. Bravo again demonstrated his enthusiasm for “under.” He was under the table before I even sat down. While we were eating a small girl, about three years old approached and asked if she could pet Bravo. I said it was okay as long as he was lying down. I wanted to see how he did with children up close. He was a superstar. He just rolled over on to his back and let her rub his belly. He wiggled around a bit, but he never stood up. He did so well. Others approached and asked if they could pet, but I said no. I didn’t want him getting used to the attention. One older woman, probably in her nineties, sat down and chatted with us. She was so good about not interacting with either working dog. I wondered if Bravo would get up to greet her, but he stayed put. Good boy, Bravo.
After lunch we did another circuit of the mall and took Bravo up an elevator. I don’t know how much exposure he’s had to elevators, but he did well. He seemed curious and a bit concerned when the elevator jerked to a stop. He had been sitting, but when the elevator clunked, he popped up. We returned him to the sit and he did it very well. The ride down went smoothly as well. We tried to convince him to go into a bathroom stall, but he was having none of it. Bravo doesn’t seem to like small spaces. I don’t know if that is something you can work on with him? He is a big guy for sure and getting him into a bathroom stall may be challenging just because of his sheer size. We didn't force it. My second Leader Dog, Glacier, was too big for bathroom stalls too. I used to have to leave him in a sit stay on the outside, run the leash under the door and hold on to him that way. Unless the accessible stall was free of course.
We walked back to the car on the outside of the mall for more exercise, new distractions and to be close to vehicles. It was about a 15 minute walk. It was snowing which made Bravo a little playful, but he refocused easily; he is just a puppy after all. I don’t know how much traffic exposure he has had, but we walked that way so that he could have cars driving past him. He wasn’t bothered at all. We were at the mall for about three hours.
I did a group training session after the dogs were fed. Nala, Bravo and Roscoe, were all off leash. It was pretty amazing to witness 3 giant dogs sitting, going into downs and touching in unison. We went through a series of “sit, down, stay, touch” and they all really did well. I asked them for a sit and Nala was the only one who sat, so she was the only one who got a kibble. The next time I asked for a sit, three butts hit the floor; the boys were not going to miss out on their treat this time; or be outdone by a girl. :) 
I wanted to do more with him in public, but I’m fighting a cold and really needed to go home and have a nap.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bravo Comes to Stay: Saturday

Following along from yesterday's post. Here is the second full day that Bravo was with us. (Just in case you missed yesterday's post: Bravo is a Leader Dog puppy in training who is being raised in a Michigan prison. He came to stay with us last weekend for a few days).

Saturday morning Mom, Nala, Bravo and I headed out early. With every new day Bravo's barking was becoming less and less. He was responding to verbal cue of “quiet” without me having to shove kibble into his mouth; smart boy. Bravo got to ride in a different vehicle, an SUV and he did very well both getting in and out as well as riding quietly. We crossed back into Michigan and went to Walmart to pick up a few things. He seemed hesitant about the grocery cart.
Do you guys have one? Have you practised loose leash heeling while pushing it? 
To show him the cart was all right, I basically turned it into a Pez dispenser of kibble. I placed the kibble against the cart and brought it straight over to Bravo over and over again. With each kibble he moved closer and closer to the cart. Then, to show him it was okay, I walked at the front of the cart with Nala. Bravo didn’t want to be left behind by Nala, so he had no problems following along once we were in front. He navigated really narrow aisles, ignored shelves with groceries, including the meat section and also ignored many admirers. By the end of our adventure in Walmart, Bravo no longer thought that the cart was an object to be wary of. My mom and I stopped for gas and he was a bit curious about the pump noises, but wasn’t overly concerned. We went into another store so I could buy dog and cat food and he followed the cart into the animal food aisle. He tried desperately to ignore the food, but he needed a few gentle reminders. Can you blame him? Then, it was back home. No barking while out in public or in the SUV. Not ONE!
Later that afternoon I took all of the dogs, including Bravo of course, over to my parents’ house. I wanted him to get used to different houses. He got to play in the backyard with everyone. He was on a long line and was able to roll in the snow. He loves the deep snow. He would lie in it and kind of swim around on his back in it. He also would bury his head up to his neck in the snow and dig with his front paws. It was so funny. His manners during supper were great. Actually, all weekend he’s been great about behaving while people are  eating. He lies down by the chair and stays there until we start moving again, clearing the dishes. Very polite boy.
