Happy Belated Birthday Trix

Ok, here comes the post in honour of Trix’s birthday. On April 9, she turned 5. My pooch is 5! Nobody believes me that she’s that old, but she is. I can scarcely believe that it’s been three years that I’ve had her. But the blog doesn’t lie, hahah! So let’s do a general update.

Poor Trix had a mildly crumby birthday. The weather got really cold, and it rained and rained and rained. Why is it that two out of three of Trix’s birthdays with me have been less than stellar? But it wasn’t all bad. The lady who cuts my hair has left the place where I usually get it done, and does it out of her house, so we went there. Trix got to get her harness off and say hi to her, and she took our picture. Well, at least that was something.

Because of her spring fever insanity, I’ve started ramping up the obedience stuff. I did it a lot, but had cut back on it because she always did it perfectly. Well, I decided to change it up some. Sometimes I leave food at her level, sometimes I have her do different things that weren’t in the usual sits and downs. The cutest thing is when I tell her to find things. But she’s not in harness or on leash. She has figured out that not only must she find them, but she must show me, so she’ll take a few steps, stop, lick my hand, walk a little more, lick my hand again, until she’s putting her nose on the object. Nice job!

The funniest one is when I get her to find Steve. She seems to have figured this one out completely on her own. Sometimes I have offhandedly said “find Steve” when she’s in harness and she has walked me to him. But I never knew if that was just a great big coincidence. He was nearby and familiar and I said find Steve, she didn’t know what Steve meant, so she went for the familiar. So I thought I’d just start doing it on a regular basis, and man does she love the game!

Steve doesn’t make it easy for her. He will hide in a corner, get under a blanket, move when she’s getting close, do all sorts of things, and she just wags harder. I think the funniest “find Steve” I ever did was one day, Trix and I had been out playing in the grass, and we were coming back in. We got off the elevator, and I said “Find steve!” Suddenly, she was bouncing! She bounded down the hall, we came in the apartment, and she marched me…straight for the bathroom. Poor Steve was on the toilet. Oops. But I had no idea! But I for sure knew she knew what “find Steve” meant. She did it from the apartment building hallway!

This is still something I’m contemplating off and on, so figured I’d throw it in. Some days Trix is really distracted by other dogs. Some days she could care less, but some days, oh me oh my. So, I’ve been debating finding an obedience class where dogs do little tasks and such, like retrieval, as something extra. I know a couple of handlers who have taken their guide dogs to classes and they say the dog really enjoys it. I thought this would sort of habituate her to dogs so they wouldn’t be so darned interesting.

But I don’t want to pick the wrong obedience class. Some dogs go to obedience classes to curb their aggression. There is no way in hell I’m going to bring Trix into a room full of dogs with aggression issues! So, I guess my question is what keywords do you look for for picking the right obedience class? And I wonder if it would just make the dog issue worse.

The huppy is getting bigger. I haven’t written about the little cutey in a while. He’s eating more baby food, I think he has 8 or 9 teeth, and he really likes to babble. He’s also starting to move, and boy can he! He can crawl crawl crawl, and he can almost stand. He stands holding onto stuff. Then, when he realizes his little legs can’t hold him up much longer, he sits down so he doesn’t fall. Smart boy! He’s had a few conks of his head from falling over, so I guess he’s learned that ouch, that hurts!

I also think it’s cute that whenever I come down to see him and his mom, he looks from me down to where Trix is to see if she’s there. If she’s not, like if I come down to just quickly drop something off, he will look confused. It’s as if to him, Trix is a part of me.

Trix has figured out that licking the huppy is not a good activity, so when she’s in harness, she will actually turn her head so she’s not looking at him. But she’s also a little unsure of this creature now that he’s mobile. She will actually hide behind my legs if he starts moving towards us. Oh just wait until he decides to get a good look at you, Trixter.

