Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is is really Saturday?

Firstly, a wee catch-up from yesterday! I needed an escape, and so, after dinner, I put Pina in her "kennel" in my room, and scooted outside for about an hour, stopping at the Beer Store (just to get change for the vending machines back at the residence! I'm not planning on being kicked out for rule violations at this point!), to pick up a newspaper to read at Tim Horton's where I enjoyed a coffee and a doughnut, and regained a little sanity! I think the break did us both good! We were in much better form today!
Today marked the day that we started working on SKILLS as opposed to OBEDIENCE. The first two skills introduced were "PUSH" (where Pina jumps up to push on the automatic door openers for the disabled, with either her front paws or her nose, whichever happens to hit the "sweet spot" on the opener! At times, for me personally, it might turn out to be easier to just push the button myself, but it is certainly handy to have a back-up! The second skill was "FETCH/GIVE", and for this introductory practice session, Pina successfully was able, on command, to pick up and gently give to me a dropped soft glasses case, then a hard case, and then a portable phone! We'll be working on more challenging items next week, including pill bottles and even coins!!!! These two skills are now added to the "Help" skill where Pina successfully keeps barking loudly when I even whisper the word "Help". Fortunately, she also stops on command!!
The intensity of being attached, at this point, to Pina during virtually all waking hours, is definitely stressful. It is not easy to get a coffee, open the fridge door to get and pour cream, and navigate back to the table without spilling, all the while ensuring that your dog is heeling, remembering to tell her "Behind" when we go through doorways, and avoiding running over other dogs, all stretched out beside their owners, in the "down" position! There are now three programs running concurrently here - Special Skills (my program), Hearing Ear, and Seizure Response with approximately six clients, six dogs and two to three instructors per class! I am so looking forward to when I am allowed to leave her in a "Stay" position while I go about certain tasks! We have been given permission, if we so choose, to leave our dogs out of their kennel tonight, to sleep on a blanket. Mmmm - could be a challenge! I'll let you know tomorrow if we tried this! Hope everyone had a happy Hallowe'en, and I, for one, can hardly wait to turn my clock back an hour tonight!
Hope you enjoy the "new" photo of Pina and myself - do we look as if we're bonding???

Friday, October 30, 2009

Photo explanation......

Well, I just wish that I were a little more computer-literate! I had captions with these photos in my Picasa file, but I couldn't get them into my blog from that file! Oh well, here goes...........
Top left: Preparing for our first trip outside - in the rain! Top right: Pina's First Playtime. Bottom left: Aren't I cute? Bottom right: Dead dogs? No - practising "Stay"!(Pina is top left in the photo.)
Dog-wise, today was exhausting and eventful, culminating in our first-ever outdoor excursion, and our first real experience with "real" distractions! Oakville is the squirrel-capital of Canada, I'm sure! Pina has developed a "hot spot" on one "cheek" (is that what they are called on dogs?)I had my own little "melt-down" today which I attribute to not sleeping very well last night, getting the distressing news of Madeline's resignation as Client Services Co-ordinator, and the intensity of the responsibility of maintaining the incredible training of this beautiful dog! Hopefully, a good night's sleep tonight will help make tomorrow a better day! (Although, more rain has been forecast!) Pina continues to be the Pee and Poop Queen of our class, but has been a little less compliant when exiting her kennel in allowing me to put on her collar and Halti! I have called her "Filey" by mistake a few times (and she bears no resemblance to a Golden Retriever whatsoever!), as well as "Pino" instead of Pina (perhaps I'm going through withdrawal- I miss my daily glass of Pinot Grigio! There is no alcohol allowed here!). I'm off now with Pina to do the last "Busy-busy" of the day before tucking her (and myself) into bed! Good-night!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The days are starting to blur...........

I think it might be Thursday still, andI think we discussed grooming this afternoon, and perhaps we did another practice of whispering "help" in order for the dogs to start barking. This time we did it with the entire class (six dogs) at one time - it was quite the symphony of sound!!We also worked on avoiding distractions - strangers offering treats, treats and toys on the floor, or other dogs going by. Lilo continues to be giving Jerry a bit of a rough time, constantly getting up from the "down" position (it turns out that Jerry also has MS)and Zeke has developed diarrhea (I'm sure all readers felt a "need to know"!). Young Alex is such a trooper handling Pesto (my Pina's brother). Alex's mother, Chris, and I "escaped" for a half-hour drive just before supper tonight - the first time I had been outside since arriving on Monday!I just wanted to be able to give more precise instructions on finding the DogGuides facility for any visitors who might come to see me on Visitor's Day!(After all, I did get lost last Monday!) I left Pina in her crate in my room with the lights and radio on -aren't I a caring mother!!!! We're not allowed to take the dogs outside just yet. I think our first excursion out of the building will be tomorrow or Saturday. Good night, dear blog. Tomorrow is likely to be another full and exhausting day!