Other than the barking, there was one other area we worked on and that was not to pull like a mac truck at the end of the leash. It's not when he's heeling, but rather when he's supposed to be parking or even sometimes when coming in a door or out. Bravo has a tendency to get to the end of the leash and keep going with determination and much strength-the 71 pounds behind him helps him in this arena too. He very easily could pull someone off of their feet. I noticed it the first night I took him out to park and he almost managed to drag me down my driveway, like I was water skiing behind him. :) Figuring out when he would do this took some time, but I think I figured it out for the most part. With that in mind, I would ask him to "sit" when coming into the house from outside before he could get the notion to take me for a ride down my front hall. We also practised entering and exiting the house repeatedly in order to ensure he didn't pull me out the front door and down the steps. (His "around" is stellar by the way. He did it every time). When he finished parking I would have him "heel" or "legs" in order to stop him from yanking me off my feet. Re-directing him seemed to work. He never did this sled dog thing out in public though which is interesting; except for after parking outside of wherever we were going into.
Everyone slept like rocks Saturday night. Nothing like fresh air and some snow swimming to make a puppy sleepy. :)
Come back tomorrow for our adventure to another mall.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bravo Comes to Visit: First Evening and Day 1

Below you will read a letter I composed for Bravo's puppy raisers that was given to them upon his arrival back to the prison. It highlighted the things we did and some of my observations. But before you read the first part of my letter, let me fill you in on who Bravo is.
Bravo is a 71 pound 8ish month old Golden Retriever puppy in training for Leader Dogs for the Blind. He is an almost perfect Golden colour with this gorgeous gold rim around his eyes; at least I'm told. ;)  Bravo is being raised in a Michigan prison and I had the honour of taking him to my crazy, fur filled house for four nights. The puppies raised in the prisons are often taken out by outside puppy raisers in order to round off their already incredible raising experience. I wouldn't say I'm a puppy raiser, but I surely had a fantastic Leader Dog puppy in training staying with me and Mr. K.
*Note: the font may change or look funny because the text below was copied and pasted from my letter written to Bravo's raisers. I also forgot to add things in so I will add them in here*.

Hello Bravo’s raisers,
Just a little note to let you know how Bravo has faired this weekend as well as what he’s been up to. I say it’s a short note, but it’s actually quite long.

I didn’t get Bravo until Thursday evening after dinner and a second training session. He got into Kim’s car with a little encouragement and rode all the way back to my house nicely. He was quiet and I think he was pretty worn out from the whole day’s events. He wasn’t very responsive to the woman handling him, but I wasn’t sure why at that time. If she wanted to walk forward, he would dig his paws in and not move. If she asked him to “sit,” he just stood there.
At my house he was introduced to everyone one at a time. He greeted everyone with friendly enthusiasm. He came in and explored is surroundings. He met Rufio the cat and did very well. In fact, at first he wasn’t interested at all and then he started play bowing to the cat. So stinking cute. Rufio is not afraid, but not inclined to play back.
We had a bit of an accident; probably my fault. He peed inside; a giant pee. I didn’t know the last time he had been parked and should have done it when we came in, but completely forgot in the excitement of having him meet all of my other dogs and the cat. We just let him pee, mopped it up and then rushed him outside to see if anything was left in the tank. There wasn’t, but again, not his fault.
Bravo was not at all interested in doing anything I asked him to do unless I was holding a kibble. At first I thought it was because he didn’t do anything for anyone unless he was bribed to behave, but as the weekend has progressed, I have come to realise that he doesn’t do anything for anyone unless they are holding a treat if he doesn’t know or trust them. As our time together has gone on he has come to trust me and has been more willing to perform cues without being bribed. We didn’t use very many kibble on our outings at all.
I’m not sure if someone has explained the difference between a “bribe” and a reward” so I will here. If you already know then just skip this section.
Reward: giving the dog a treat after it has performed a task you have asked of him. You should not have to be holding the treat and rewards are often given at intervals.