Every time Trixie does this, I flinch. We’ll be in a car, and she’ll be riding happily at my feet. We always have a bit of a battle of wills if she rides at my feet in the front seat because I want her to stay lying down so that, god forbid we have an accident and the airbag deploys, it won’t snap her neck, *shiver*. But if we slow down, Trix is trying to be all prepared to get up and go, so she sits up. I tell her to lie down again, and she does, but sometimes when she sits up, she does that shake thing like she does after a rain. But she does this while still at my feet! So, she beats her head and ears against the dash! Ouch ouch ouch! Dog, doesn’t that hurt?

I’ve noticed a new trend when we go out for a flexi. It used to be that when she’d had enough, she would walk back towards the door. Now, she walks out to the sidewalk, and wants to walk home the long way. So, to keep her from going out into the road, I lock the flexi at a considerably shorter length. Then she just sniffs along until we get to the driveway. Then I harness her up and we walk up the driveway and back home. What a silly girl.

Ever since I started doing work on committees, we’ve started going to City Hall a lot, and boy does she love the place. First I thought it was because the doors open automatically, and anywhere where she thinks she’s opened the door is a favourite of hers. But it’s not just the door. She loves everyone in there who she meets. I think she thinks the committee meetings are the greatest bit of fun ever, even though all she does is lie under the table while we all talk. But just being with the whole bunch seems to make her so happy. Sure, the shoe thief is likely to be there, and another girl with a guide dog, but there are others that I can tell she thinks are the cat’s meow.

I got to do something that I’ve never done yet that other guide dog handlers have done. I spoke to a group of kids about guide dogs! One of the girls who works at my vet’s office helps out with Beavers, which is like Cubs for kids even younger than the kids who do Cubs. They do activities, learn about nature, stuff like that. They were doing stuff about disabilities, so they were having a night about service dogs.

It’s hard to know what to include and what not to. What can their little kid brains take in and what would just go in one ear and out the other? So I focused on explaining what she does for me and what she can’t do, how we’re a team, and of course “do not pet a working dog and here’s why.” But I’m wishing that I had explained that part of her duties include staying quiet when she’s in a restaurant or on a bus because it wouldn’t be good to have a bunch of barking dogs in some places. Oh well, I hope at least they’ll remember a few things I said. Then I brailled all their names, and they seemed to like that. One of them sure did, he yelled out “ooo! I have my name in brailler!” I had to chuckle.

They were very quiet through the whole thing, and the leader was amazed. I joked and said it was all because of the dog, but I know I’ve done other speeches about blindness before I had a pooch, and kids have been pretty good to listen too. I think people who have something different about them fascinate wee little kids before they have had a chance to get all weirded out by the difference.

You know how I’ve said that Trix is picky about which toy she wants to play with? Well, I have figured out that if I get excited about it, the toy’s all good. She was getting super picky, to the point that it was getting hard to find one that she would play with. So I just gave up, grabbed a toy, and walked out to the living room with it, while acting all excited. She came bounding out to see it! Silly girl. If only I’d tried that little trick before.

I had to try something that I never thought I would try. I took Trix to a Blue Rodeo concert. I’ve always been worried about taking Trix somewhere where the music is so loud that it makes my ears ring. If it makes my ears ring, what would that do to a dog’s ears? So, if I know I’m going to a concert, I would try to make arrangements with the huppy’s mom to leave her with them. But of course, this was before she had a baby to take care of.

This year, the shoe thief surprised me with a ticket to see Blue Rodeo. He had run out and snagged up tickets for Steve, himself and his girlfriend, and me! This put me in a scramble to figure out what I was going to do. I didn’t know how long we were going to be, so I couldn’t just leave her home, and the huppy’s mom and dad were kinda busy.

Then I remembered that another handler had brought her dog somewhere where there was a house band, and had said something about putting cotton in his ears and he slept through it. Hmmm.

So I asked her. She said she got cotton balls intended to wipe makeup off and then just put them in, not far enough you couldn’t get ’em back, but just enough so they would muffle the sound. Ok then.

I went out and bought some cotton balls. They still looked awfully small, so I thought I would practice with them. But when you put them in the ear, they seemed to do the trick. And Trixie tollerated having them put in there rather well. The only thing she’d do was shake her head sometimes, so I had to make sure they were in somewhat securely. Not too securely, but secure enough that they wouldn’t fly out at the first movement.

