Tansy Goes Back To Her Roots

Tansy in her puppy raisers' living room
Home sweet vacation home!

This trip happened last summer, but I’m just writing about it now. Way to go, me! But it is one that needs to be written down as an important thing in the life of Shmans.

Last July, I planned a trip to Tansy’s puppy raisers’ place. They had invited me down to spend some vacation time with them, and I like to at least make one trip so they can see their pup all grown up and working. With Trix, we met up in Niagara Falls, but this time, I was actually going back to the home where Tans was raised. What a funny and interesting experience that was.

Tansy’s raiser met us at our gate. I fully expected mayhem to ensue, but although Tans went nuts, no fellow travelers were harmed in the making of this display. We walked out to the car, and after all luggage was grabbed, off we went. At first, Tans was relatively calm, happy but calm. But once we got about a mile from her puppyhood home, she started pawing at my legs as if to say “Ooo! I know where we’re going! I think I could run there now! Let’s goooo!”

As soon as she entered the gates of her old yard, it was like Tansy reverted to her puppy self. The first thing she did was run over to the tomato plants and steal a tomato! During my time there, tomato-thievery was a regular pastime of hers, much to my chagrin. Her raisers would joke that she would have a tomato for dessert, and reminisce about how she would steal avocados in her puppy days. Everything she did, she did loudly and with gusto. If there was a barking dog among the 3 dogs in the yard, it was guaranteed to be mine. Shmans! Shame on you! But apparently that was her way as a puppy.

Tansy lounging on her old bed
Carin brought a bed? Who’s Carin?

She remembered where all her favourite spots were. She found her favourite bed next to her raisers’ bed[and would go there when it was time to sleep. What am I, chopped liver? She picked out her favourite spot to do her business and would always go there, and of course she went right back to her vegetable-thieving, loud barking ways.

I got to meet one of the dogs that Tansy grew up with. Sadly, the other dog had already passed away. But this dog was 16 years old, and although she was showing her age, she still liked to join in the fun. Once, when Tansy was outside, this dog actually found a way to let me know that Tansy wanted back in. She poked me in the leg and then kept walking to the door. Good job! She’s still alive as I write this, amazingly enough, but she’s definitely slowing down.

There was another dog who had come since Tansy had left. I think she considered herself to be the house’s security alarm. For the first couple of nights, I could not so much as leave my bed at night to visit the washroom without this dog growling and barking as if there was an intruder in the basement. Eventually, she accepted me, but it took a while.

I was worried about how I would feed Tansy and keep her away from the other dogs when they were eating. I should have been more forceful about this, but the puppy raisers had put Tansy’s leash and harness somewhere where I didn’t know where they were. So, I couldn’t just put Tans on a leash when the others were eating. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Shmans didn’t even steal from the other dogs, and they were good about her too. I guess I had nothing to worry about when it came to the older dog because sometimes she couldn’t even finish her own meals, and the self-appointed security system dog would finish her meal, but only when given permission.

I learned about more nicknames for Shmans, and once again, Tansy told me in no uncertain terms that those nicknames were off-limits for me, kind of like when Steve calls her ‘Bear’. The lady who raised her would call her something that sounded like “Mishka Pishka” and Sweety-beety” and she’d get all waggy. But if I call her that, there is 0 response. Ok, I get it.

Tansy on our boat ride
I’m on a boat!

We went on many adventures over the next few days, and I think Tansy blew her raisers’ minds. They could not believe how quiet and calm she could be in a play, on a boat, at puppy meeting, even during that meditation session where I saw all the things. They got very excited watching her walk me around cars and keep me on the straight and narrow. I think they knew the theory behind guide work, but they may not have seen very many working teams. To be more accurate, I think he had a pretty good idea, but she was less informed.

I learned so much about Tansy’s younger days. Apparently she was known around puppy club as “Wild Tansy.” She had no tolerance for laying around doing nothing. If she got bored in puppy meetings, she would bark! Really? Wow!

I also learned that she was almost matched with someone else, but they didn’t work out as a team. Wow! I almost didn’t get the Shmans. This is just mind-blowing! Well, I’m glad the first team didn’t work out because I think she was meant for me. I just hope whoever was going to get her got a better match.

I have talked about how well-behaved Shmans was on this trip, but boy, she had her moments of doing things I have never seen her do before or since! One morning, before we were going to go on our day of adventures riding a boat and walking all over creation, Tansy’s raisers wanted to take their pet dogs on a walk to tire them out so they wouldn’t be all wound up when we got home from all our walking. I said I would keep Tansy back with me because she was going to be out with us, so didn’t need this walk, plus I wanted to do a bit of obedience with her since she was acting like a bit of a crazy dog and I wanted to make sure she was still listening to me. Well, that was not going to happen! When Tansy saw the raisers leashing up their dogs, she let out this set of shrieks and screams that would convince someone who didn’t know better that I was torturing her! So, to my sadness, she went with them.

I need to write down a couple of funny and unforgettable stories about this trip.

Tans wearing giant headphones
Tans in her theatre-going ear protection: best investment ever!

First, I found out that we were going to some kind of concert. All I knew about it was the main event was someone named Sam Harris, and he was involved in American Idol, or maybe America’s Got Talent, nobody really knew. It turns out it was Star Search. I tried to google him but was having no luck. Upon arrival, we got our tickets and read that it was some kind of one-man musical theatre performance called “Ham”.