Bribe: dog only performs cue if he knows you have treat in your hand and won’t perform without the treat.
There is a difference between “bribing” and “luring” as well. There’s a fine line between both. When you first taught Bravo to “sit” you used a “lure” which I guess could be called a bribe in a way, but you eventually phased the kibble out that had put him into position. Lure is okay, but can quickly snowball into a bribe if it’s not phased out. If I’m not being clear, just let me or Kim know and maybe we’ll be able to explain it better the next time we visit. Back to Bravo’s report. LOL
He slept well through the night Thursday. I put his mat on the doggie bed so he knew where to sleep. He slept next to Nala and he didn’t budge until about quarter to seven when he let me know he had to go out. He let me know by shoving his face into mine and sniffing/snuffling until I woke up. Then, he proceeded to tap dance about until I got my lazy bum out of bed. He parked no problem as he had the night before.

After park time we had a bit of a problem-it is a problem you mentioned in your letter and we also noticed it the night before. Bravo likes to bark and once he gets started he doesn’t stop. He barked for 15 minutes straight and it was so bad my neighbour banged on the wall. We live in a townhouse and the walls are thin. I knew his barking would be the thing we worked on all weekend long. (I did get some satisfaction when Hermione barked at the guy for banging on the wall at us LOL).
He sat nicely for breakfast and held his sit stay. I did some general house cleaning and had him follow me around while did it so that he could be exposed to various household noises/smells Etc. (I.E., banging dishes, dropped pan on floor, blow dryer, vaccuum). We worked very hard on his barking during this time as well. Every time he barked I used a kibble to re-direct him. At first all I did was stick the kibble straight into his mouth, click and say “quiet.” This continued on for the morning. He was less likely to bark if on leash as well.
Bravo’s first outing consisted of going to one of our malls just to walk around, be exposed to people and to see how he did on stairs. He did great. He was a bit heavy on the leash, but every time he came up to stairs he slowed down and paused on his own. So very impressive.
Does he wear the Freedom harness with you guys? He wasn’t a fan and walked much better with it off. When wearing it, it was like he would try to walk sideways away from it.  We walked him through the pet store to see how he’d do and the only thing that caught his attention was an open bin of dog treats. He ignored the kitten, rabbits and rodents. We continued on to Canadian Tire which is a big anchor store that sells pretty much everything. We wove in and out of aisles, practising Bravo’s “heel” and having him to choose to “leave it” or being reminded to “leave it” if the temptation was just too much. We worked on name recognition as well because he didn’t seem to be aware that his name is Bravo. It could be that he just didn’t think he had to listen to us calling his name because we are new.
After walking about we went to the food court and Bravo showed us how expert he is at “under.” He did bark once when we were waiting at the counter for our coffee. He laid under the table for two hours while we chatted. At one point we looked under the table and wished we had a camera because Bravo had very gently placed his paw over Nala's. It was like they were holding hands. Bravo didn’t get up when another friend came to join us part way through. He doesn’t seem to have any sound sensitivity: rattling carts, yelling children and other loud noises didn’t phase him on any of our outings.
We had a quiet evening in and he spent some time playing with our dogs, chewing his bones and sleeping. It was an early night and he was a bit more restless that night. He would get up much more frequently. I took him out at 1 because he seemed like he needed to go. He parked and it was back to bed, but he just wouldn’t settle. He kept snuffling me. Eventually, he realised I wasn’t getting up and would lie back down. I knew he had done both businesses and so just ignored him.
By the way, Bravo’s house manners are AMAZING! He never stole socks, toilet paper or slippers. I even put socks out for him, but he didn’t even care. He did like wrestling with a package of bottled water. I think he liked the noise of the plastic wrapping that holds the case together. I let him be since it wasn’t hurting anything; funny guy.
That was Bravo's first little bit with us. Admittedly, I was horrified when he barked for the 15 minutes straight. All I kept thinking was, "we have four more days. My neighbours are going to call the cops on us!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bravo Posts Pending

I left my post off with a cliff hanger on purpose...not realising that I'd be hit by some kind of Canadian plague that would render me unconscious for basically 24 hours. Bravo went back to the prison yesterday, but because I've felt so rotten I haven't talked to Kim, who was so kind to return him for me.