This is not exactly easy

We had a very successful first night together! This morning's workout consisted of a behaviour - avoiding distractions, and after break, working on the first of many skills - barking for help when commanded to do so. Pina continues to be a "good" dog for the most part (she had one little accident on a carpet just outside of the "relief room". Next time I'll try not to take so long lengthening the leash for her "Busy-busy" time.) Help - I'm starting to speak DSL - Dog as a Second Language! Oops - time to go to class!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The end of the first "dog" day.

I'll type this, take Pina for her last "Busy-busy!" (DogGuide talk for urination/defecation!), put her in her crate for the night - she is now with me 24/7 - have a shower, and go to bed! I had forgotten the intensity and exhaustion associated with new motherhood! (Lindsay -take note!)I'll let you all know how cute she is, what adorable things she does, how smart she is, etc., in the days to come. (She has been the "best in class" for peeing and pooping almost immediately when taken to the "relief area". I'm the only one who doesn't have to hang around for the required 5-10 minutes until our canine pal "does" something!)

Introducing Pina....................

Welcome, Pina (as in Colada)

She's here! A beautiful Black Lab, not too too huge! We're going to be quite the team! I'll post more, and a photo later - right now, she is happy in her crate, and I'm going for lunch. Pina's brother, Pesto, is with young Alex; two Golden/Lab crosses, Legend and Lilo -another brother/sister combo went with Michelle (who ironically enough has a Pride "Legend" scooter)and Jerry; Diane has a Yellow Lab named Zeke, and Joanie has a Golden Retriever named Freddie. (Wouldn't that have been something if I had been given that one!) Ciao from Pina and myself!

In twenty minutes.......

I am so nervous!! Tracey announced at class this morning that they would be bringing the dogs to our rooms just after break, at about 10:30! The day started with the fire alarm going off at 7:45 - outside I scooted in the drizzling rain - fully clothed, thank goodness! (It was just a drill.) So, dear blog readers, it will be later today that you will know who is coming home with me on Friday the 13th! I will attempt to include a photo of him/her!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 2 at "Dog Camp"

No, I don't have my dog yet! What a whirlwind two days it has been! I actually got "lost" on the way to the DogGuides Training Facility, but fortunately not too too lost - I just went off the QEW one exit at Exit 118 thinking that I had missed Exit 117, when, in fact I hadn't gone far enough! I was sure the exits were in ascending numerical order, when, in fact they were in descending order.
I settled into my room - nice, big, very accessible but ran into difficulty accessing the Internet (it only just happened now - Tuesday, October 27 at 8:00 p.m). I met my five SSD (Special Skills Dog) classmates at dinner, but certainly got to know them a bit better at our first session last night, and again at class today.
Jerry, from Cobourg, is a retired CA, and uses a motorized wheelchair. Joanie, from Windsor, is a single parent with two grown sons, and a nine year old daughter - she has fibromyalgia (and lots of other problems!) and uses a manual wheelchair. Diane is 51, from Penticton BC, has an acquired brain injury, grown children, divorced from her husband after twenty-seven years of marriage and uses a motorized wheelchair. Alex is from a small town in Alberta, is in Grade 11, very small in stature, who uses a walker to move very slowly and awkwardly, and who is here with his mother. Michelle is 27, a graphic designer in Toronto, originally from Sault Ste. Marie,who has some sort of serious body abnormality/configuration and uses a large scooter. And then there is me,probably the oldest at 61, and, I believe, the only MSer in the crowd! We meet our dogs tomorrow, having been given the leashes and "Haltis" (Gentle Leads) today. We also did a lot of practice commands and movements with our human trainers, Tracy and Paulette, acting as dogs this morning, and then we worked with actual dogs this afternoon - but not the ones that have been chosen for each of us! Our practice dogs were either the trainers' personal dogs, or ones still in training for the next session! Good night - tomorrow is going to be quite the day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Leaving tomorrow

I will be leaving tomorrow for Oakville. Wish me luck.

Welcome to Linda's Dog Blog

Welcome to my first post. I will be updating as often as I can about my new Special Skills dog, our training and everything else. Hope you visit often.