Hmmm interesting. We sat down and started to watch, and a few things became apparent:

  1. This was a dramatization of this fellow’s life story.
  2. It was a story of a man discovering he is gay and coming to terms with it,
  3. and

  4. Tansy’s raisers had no idea this was the content of the musical. Yes, they just read about it in the paper.

I have come to know that they are very open-minded people, but there is always a limit to someone’s open-mindedness, and was this going to be it? Would the play push a certain button and they would feel the need to leave? Meanwhile, I think they were panicking, wondering what I was thinking, possibly feeling bad about bringing me to this play. I told them over and over again that it was fine, I’m pretty hard to offend, but to this day, it seems that they feel bad about it. There’s no need to feel bad. It makes a great story, and I liked the play anyway!

The other funny story was a joke that sort of built over the few days I was there. I learned pretty quickly that they did not want Trump to be president. But whenever we would pass by anything owned by Donald Trump, the husband would say loudly, “President Trump! We have to get used to it, President Trump!” I would laugh and we would go on, and at least I thought this was a ridiculous joke. Who’s laughing now? Then, we took Tansy and their pet dogs through a nice walking path and had a picnic. Where was this path located? In the Donald Trump National Golf Course. Incidentally, they couldn’t help commenting that in a state ravaged by drought, his huge golf course was lush and green. Anyway, as a joke, they snapped a picture of me standing next to the Trump sign. I don’t have this picture, because they told me they wanted to use it as blackmail material. If I didn’t give them enough Tansy updates, they would release it and tell the world I was a Trump supporter! Of course they were joking around…but hmmm I still don’t have that picture. Uh-oh!
I do have this picture of us by Bubba Gump’s.

Tansy and I near the Bubba Gump's sign
Bubba Gump would make a better president than Trump anyway.

It was time to leave, and just like I did with Trixie’s raisers, I felt like I was ripping their heart out and stealing their baby. I was a little worried that Tansy would start screaming at the sight of her beloved first family leaving, but thankfully she didn’t. When we finally got home after nearly getting stuck in Chicago, she seemed happy to be back, and jumped all over Steve before running off to her bed.

I’m glad I went to visit Tansy’s raisers. I met and learned about more of their family, and I feel like I know them even better. It would be fun if they could come up here…but I think we would have to stay somewhere a little more fun and/or picturesque than Kitchener. How could I compare to living in LA’s backyard? But hopefully I could figure out a way to take them to interesting places.

Something For The Tans Fans

I’ve been very slow in writing about Tansy, which is a shame. She turned 6 back in May and I didn’t write a thing. So now that it’s been 3 months since my last deluge, have another one.

Finding the perfect amount of food for her has been a challenge. I switched to duck back in March or so when she had the UTI issue, and fed slightly more. Apparently it was too much because she packed on the hound pounds. But I only had to reduce it by a quarter of a cup before she dropped back to reasonable. But the weird thing is she’s been getting a lot of treats and is still maintaining her weight. Her metabolism baffles me.

A couple of months ago, I was kind of stressed out. Work was crazy, some stuff temporarily went splat with my benefits, I was getting ready to speak at a conference, life was a little crazy. I thought I wasn’t letting it affect Tansy, but she told me one day that I was wrong. One time I was walking a familiar route. I was basically on autopilot, thinking about life stuff and not travel stuff. Without warning, Tans came to a stop and looked up at me. It was like she was checking to see if she was doing ok because I probably wasn’t giving her feedback of any kind. I felt so bad. I got down on my knees and gave her a big hug and then all was well. But in our four years together, I have never seen Tans ask for reassurance. Sorry, bud. You’re doing just fine. It’s me.

I do notice that without realizing it, Tans and I have slowed down a lot, and I don’t know why. A friend got a new guide dog, and without any effort at all, she will leave us in her dust. I always considered Tans to be a fast walker, but she definitely slowed down since I was sick a while ago. But the encouraging part is she can move if we’re going to an interesting or new place, so I’m going to hope the slowness is just boredom. But how do I combat that boredom when we’re dealing with so much construction?

I saw Trixie again a couple of weeks ago. She’s still enjoying life, but she’s definitely slowing down. Tansy doesn’t even try to bug her into playing with her. She just sort of plays on her own nearby. Hmmm. Could that be a sign of Shmans maturing and knowing that not all dogs want to play? Woe! I never thought I would see that day!

I’ve talked before about Tans feeling the need to rescue Steve if he hides his face under a blanket. I don’t know why, but once, after she did her routine of freeing him from the blanket, she was still going nuts, and it looked like she was actually stressed out. She just kept doing circles of the room, growling at some imaginary thing and still trying to free Steve from a blanket that wasn’t there. We had to actually sit her down and convince her that all was fine.

Also, for some reason, when Steve imitates her by making snorting noises and flopping around on the floor, she goes crazy. I try to do the same, but it doesn’t have the same effect. Does she think Steve is making fun of her? Or is she so happy to play with someone who speaks her language?