Thanks Kim.
Anyway, every time I've resurfaced from my pillow my staying awake power seems to improve. So, hopefully by tomorrow I'll be able to fill you in on my doggie filled weekend.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Another Prison Visit + Long Awaited Meeting

Thursday around noon Kim came to pick Nala and I up for our trip across the border and to the prison. Drummand who was being returned that day, greeted us happily from the back seat. A quick stop for coffee and the four of us were off; ready to train, ready to learn and ready to meet someone that I've been wanting to meet for a very long time.
Upon arriving at the prison, we were signed in as per normal; markered number on the back of our hands. We also went through a metal detector. Kim introduced me to some pretty amazing people,the two people responsible for getting the Leader Dog puppies into the Michigan prison system. Nala sat patiently as I shook hands, signed forms and  unloaded my pockets of most everything. She needed a few gentle reminders to "sit," as everything was pretty exciting, but I was really happy with her. Since checking in is such a big deal, things were a bit muddled for me. I'm pretty sure it was Kim who introduced me to the person I've wanted to meet for a very long time, but I can't honestly remember.
Patty, a blog writer from "Plays with Puppies" and now "Puppies Inside," was there with another Leader Dog volunteer to do puppy training with the prisoners and later that evening outside puppy raisers.  I can't remember when I started reading Patty's blog, but it was somewhere between her first puppy and her second; I think. Even more strangely, when Glacier and I were welcomed back to LDB for re-training in the spring of 2011, Patty was there meeting the person who had been matched with her puppy Mike. Our paths crossed then, but we never actually met. In fact, I walked right past her in the hallway. So, after many years of reading her blog, I was so excited to meet her.
After all protocols were met, our group walked out through a door into the freezing cold, through a gate and then into the dining hall. I was later told that it was the dining hall and that all of the tables had been pushed up against the walls. They were regular tables with stools fastened to them. Plastic lawn chairs had been set up for everyone to sit on.
We were greeted by many voices, barking dogs and a smell of unscented anti-septic. Nala took the noise in stride and didn't return any of the doggie communications. Again, I was very proud of my girl. I located a plastic chair and settled in. Unfortunately, I had picked the one closest to the door and the wintery air was filtering in.
"I picked the wrong seat, I think." I said to a woman who worked for another Michigan prison. She was there observing the goings on to see, I'm assuming, whether or not a puppy program would be feasible in her own facility. She offered to switch seats, but I didn't want her to freeze either. She asked someone to shut the door which made us both happy.
Eventually, the man who started the program at this prison came and sat beside me. We had some great conversations and he explained a lot of the layout of the building, how exactly the prison system worked and of course general doggie chat. I learned a lot from him and enjoyed having company.
We started the training session with something that is called a "relaxation" routine.  Perhaps routine isn't the right word, but it isa series of behaviours the dog is asked to perform while holding a sit stay. I suppose a down stay would work as well, as long as you have the dog perform the sit or down and the dog remains in that position for the duration of the exercise.
Nala rocked my socks off. Even with all of the other dogs, handlers giving cues and the LDB volunteer talking she did exactly what I asked her to do. She even ignored one of her reward treats I dropped at her paws. The man who started the puppy prison program, crushed it under his shoe after a while and so the temptation was removed. I was impressed. I had Nala wear her play collar with the bell on it so that I knew if she was moving. It came in handy because she barely jingled the whole time which meant she held her sit stay even when I dropped her leash and moved away from her.
The rest of the afternoon sort of went by in a blur. The LDB volunteer took a few dogs at a time to watch them going up and down stairs. Patty took Nala, out of harness, around to act as a dog distraction. We had a very interesting conversation about over using the cue "leave it." We talked about how the puppies had to learn how to make the decision to leave something even if they are not told to. Quite often, blind people with their dogs will pass a tempting object and the handler won't even know it was there. This has happened to me probably more than I know. The story that I could remember that was a really good example consisted of Glacier kicking a doughnut and me not even knowing. If Tenie hadn't been there to tell me to praise him, I never would have known my dog just chose to "leave" a doughnut that he kicked with his own paw. Nala also used her decision making skills when she stood with her paws practically in a pile of Gold Fish crackers for over ten minutes and I didn't even know. Her head had been at an odd angle for the whole time so I asked why and I was informed she was trying to ignore the tasty mess.