When we were there, I put them in. She didn’t seem to be too bothered. I was amazed. She lay at my feet while organs blared, fiddles screeched, and people cheered. The only time she got a wee bit disturbed was during “Five Days in May” when the piano went really nuts. That broke my heart! I love that song, and to see Trix starting to shake just made me so sad. I think the vibrations that were happening because of it were bothering her more than the notes, but I could be wrong. I was just about to stand up, or ask the shoe thief’s girlfriend to find me an usher to help me get out during that song, but I just petted her a bit and she settled down.

If you do the cotton ball thing, I would recommend bringing extras, because when she would sit up and sorta shake off at intermission while people were trying to get around her, she would shake the cotton balls loose.

I did have to chuckle that the ushers seemed to be in genuine shock that we didn’t have any difficulties during the concert! They kept saying “Well…that went well!” as if they expected Trix to go on a rampage or one of us blind folks to be in distress. I don’t know what they thought would happen, but I’m glad we pleasantly surprised them. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice to us, but it was like they were sure things were going to go horribly wrong and they were going to be required to go to heroic efforts to save the day.

Also, the other people seemed to enjoy seeing Trixie and I walking through. I kept hearing choruses of “Awww!” I get that a lot anyway, but this was more than usual. I did feel bad that I accidentally smacked a dude while looking for the railing. He took it well, so all’s good.

The show was awesome. It was nice to see Blue Rodeo and have a seat to sit in, unlike when we saw them at a bar in 2001 and had to stand. They’re just amazing. You know they’re live, but they can do their songs so well that you could record the concert and make an album out of it. I had to laugh when, fifteen minutes in, a guy yelled out “Diamond mine!” and they said “We don’t wanna peak too soon. Have you got somewhere to be, sir?” Then people kept calling out song titles all night. He started a trend.

The opening acts were pretty cool. The Dustin Bentall outfit was the main one, and I’ve been walking around with lots of his songs in my head. And yes, he is the son of Barney Bentall. Kendel Carson also sang a few songs. she was part of Dustin Bentall’s band, but she had her own solo stuff. We bought both the Dustin Bentall albums, and one of hers, since she didn’t have any of her old album there. You know that the opening acts for Blue Rodeo are going to be good for sure. I had to laugh when Jim Cuddy said “Buy some of the Dustin Bentall stuff. Look at how skinny he is. The boy’s gotta eat!”

Wow, I’m almost done. How about we finish this off with a couple of things people have said lately. I have had a rash of people asking me as I approach a business, “Um, are you sure they’ll let you bring the dog in there?” It doesn’t only happen at grocery stores or restaurants, I have had it at just plain old stores.

This surprises me when the person seems to speak perfectly good English. I expect it sometimes if someone isn’t from here, and am often pleasantly surprised that the person with the accent knows the scoop. But I even had a guy who said he raised puppies get all excited talking about a woman and her guide dog, saying “They know her dog so well that it doesn’t have to ride in a cage when she’s on the plane!” I had to set him straight, telling him that it has nothing to do with how well they know her guide dog, guide dogs are not crated. That would be like saying you had to put your eyes in a cage when you went on a plane.

But the thing is I have seen an up-swing of this lately. It frightens me, because these people have to work somewhere, and god help whoever walks into their place of business with a guide dog. It truly amazes me that we have had all of this awareness, and still, people dont’ know.

The other one that happens baffles my brain. I have had two people do this in the past week. They say “I know I’m not supposed to pet a working dog, I don’t know why.” So I thank them for asking, and explain that if the dog gets distracted by seeking out people to see while working, she’s not doing her job of looking out for my safety, so I pay for it. They say oh, as if they don’t understand, and then when Trix does try to sniff them, the little devil, they say “I can’t talk to you, you have a job to do.” They say this so easily that this can’t be new information to them. So, if they have a job to do, wouldn’t that be why you’re not supposed to pet the dog? It seems straightforward enough.

And that’s about it for this post. Wow, that was a monster! Thanks for making it to the end.

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