So apparently Revolution is losing its effectiveness. It doesn’t totally suck, but the vets are starting to say we should move to something else. So they convinced me to put Tansy on something called Bravecto for the flea and tick bit, and something called Interceptor for the heartworm part. Both things are pills, so no more need to slather my dog with a tube of nasty goop once a month, which I’m sure makes both of us happy. But now I have to remember wacky schedules of pill-giving. The Bravecto is only every three months, and since I started it at the end of a month, it’s on a different day than the Interceptor. So far, I haven’t caused Tansy to miss a dose, although I managed to convince myself I might have, and had to check. Holy crap, both Bravecto and Interceptor are huge! I’m glad she just gobbles them down. I’m also relieved that they haven’t given her any nasty side-effects. I heard about Bravecto last year, but I heard the biggest side-effect was GI upset, and at the time, we were dealing with enough of that already! Thankfully, she’s had 2 of the 3 doses, and nothing nasty has occurred so far.

I’ve talked about Tansy being convinced that my blood pressure cuff was a magical treat dispenser, and bumping the heck out of me while I’m trying to use it. Now, she seems to have given up on jostling the thing when I take it out. Instead, she just lies down next to me. It’s as if she wants to have a calming effect on my blood pressure…or maybe she’s just hoping to be very close by if a treat does happen to fall out of that Velcro thing and she’s proven right.

This year, the client conference for the company was in Las Vegas. Whenever I would say that, everyone would cheer and go “Wow! That’s awesome!” I’m glad I experienced Las Vegas, but I don’t think it was my, or Tansy’s, idea of fun. I had heard that it was crazy and there was a lot of noise and commotion, but I was not prepared for it.

As soon as I walked into the lobby of the Bellagio, I was overwhelmed by the noise. I was always in a perpetual crowd near a fountain and a couple other sources of loud music. It was impossible to get a clue about navigation. Thank god for amazing coworkers. If not for them, I would have been totally screwed.

I also didn’t like the smell that greeted me. When I walked in, Foursquare said “Welcome to paradise!” and I thought “Paradise smells like a busy public bathroom?” I couldn’t figure out why I thought it smelled like a bathroom until I realized what I smelled was what reminded me of really strong bathroom air-freshener, which they needed to use to cover up everyone’s smoking, which they felt the need to do every friggin where.

I felt like I was at an NFB convention, because the pedestrians with which I shared the halls didn’t watch where they were going! People would just stop without warning to stare at this or that, or cut in front of us. On top of that, parents would let their kids dive out in front of Tansy without consequence, and hands would come out of the sea of humanity to sneak pets. Apparently people were taking pictures of us like we were part of the scenery. Tansy was constantly having to watch for people who obviously weren’t watching. She was completely exhausted by the end, so much so that when I was seated somewhere, I barely had to touch the leash because she was out cold at my feet.

And the sidewalks, oh the sidewalks! I knew Vegas was hot, and I even brought Mushers Secret to put on Tansy’s paws to help, but without thinking, I didn’t apply some before leaving for the airport so she would be protected as soon as we arrived in Vegas. We did fine until we hit a few feet of sidewalk that were being completely bathed in the sun. Poor Tansy started dancing from the heat. For the rest of the time, I applied the wax, and we were mostly in the hotel so it was ok. That was some crazy heat!

I do have to say that Tansy doesn’t like many of those indoor relieving areas at airports, the ones inside security, but she was fine with the one in Vegas. Thank goodness she was, since the outdoor relieving area was under construction.

I think those are the major updates that I can think of. I have no idea where the time is going, but Tansy just keeps on trucking.

Guide Dog Lifestyle Survey

This survey was sent around a little bit ago. It seems GDB is looking for people to talk about the ups and downs of having a guide dog, specifically to do with pedestrian travel, ride sharing, airlines that are good and not so good, businesses that are good and not so good, that sort of thing. They want to raise awareness about what having a guide dog means, and perhaps get the media involved. If you want to add your thoughts, fill out this survey. You could win a $50 Amazon gift card.

The survey closes August 1, so you have a bit of time, but not a ton.

My Thoughts On The Draft Canadian Service Dog Team Standards

I have said over and over that we need to deal with fake service dogs, mostly because those dogs don’t have the training to behave properly in public. They either make messes or attack others, making it hard for the real service dog teams to go about their business. I have slowly learned that the solution isn’t to make an ID card, because people can make fake ID cards, and it’s not the ID card but the behaviour that matters. I hoped for a set of standards for behaviour that businesses should be educated on so they know a fake when they see one.

Others have been thinking about standards, and are trying to draft one. I can tell they have tried to be very thorough, and they have somewhat done their homework on service dogs and disabilities. But for all the good that is in this standard, there are a lot of problems. I’m not one who frequently comments on drafts and legislation, but one way or another, I’m going to make my voice heard on this one. If the draft standard goes through as is, and is used as a supporting standard for laws, it has the potential to make the lives of at least guide dog teams very hard. If you feel the same, I urge you to comment. Public comment closes on Friday July the 14th.

Here is a news article and a blog post that basically agree with me, and tell me I have valid concerns. Writing my comment is going to be hard, because for the many good intentions I can see in the standard, there are many many things wrong with it, things that to me don’t even need explaining because they’re so obvious, but I know I’m going to have to break it down in a very methodical way.

Here are the overarching themes that keep coming back again and again.