It also happened to be one of the puppy's birthday that day and another in a few days. So, of course we sang them happy birthday and a few birthday games, with an emphasis on obedience, were played. The most competitive game was the game of Musical Chairs the handlers played with their dogs having to sit when the handler sat in a chair. Nala just laid at my feet, taking the commotion all in stride.
One of the guys came to talk to me during one of the raucous party games. He is raising a German Shepherd puppy whom I am totally in love with. When he came to chat, he didn't have his puppy and I took the opportunity to have someone run Nala out to do her business. We are not allowed to go to the dog parking area because of its location within the prison. We had been there for quite a long time by this point and I knew Nala needed to go. I told him he could walk her around a bit if he wanted just to let her stretch her legs. I told him to make sure she heeled nicely though and not to let her push the boundaries with him just because he was new. He was so excited to take her.
By the time Nala had returned from her business break and small walk, I had news for her. I had been asked if I wanted to take one of the puppies home for the weekend. I was so shocked and excited. The man who started the program had been the catalyst in that and he asked me if I wanted to take Bravo, a large, 8 month old Golden Retriever. Of course I did, but without a cell phone to contact Mr. K, I was unsure. I hadn't planned on taking a puppy home. I thought that I needed to pass some sort of test or something first.
Our afternoon went by much too quickly. I had brought Roscoe's Leader Dog harness for everyone to see the difference between Nala's and the Leader Dog style. There were more questions from the inmate raisers which I love answering. The questions are always so relevant and I know that they listen to the answers and take the information to heart.
We packed up and headed out to dinner. There were twelve dogs at our very long dinner table that night. Apparently, Nala was laying next to an olive all dinner long and didn't even move. Again, good girl Nala. From what i could tell, all puppies were well behaved during dinner. Miss Kayla, or Little Miss as I like to call her, was a little super star. I hadn't seen her in two weeks and was absolutely shocked at how much she had grown.
After dinner, we all went to a firehall and practised some more obedience, including the relaxation exercise again as well as some recall. All of the dogs were tired and some just didn't want to work anymore. I'm not sure I could blame them. Nala was tired too, but she did very well. There was a little German Shepherd pup on his way to a different Michigan prison who had been upset all day. He had just left Mom and his litter mates a few short days before and had spent the last couple of nights in different places. He sounded so tired and confused. I couldn't believe how tiny he was. By the end of the evening he was so sleepy that he found a little corner by where Patty and I were chatting and fell asleep. As we were walking out someone said,
"There's a leash over there." To which Patty replied,
"No, that's my dog."
We all laughed and joked that she was leaving him behind because he was too noisy. She had left him sleeping while she gathered up her stuff. Poor wee guy really needed a nap.
Kim sent Kayla back to prison and Bravo climbed hesitantly into her back seat. And so began my weekend adventure with a very stunning and stubborn Golden Retriever puppy who weighs 71 pounds.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Just Right

Wednesday was a day I had been waiting for for a long time. Coach T and I have been trying to  schedule a day where we could take the dogs cross country skiing with us, but it just hasn't worked out for some reason or another. So, when we finally loaded his car up with Nala and Hermione on Wednesday I was super excited.
We made it to the trail and I let Hermione out of the car. It's a huge parking lot and everyone there has dogs. It's one of the only groomed trails that dogs are allowed on. She was good, not venturing off very far. It took me a minute to find Nala's play collar, but once I found it she too was released; the bell on her collar jingling away. Nala instantly found someone to play with and busied herself frolicking with someone else's Yellow Lab. Coach T stopped to talk to some people he knew and they had thought that Nala was the Yellow Lab owner's dog because she was so invested in her game of chase. We walked to the beginning of the trail, stopping to talk to another guy who had a Shiloh Shepherd with him named Remmy. The dog was gorgeous and wasn't even bothered when Hermione started up her litany of "woo, woo." She has a hate on for big, furry dogs ever since she was attacked by that Tibetan Mastiff.