  • The standard feels like overkill for any service dog handler from a reputable school. The standard wants to establish assessment and training criteria that the schools have handled seamlessly for decades. People ask why we go away to train for weeks, up to a month. The very things referenced in this standard, which it appears we are being obligated to prove over and over again, are the things we are being taught, and the things that are being reinforced. We are taught good handling, training, grooming, dealing with the public, knowing our access rights and limitations, dealing with dog health-related things, and on and on and on. Once we leave training, it’s not over. How many times have you seen me write about followup visits? The instructor is coming to check on our teamwork, the health of the dog, the willingness of the dog to continue to work, and the solidity of the training that I received. Why should handlers in my position be forced to submit to an extra layer of scrutiny? If you are training your own dog, then it makes sense to ensure that someone assesses your suitability for a service dog, and makes you aware of what is to come, so you don’t go into this relationship with false ideas. As for the rest of us, we know.
  • I know they were trying for a standard into which they could neatly fit all service dogs, but due to the nature of a service dog, this is doomed to fail. My guide dog’s duties are different than those of a PTSD dog, or a seizure assistance dog, …you get the point. By consequence, interactions are going to be different. For example, I am not always going to know about a distraction until my guide dog, well-trained as she is, gets distracted by it, at which point, I have to react. However, the standards laid out do not allow for such a reaction. I may have to tug on the leash. This isn’t a bodily choking, this is a movement to get her attention. This would not be allowed. Sometimes I put a gentle leader on my dog so I can better feel what her head is doing. This is not a muzzle, but may be perceived as such, and according to the standard, muzzles are not allowed. My dog would have to do off-leash obedience, which isn’t how we do obedience, since of course I have to feel what she’s doing, because, duh, I’m blind, hence the dog! There are so many examples of this, but you can already see that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. I think they tried to get feedback from all user groups, but because it was so divergent, they just gave up and this was the result.
  • I cannot stand the tone of this standard, for a couple of reasons. Let me start with the heavy emphasis on shifting the blame for any unfortunate events to the handler of the dog, not the environment or the other people in the environment. For example, if we encounter an aggressive dog, we are to avoid the dog by crossing the street, we are to stop the attack with our own bodies if necessary, tell the owner to get their dog on a leash, etc. How exactly are we to take proactive action when sometimes we are not aware of an aggressive dog until it is upon us? Not all aggressive dogs snarl and growl as warnings. Some of them, if they truly are aggressive, will simply wait until their target is in range and attack. For example, how on earth am I expected to avoid a dog jumping out of a car and latching onto me? How is anyone expected to avoid that, but if I can’t see it coming, I don’t have a chance. How am I supposed to avoid a dog lunging at us as we stand inside an elevator? How am I expected to avoid a dog attacking my dog when I am on icy terrain? How do I avoid meeting a deranged rock-throwing man? Also, how can I be expected to cross the street upon perceiving an aggressive dog if the street is extremely busy and not safe to cross there? How is a person in a wheelchair expected to immediately cross the street upon sight of an aggressive dog if there is no curb cut to cross there? How will I avoid glass if I don’t know of its existence until I have the misfortune of stepping on it? There is a big section of the standard talking about how we should take precautions when walking into roadways where there are cars. Of course we do, most of us don’t have death wishes. But what if we step off at the correct time, only to be cut off by an unobservant driver? Sure, the dog is going to do what he can, but sometimes you can’t avoid a speeding truck. Sighted people get hit, so how are we supposed to be superheroes? Is the default of this standard setting up to blame us for the accident? There is only so much one can do. Sure, we shouldn’t walk into danger with no regard for what may happen, that would be pretty stupid, but the onus shouldn’t be on us to prevent all situations.
  • …This leads nicely into my next point. There is an overall tone that we as service dog handlers need to be micromanaged, that we have no coping or problem-solving skills whatsoever, and should accept needing to provide all kinds of proof of every aspect of our lives to whoever asks for it. NO! It’s simple as that. N…O. If it has been deemed that we are capable of taking care of this animal, then treat us as such. We are being asked to do more than one reasonably does for their children. When you’re out with your kids, do you carry a fully-stocked first-aid kit? Or is it expected that if something comes up, you will ask for help and deal with it to the best of your ability? Are you expected to regularly show proof that you’ve taken your child to the doctor? Or, is this only brought up if your child looks ill or otherwise uncared for? Are you expected to provide proof that you know how to handle every single eventuality? Or are you expected to problem-solve. This is an unacceptable burden to place on people who are already taking exemplary care of their service dogs, and frankly, I find it insulting. Hands off! I am a competent adult and I demand to be treated as such.
  • On one hand, every little thing that the handler must do is detailed, but when it comes to the specifications for assessment, there are gaping holes where details should be. How frequently will these assessments be conducted? By whom? Will they be scheduled or unannounced? There is the description of a test where someone unknown to the dog will walk up and take the dog from you and walk away. Is this going to be done without warning? If so, I will be living in perpetual fear, and as a blind person, I will not know who is kidnapping my dog and who is an assessor. Will I have to go somewhere, taking off work, for these assessments to be done? How long will they take? How on earth will they properly assess play? Playing a game in front of someone is never as natural as what happens at home. What is the difference between testing and inspection? There is so little clarity in this part of the standard that it’s kind of terrifying. Yet, the people who wrote this settled on this as an acceptable way to treat us.
  • There is way too much weight placed on the public’s opinion. As any service dog handler or puppy raiser knows, all of the public have opinions in plentiful quantities, but many of those opinions are uninformed or misinformed. On any given day I can be told
    • that my dog is fat,
    • that my dog is too thin,
    • that my dog looks happy,
    • that my dog looks sad,
    • that my dog is too shy,
    • that my dog is too sociable,
    • that I’m good to my dog,
    • that I’m a mean mean handler (when I won’t let her get pets),
    • that my dog is well-trained,
    • that my dog has never seen a day of instruction in her life.

    I could go on all day. You get the point. If these people can make decisions about whether I can come in a place, I’m in trouble. Of course, if my dog looks like a flea-bitten disobedient mange-covered mutt who craps on the floor and bites people, then the public can say all it wants, but they are far too quick to criticize every little infraction, and to give them power scares me.

I’m sure, on its face, it looks like all these provisions are for the best, but I hope my examples illustrate my point. I am already doing my best to keep my dog’s training up. I do not want to live in constant fear that I will have to prove that to every Tom, Dick and Harry who says he’s an assessor.

I’m tired. I have been writing this for hours, and I’m going to have to reform this into something fit for a public comment. But I will do it, because it means that much to me.

If you feel the same, you can do it in one of two ways. You can submit your comments on this form, or you can write a letter and send it to Jennifer(dot)Jimenez(at)tpsgc-pwgsc(dot)gc(dot)ca
I kind of butchered her address in the hopes that it wouldn’t be spammed, so you’re going to have to rebuild it.

I really hope lots of comments come in and it gets a massive revamp. It’s not totally awful, but I think it needs work or it will try to solve one problem and create four more.

Another News Report About The CNIB Guide Dog Program

Last Sunday, I wrote about The CNIB’s new guide dog program, with considerable scepticism. Yesterday, I was sent a link to another news report about it, and it didn’t really allay my fears much.

I’m comforted to know that they seem to have put some thought into the breeding of the dogs, but the CNIB representative clearly says that they want to take care of the food and vet bills for the guide dog’s life from puppyhood to retirement. Not even GDB, who has generous donations, does that. I’m worried about whether, in that case, they can dictate what food the dogs have to eat, and what care they do or don’t receive…and I’m worried about where they think that kind of money will come from.

Maybe they could do some good in the advocacy department, and even that’s a maybe if they decide to spread the wrong message, but I wish they would just stick to that, rather than opening a school.

The CNIB Is Starting Its Own Guide Dog Program? How?

I came across this press release about the CNIB starting up a guide dog program, and I was sceptical, to be generous. To be more accurate, I checked my calendar to verify that it wasn’t April 1, because I was sure this was some kind of elaborate joke. But after I saw this video, the idea sank in that this was no joke.

The CNIB is starting a guide dog program.

How?

That is the Reader’s Digest condensed version of what is probably going to turn into a very long post.

I will start off saying that I truly do have more questions than answers. All I have at this point are the links above, my own experience dealing with the CNIB and its ever-shrinking ability to serve its clients, and the rudamentary understanding of what it takes to run a guide dog school from what I have learned over my years of having guide dogs, so I have much to learn. But as I watched the video and read the press release, the one question I kept asking was “how can they pull this off?”

For those who don’t know, the CNIB, year over year, has been making cuts to what they offer to clients, as well as having less staff serve more people across a larger coverage area. I don’t have links to support this, but I have observed it first-hand.

The CNIB offices used to have stores where you could buy technical aids. Now, all the technical aids are sold out of Toronto.

These offices used to be open most weekdays. Now, at least in Waterloo, the public can only come in on set hours on certain days.

It is extremely difficult to get orientation and mobility services, that means lessons on how to get around a certain area. I discovered nearly five years ago when I moved here that it is even difficult to get these services when I am new to an area, thus don’t know where anything is at all and am starting from 0. To illustrate this, when I moved here, I told them I was going to move a couple of months before I moved, and I only took part-time hours to make myself as available as possible, and even doing that, I could not be seen for nearly a month. I improvised my own orientation and mobility instructors, my friends and colleagues.

If you break your cane, don’t expect someone from the CNIB to be able to get you a new one in a timely manner, even if you live in a town with an office. It has taken anywhere from two weeks to a month. Once, when Steve’s cane string snapped, I took it to a place that fixes tent poles to see if they could fix it rather than wait for the CNIB. It was another 3 weeks after our tent pole store trip before a proper new cane showed up. A white cane is pretty much the way we get around if we don’t have a dog, so we can’t exactly twittle our thumbs and wait.

I gave up on asking the CNIB for driving assistance after a conversation I had 13 years ago when I needed to go out of town for a medical appointment and had no other way to get there. I was flat out told that they don’t do that anymore.

I haven’t asked for independent living skills help, that is teaching someone how to cook and clean and do laundry and do all those surviving on your own in the world type things, because I was lucky enough to receive it when I was younger and the CNIB had more resources, but I would be shocked if the state of affairs was much better there.

It is not because the staff who teach these things are unwilling to help. It is because they are expected to see countless clients over an impossible area. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, or trained personnel in the region.

So, now that I’ve utterly buried the poor CNIB, let’s talk about what goes into a good guide dog school.