The temperature was a bit chilly, but the sun was out and the trail was actually quite nicely groomed. We probably skied about seven kilometres. I was worried that Hermione would freak out about the skis and poles and she did initially bark a bit at me once my gear was on. However, once we started gliding along, she didn't seem to think it was such a big deal.
Nala did get a light tap from one of my poles when she came too close, but otherwise she was unconcerned. She did, however, seem to not realise that Coach T's poles were just as dangerous as mine because she  kept stepping on them.
When we reached the summit of our first down hill I was a bit worried. How would  the girls react to me sliding down the hill? It could be quite noisy and although I wouldn't be going super fast, it would be quicker than what they were used to. For safety sake, I snow ploughed with one ski, even though I really didn't need it. Neither dog noticed.
They both seemed to really enjoy themselves. At one point coach T stopped us so that he could describe Nala's acrobatics. She had been hurtling along at full tilt, but must have smelled something wonderful because her front paws dug in hard. So hard in fact that her back end lifted up into the air. It's surprising she didn't go flying over. It was like she did a hand stand. Or...pawstand, I suppose.
I was surprised when we reached the spot where you can turn around and head back. It didn't seem like we'd gone that far and even when we reached the car it didn't feel like we had gone seven K. It had been so quiet, aside from Nala's jingle bell ringing, and the sun had felt great after such a long and cold winter. I'm sure everyone can relate when I say that I'm really ready for winter to be over. It's been so bitterly cold. Today hasn't been that cold, but we're currently getting more snow. On the other hand, I guess if winter hadn't lasted this long I wouldn't have managed to et my ski in with my girls. So that's a plus.
Back at the car, I got everyone back in. Hermione hopped in willingly which was also surprising since if she's not done running, you often have to bribe her. I checked her paws even though she hadn't been lifting them. She had giant snowballs packed into the fur which eventually just melted off. I had attempted to pull them free, but she wasn't very impressed. Cant blame her I suppose. I wouldn't want someone tugging on my toe hair if it was as long as hers. Actually, 'I don't want anyone tugging on my toe hair no matter how long or short  it is.
For me, that was the perfect outing. Sunshine, cross country skiing with my dogs. I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

More Puppy Antics

Actually, there weren't a whole lot of antics, but rather some very well behaved and working guide dog and Leader Dog in training.
On Tuesday, Kim came to pick Nala and I up for another working session. She had taken future Leader Dog in training Ashley back the day before and jail broke future Leader Dog in training Drummand instead which meant an outing for Nala and I.
I had met Drummand and his raisers when I made my first visit to the prison. I didn't get a good look at the dog then, except for his head and chest, and I knew he was big. I didn't realise how big. At eight and a half months old, Drummand is bigger than Nala...and Nala weighs 65 LBS. He is a gorgeous Golden Retriever and is a super star.
He and Nala greeted each other in the car, but Nala was much more interested in the toys that Kim has in her back seat. I was kind of surprised because I thought the two would have a royal rumble in the back seat, but just a bit of sniffing and Nala settled in to chew a bone. Drummand thrust his giant golden head between the two front seats, but respected the mesh barrier of the dog canopy Kim has set up for that very reason. When we got to the mall I opened Nala's door slowly. Kim was on the other side convincing Drummand he wanted to come out, but as I pulled on the handle I felt the small car wiggle a bit. I wasn't entirely sure, but I thought the very giant and gorgeous boy was coming my way. I clipped Nala's leash on, released her from the car and managed a very successful body block of the Giant and Gorgeous Golden. His efforts thwarted, he went back to Kim and willingly put the bandanna that signifies that he is a dog in training on.
We headed into the mall and worked on stairs and then wandered through Canadian Tire to work on left and right. Nala was pretty good for the most part. Drummand really didn't bother with her and plodded along happily with Kim. Every once in a while something wonderful smelling popped up and she had to use "leave it," but he seemed to respond really well. I'm not sure how long we weaved in and out of aisles for, but it was apparent that it was break time when poor Drummand started panting and lagging behind Kim. He is quite furry and it was very warm in the store; even Nala was panting a bit. We headed back to the food court where the humans had coffee and the dogs had water. Both beasties flaked out under the table and were incredibly well behaved. Nala would pop her head up every once in a while, just to make sure the situation was under control, but when she was satisfied that all was well she'd go back to pretend sleeping.