A good guide dog school should:

  • Have a robust breeding program. Let’s use GDB’s as an example.
  • Support a large network of puppy raisers that do all the early housebreaking, obedience training and socialization work.
  • Have a good roster of trainers for both the dogs and the humans. Training each guide dog can cost well into the five figures.
  • Have enough people available to assess, in person or otherwise, applicants to see if a guide dog would be suitable for them, and if so, what their needs will be.
  • Have a well-maintained facility for the dogs in training to live, eat, sleep and play while they learn these hard guide work skills.
  • Have a well-maintained facility for the humans in training to eat, sleep and live while they learn this whole new way of traveling.
  • Have more than enough dogs available during any given class in case a match doesn’t work out for whatever reason and they need to switch.
  • Provide solid lifetime support for graduates once the training is complete. This could include veterinary advice, guidance on working issues and advocacy, accommodating the possible need for a visit in their community, financial support in the event of a veterinary crisis, and support for the dog in retirement.

*flop* I’m exhausted.

Now, given that list, which may be missing some things since I jotted it down in a hurry, I ask you again. How can the CNIB in the condition I described above possibly take on an initiative of this size and scope. They want to serve the entire country, yet staff in a given city can’t help the clients within that city!

Hmm. Maybe this is how.

HIRED SIGHTED CNIB BEGGARS!!! So, On Friday, while walking north-bound on Yonge Street to the Marriott to attend the…

Posted by Tom Dekker on Sunday, April 30, 2017

I really really hope not, because that’s straight up bush league.

And what happens if whatever funding source they have found dries up? What happens to any graduates of the program? What do they do then? Is CNIB going to cut services completely, or are they going to cut so many corners that it becomes dangerous? They have demonstrated that they don’t mind cutting corners in their other services, what’s different here?

I have so many more questions, many of them requiring more digging and inquiring, but I wanted to post my initial reaction.

I really don’t want to shut down their good intentions, in fact I want them, if they are truly serious about this, to do well. It would be awesome to have another Canadian option, especially one boasting this amount of flexibility. But right now, they don’t have my trust, and I am not alone in this. Everyone I’ve talked with who has had direct involvement with the CNIB has reacted the same way.

“How?”

It’s Tans And Trix Talk Time!

I am so overdue on doggy talk, and we just marched through that time of the year where there is a cluster of dog anniversaries for both Trix and Tans, so it’s a good time to talk about both beasts.

Well, I guess I can officially stop worrying about Tans pulling a LaniJo. She has been with me 4 years, and still seems to be going strong. Sometimes she looks a little sleepier than usual, but for the most part, she seems ready to go. I’m happy it’s spring, because I can take her to the park again.

Tans continues to be pretty healthy for the most part, but she did develop a UTI back in January. It was the weirdest thing. At first, she kept asking to pee and pee and pee, and sometimes when we were out there, she would act like she had to do the other, but it ended up being pee. She would actually whine like she does when she gets diarrhea, but it was pee. She must have been in a lot of pain.

When I took her to the vet, they said she definitely had a UTI and got her on antibiotics. But they scared the heck out of me because they said they wanted to check for bladder stones. Um, ouch. Thankfully, when they did, they didn’t find any, and so far, she’s been fine. Phew.

The weird part was they automatically wanted to put her on a prescription diet for treating bladder stones, or preventing them, or something. I wasn’t too sure about it, the calories were so much lower that I would have had to feed her a ton of it, it didn’t seem to have any meat in it if the label was read to me correctly, and the school wasn’t too sure about it either. So I switched her from salmon to duck because the guy at the pet store said that he might have heard something about a correlation between fish-based foods and bladder stones, and I’ve added a supplement with cranberry and vitamin C in it that’s supposed to keep things nice and clean, and so far, we haven’t had any more problems. But maybe I wouldn’t have had any more problems anyway. Who knows? Poor Tansy, I hope she didn’t suffer too long before making it clear there was a problem.

On the updates front, I have started bringing a toy when she has to ride in the hatch, to help her with her fear of it, and I think it might be working. I can hope so. I also noticed that if I call her actual name when I want her to come, and I don’t use a nickname, that seems to work, although it’s not perfect. I also asked about the issue of her wanting treats all the time, and I’m trying to use their suggestion. They said that although it feels counterintuitive, cut back on the praise, because she has associated praise with the hope of a treat, and only give her praise at spots where you were stopping anyway. It’s not perfect, but I’m trying.

God Tans will turn into a complete nutbar when she sees Brad, especially if we’re at the relative’s house with the other dog that we sometimes let play with Tans. The whining, the lunging, the complete disregard for anything orderly is a sight to behold. At least, usually, after she’s played with the other dog, she looks more respectable. She goes nuts over our buddy Anton, but not in the same way. I’d love to know what makes her decide a given person gets her seal of approval. It’s not always that they have a dog of their own.

She definitely has some quirks. If Steve is playing with her, and covers his head with the blanket, she goes absolutely insane. I’m not sure if she feels she has to rescue him or what, but she starts burrowing her head under the blanket, snorting, trying to throw it off or bite at it, and then running around the room.

And every now and then, she decides to test the whole idea of staying in her bed until I get up. It really sucks if poor Steve has decided to sleep on the couch, and she decides to run through the house at 3 or so in the morning. Sometimes I know why she does this, like the times there was a truck beeping outside the window that sort of sounded like the same rhythm as my alarm clock, but sometimes I have no idea what gets in her head. Anyway, when she starts up with this, she winds up spending a few bedtimes on tiedown to hopefully drive the point home that that’s supposed to be where she stays while I’m sleeping.

Sometimes, she definitely knows where things are more than I do, and she doesn’t mind telling me so. When I go out of the office, there is a pizza place a few doors down. Every now and then, I think we’ve already gone past it, and so I turn her around. She responds by digging in her heels. When I turn her back around, she will sprint even faster to the pizza place. Ok, ok, you win.

I never thought I would see a dog do this, so I feel like I have to mention it. In either February or March, we were going through periods of warm weather, followed by nasty ice and snow. One day, after we’d had some warm weather, I thought we wouldn’t need the boots. Tans was picking her way down the sidewalk so slowly that I actually turned her around and put her boots on. She never limped, she just moved super slowly. After I got her boots on, she moved normally. I think she actually asked for her boots! Wow!

For all her excitement and exuberance, she is super patient with my 2-year-old nephew. That kid loves Tansy, but he hasn’t figured out she has feelings. He will try to sit on her, scream into her fur, drive a little toy over her back, all of which we discourage. But the latest thing amazed me. He thought he could lift her. Of course he couldn’t, but that didn’t mean he didn’t try. There he was, both hands under her butt, trying and trying and trying. She just lay there and let him. My grandma saw her patience with him at Christmas and couldn’t believe it.

Now for the Trixie news. As of two weeks ago today, she is 12. Just try to digest that for a while. Trix…is…12. I brought her home 10 years ago April 15. She’s 12. Wow. We’re getting into that territory where we have no idea what may be on the horizon. She seems mostly fine right now, but you just never know.

You know how I said she couldn’t care less about toys? Now, she’s getting picky about treats! I used to think as long as she could demolish it, it was fair game. But now, that’s not even a safe bet. I didn’t even know what to get her for her birthday this year!

She has more old lady lumps, but they all seem to be the benign type. It’s weird seeing her now. Also, her cataracts are pretty noticeable to people. But it sounds like she still copes pretty well. The scariest old dog thing she has is she’s starting to drag her back end a wee bit. She can still move super fast, but after she’s been still for a while, she needs help up the stairs, and apparently her back toenails look more worn down, which makes us think she’s shuffling her back feet more. But so far, that’s not getting in her way.

You can definitely tell she hasn’t been working for a while. At Christmas, when we had everybody over, including the baby nephew, I thought it would be a good idea to contain both dogs when it was time to eat. I got Tans in the crate, and then took Trix back to Tans’s comfy bed and the tiedown. As soon as I picked up the tiedown to attach to her collar, she got super resistant. She would not lie down, she would only sit. I think she spent the whole time she was contained sitting and staring back at us. To her credit, she didn’t try to follow Shmans’s exampleand rip that tiedown out too. But she was not settling on that tiedown. I could just stuff that idea. Ah, how things change. The tiedown used to be her happy place when the thunderworks were afoot.

I think that’s all for now. But this is a message to both dogs. Please, please, don’t age anymore. Things are good right here.

Stop, Ask, Listen: Pretty Straightforward Stuff, Yes?

I know I have said it over and over and over again before, but I found someone else’s take on it that I thought was pretty well-written, and bonus, it included references to other “feel good stories” I’ve wanted to talk about, so double awesome! It also mentions an issue that I have talked about before, the issue of people getting so upset when I refuse their help. Yes, this is a thing. I don’t even have to be mean about it. I can say “No thanks, I don’t need a ride, I’m good,” and it feels like they sulk off in a huff. Or, I sometimes have to be aggressive, like when people don’t even ask me where I’m going and grab, or grab my dog’s harness or leash, and I loudly tell them to stop because that’s not ok and I get the pouty, snippy “I was only trying to help.” That’s great, but the first step in helping is asking what would be helpful.

Also disturbing is some people’s disregard for our feelings, as if we aren’t allowed to feel violated ever. The other day, I was on the bus and a woman said “I know I’m not supposed to pet your dog right now.” I said no now is not a good time. Then I told her that people don’t care, and pet her when we’re sitting on the bus. Keep in mind that she is sitting between my legs, and people just pet anyway. I said “not only is it bad because she’s working, but think about where you’re putting your hands! You’re getting pretty close to intimate at this point!” at which point the woman laughed uproariously. I couldn’t help it. I looked at her seriously and said “That wasn’t intended as a joke.” I don’t think she knew what to do. But in all seriousness, that was intended as an aha moment, not a ha ha moment, and although this woman seemed like a very sweet woman, her first impulse was not to be appalled or empathetic, but to think it was hilarious that I might not want to have someone’s hands there.

My friend’s mom also had a similar attitude, and if I wasn’t in the back of her car with a long day ahead of me, I would have eaten her for lunch. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to get upset, I just had to explain it nicely. “Please don’t put your hands practically in my crotch?” Really? This is a thing I must do? Incidentally, it isn’t. The person is lucky they don’t get slapped.

It kills me, because people can do studies where people show resistance at touching the private parts of a robot because they feel like they’re violating something. But they have no problem getting up close and personal with us. Great, we are considered less than human.

Anyway, this post does a great job, and hopefully it makes this stuff make a little more sense to people who don’t get why we get irritated

Dog Poop Will Turn Your Roomba Into A Ruindba!

There’s a story going around Facebook that reminds me of something that happened to us when we had Trix that I somehow never put up here. Maybe it was waiting for its perfect moment.

One day, on a whim, I bought Trix a new puzzle toy. The dog is supposed to roll the thing around and get food out of it! Fun fun fun! It was called a tricky treat ball, and they should have called it a not for Trixie treat ball!