I don't think she sleeps very often in harness. I think she's like Jetta in that way. Her head is down, but her eyes are always moving, surveying what is going on. Roscoe is like that too. I wonder if it's a trait they take on themselves once matched with a blind person. Whatever it is, I believe it's a sign of a good guide dog.
After coffee and much chatter, we headed home. Nala relieved and then Kim asked Drummand to "park." He hadn't been interested when we went in, but this time he peed right on top of Nala's which was our plan all along. When I was first house training Otis, I would take him out with Roscoe, have Roscoe go and praise him and then wait for Otis to pee on top of Roscoe's. It worked then and apparently it worked with future Leader Dogs in training too. :)
Both dogs settled nicely in the back seat again. They even shared the bone. When we got to my house, Kim opened the back door to get Drummand to come to her, but he excitedly hopped out. She had a hold of his collar, but he was not getting back in the car since Nala was out on the other side. I went back to my open door and called him. I must have been to enthusiastic and did not body block well because the giant and gorgeous went in one door and right out the other. I managed to catch him by the hip and Kim came to get him. We tried the move again, but this time I made sure to close the door a margin more and place my entire body in front of the opening. He got in and stayed in. Lots of praise for the giant and gorgeous.
It was a good outing. It was nice to see Nala keep her wits about herself even with a bigger, more adult-like dog walking beside or behind her. I wondered if she would be distracted by him, but they both did really well ignoring each other when working. Drummand seemed like an old man to me and I think his calm disposition rubbed off on Nala. She can be influenced by the dogs around her and him being so laid back helped. If there is a more excitable dog with us, I have to stay on her more about focusing. For example, when we worked with Sammy the black Lab who is also about 8 months, he was a bit more excitable and tried to play with her when we sat down at the table to have coffee. She was tempted, but a verbal warning from me, made her settle down. With Drummand, neither of them were even tempted.
Good job, Nala and to the Gorgeous and Giant.
Today is another day full of doggie fun-we're off to the prison and then to an outside puppy raiser training session-so I'll be gone all day. I really should go get ready. Yesterday was another doggie fun filled day with Nala and Hermione going for their first cross country ski, but I will fill you in on that and today's events tomorrow.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Over the Edge

"It's huge!" I exclaimed as I cornered Mr. K on the couch. "Look!" I said, dropping one of Hermione's clipped claws into his flattened palm. As I did so I began to think that I had lost it. I was turning into, or had already turned into, an even more crazy dog mom. I was like one of those parents who video their kid's first use of the potty. At least in that case it was their first use, but really? Do I need to see your kid poop? Then again, who the heck cared about Hermione's nail trimmings; regardless of how big it was.
In my defence I was excited because I had trimmed all of Hermione's claws in one sitting for the first time ever.
 Usually I have to do it in stages and have to have a third party distracting her. Last time I had Tenie hold Hermione and play Hermione's singing game with her. Basically, you sing in ridiculous tones and Hermione presses her face against yours and sings along. This is her favourite game to play with Mr. K and it was a good way to trim her claws.
This time, I set her on the kitchen counter, fed her a piece of soy cheese and then clipped one claw. She wasn't impressed, but after the first snip I quickly crammed more soy cheese into her mouth. With every clip she got more cheese. She's smart and caught on quickly. Soon, all claws had been trimmed and half a slice of soy cheese had been consumed. I fed her one more piece as I lowered her to the floor and had a dance party with her. I found the giant claw as I was cleaning the counter and thought, "I should show this to Mr. K or my mom." What ever possessed me to show off my prized claw I have no idea. I mean, really? Who wants to see my dog's claw?
I could have just told Mr. K about my triumph over nail trimming time with Hermione, but nooooooo! I had to take it one step further and show him the tangible proof that it had actually happened and that it was successful. Again, back to the kid potty training: I wouldn't want someone to send me a photo of the used pot. Why on earth would a dog's toe nail be any different? Sure, poop is a bit more gross than a claw. So perhaps I chose my comparison incorrectly, but my point still stands.
I have completely gone over the edge as a dog Mom.