I put Trix’s meal in it and gave it to her. Then Steve and I sat down to eat our own supper. They said the dog could have hours of fun with this thing, so I figured I wasn’t being a jerk for not supervising. After a few minutes, I noticed that the sounds coming from the ball sounded less like bat, bat, crunch, crunch, and more constant and much, much quieter. When I went over, I found Trix holding onto the thing that should have been a ball…only now it was a misshapen mass, and the whole top had been ripped off somehow. I also realized that if I took the mass that remained and tried to shape it back into a ball, it was not nearly the size of the original ball…uh-oh.

At first we hoped that we just had to go on a massive tricky treat ball treasure hunt, and we would find pieces everywhere…but we were not finding many pieces…which led us to the horrible conclusion that Trix had eaten the missing pieces! We were especially worried about this because the next day, we were supposed to be going to a big office party with folks from my awesome job. I had only started working there on a regular basis shortly before that, so I was feeling pretty new. The last thing I needed was for my dog to have a massive puke or poop accident at this fancy place. Plus, this was in the era where work and home were about 35 minutes’ drive from each other, so it wasn’t exactly trivial to get our asses home if necessary.

Through the next day, Steve would sort of look for tricky treat pieces as he went about his regular daily routine, and I was watching Trix’s poop to see if it was looking less…well…normal. We weren’t finding any pieces, but things were looking pretty ordinary. So we went on with the plan.

Trix got through the whole party and I never would have known anything was wrong, so I breathed a sigh of relief. We came home, and after changing into more comfortable clothes, we both fell asleep in the living-room. And a few hours later, we…found the rest of the tricky treat ball. To be more accurate, Trix produced it.

I still don’t remember this part, but at one point, some part of my brain must have heard Trix throwing up, and while most of me was still asleep, I uttered the words “Are ya ok? Are ya done pukin’?” At the same time, Steve had come to his senses enough to notice an unpleasant smell nearby that he could not identify. As soon as I uttered the words “Are ya done pukin’?” he was wide awake. “Puke…puke…pukin’?! Who’s pukin’?! I’m not pukin’! Oh…that smell…oh!”

So, although we did not have a dog poop-filled house, like in this sad tale below, there was definitely some 3 a.m. dog accident clean-up to be done. At least no electronics were sacrificed in the process, like happened to this guy’s poor roomba.

So, last week, something pretty tragic happened in our household. It's taken me until now to wrap my head around it and…

Posted by Jesse Newton on Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Strange Dog Dreams

After all these years, I still have weird dreams about either losing dogs or going back to train with a new one. But now they’ve gotten really weird.

One time, I had a dream that I was at a pet store and I needed their help with something. They said they would help me in a bit. So there I was, standing around waiting for their help. Then, along came a couple and they had a dog. For some reason I said I would take care of their dog while they shopped. Yeah, because that’s what I would do. This dog seemed really well-behaved though, so there I was, with Tansy on my one side, and this random dog on the other.

I was noticing that it was getting close to closing time and I was getting worried I wouldn’t be getting any help. Just then, someone came up to the door of the pet store and tried to come in, but the door was locked already. They knocked on it, and since I was standing near the door, I decided to let them in. As I opened the door, the dog I was babysitting bolted out into the busy parking lot. As I tried to get the attention of anyone who would listen, I heard someone say “Way to go, you just lost a rare French poodle!” And then I woke up.

A little bit later, I had a dream that I was at Steve’s buddy’s buck and doe, and Brad was there too, and he had brought Trix. There was also a little tiny dog that kind of looked like Zoe, my brother’s dog. I think Brad was babysitting it. For reasons that only make sense in dream land, Tansy, Trix and the Zoe dog were all running around this event loose. At the end of the event, we all had to clean up the place. Since our arms were loaded down with stuff, and for some reason no one had leashes, we had to make the decision to carry the stuff out and come back for the dogs on the next trip. But the whole time we were taking the stuff away, I was terrified that someone would prop open one of the doors and the dogs would get lost. I woke up before we could come back and pick up the dogs.

Then there was the dream where, in some kind of confusing mess, I managed to cause a dog who lives in the building to get separated from his owner. I don’t know how this is possible, or how I would cause this, but I rushed through a door and shut it behind me, only to realize that now the dog was stuck outside. This one is sort of fuzzy, but the point is now I’m dreaming about losing dogs that aren’t even mine! What does that say?

On the subject of dreams about having to go back and retrain, two dreams spring to mind. In one, the dream started off normal, but then I was told that my dog would be named Daylight. The funny part about that is that Daylight is the name of a project at work. So, in the dream, I got all excited and said that Daylight could be the mascot at work.

In the other dream, I had chosen to go to another school that did only in-home training. But their policy dictated that I had to go pick my dog up at the Humane Society. They said that there would be a dog waiting for me, complete with papers. When I went to get it, it looked exactly like Steve’s great aunt’s dog. It was very fluffy and we didn’t know what breed of dog it was…and it was super rambunctious. It was then that I asked what the dog’s name was, and no one could pronounce it. As the dog bounded around me and tried to pull me all over the place, all I could think was “How will I control this thing if I don’t even know its name?

And that’s the latest installment of I have strange dog dreams. All of these are pretty old, so maybe I’m due for another one. Hopefully it will be more funny than sad.