Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our fun New York City Christmas!

For such a curious, persistent young man, Hardy has both enjoyed our Christmas decorations and has been pretty good about leaving them alone. We put unbreakable ornaments on the bottom of the tree; a good thing since Hardy has been retrieving some of them. But instead of eating them, he brings them to us; something for which we are grateful! 
After completing our holiday preparations, we headed to Brooklyn, NY, for our Christmas celebration with our children and their significant others. We stayed in our son, Devin's one bedroom apartment while he stayed with his boyfriend, Anthony. Our daughter, Kristen and her boyfriend, Sean, brought their 11 month old Pointer, Soapy.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas, we had three large dogs, one cat (with claws) and 6 adults in a one bedroom apartment. Thankfully, the dogs were all very well behaved - Laurel had taught both Hardy and Soapy about inside play (while laying down), the cat was extremely tolerant and the humans all animal-friendly. All the dogs are crate-trained and we had one for each of them which certainly helped with management. 
Since there was absolutely no grass anywhere around the apartment building, Laurel and Hardy got to practice their abilities to toilet just about anywhere. Since we do visit NYC on a regular basis, this is an important skill. 
Because Laurel and Hardy travel almost everywhere with us, it was wonderful to have them so well accepted! Because the apartment wasn't dog proofed, they slept in their crates and since I didn't want to leave Lab hair everywhere, we used Furminator's waterless shampoo. We put it on in the bathroom and then dried them off. Once they were dry, we used the Furminator on them and got tons of hair. They shed much, much less than they had been recently! We will continue to use it at our house (when we can't do showers) and will definitely utilize it when traveling and when staying in hotels or with friends/family.
One of the loveliest moments of many from the visit was Christmas evening when I looked over to see Anthony (who had been afraid of dogs because he'd been bitten in the face as a child) laying on the floor with his head resting on Laurel's side using her as a pillow and Devin, who was sitting on the floor cradling Hardy, sound asleep in his lap. 
We left early Sunday morning, the 26th, and beat the record-breaking blizzard out of NYC. We ran into some snow in the mountains but nothing too serious and were home safe and sound by the time the worst hit Brooklyn. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

We survived the Crown Classic Dog Shows at the IX Center!

So, we survived the Crown Classic Dog Shows at the IX Center! That may not sound very impressive but, I think that, especially for the dogs, it really is! The IX Center (International Exposition Center) is a very large, open, noisy, energy-filled, smelly (at least during the dog show), overwhelming kind of place! The Crown Classic consists of four days of shows sponsored by four different kennel clubs to make up one of the biggest dog shows in the country. Because it is at the end of the year, all of the most competitive conformation dogs come in search of "dog of the year" awards in each breed. There is a huge agility trial consisting of more entries that that in conformation. And there are four rings dedicated to rally and obedience. Laurel got her last two legs in Novice at the IX Center several years ago and went another year as my service dog. 
This year, Laurel and I were trying Advanced Rally for the first time and Hardy was attending as my service dog in training. 
We had to crate quite a distance from our ring and there was a huge black box fan (maybe 20 feet wide from the floor to the ceiling) right next to our crates that shook the floor and was very noisy. There was also one next to our ring. We had to walk past all types of competitors, spectators and through the vendors area to get back and forth. On Thursday, Laurel appeared to be very "energetic", which I knew was stress and we got a generous 93/100. I hoped that having been in the ring once, Laurel would feel more confident on Friday. Unfortunately, she didn't and the stress was very obvious - she was sniffing and disconnected; basically coming back to me to do the exercises. I don't think we should have Q'd but we did with a 79. I was very sad and frustrated because no one was getting to see what a great dog Laurel is and I wasn't sure what to do to help with her stress-level. 
After thinking about it and talking to Sue Alexander, I decided to change up our pre-competition routine. Instead of doing a warm up, I would bring her out close to our time and put her in a down stay. That would be it - we do a down stay prior to training so I hoped it would let her know we were going to work and that it would also help relax her. Saturday morning, a friend of mine, Pam, who was there doing canine massages, offered to do reiki with Laurel. She did some about 30 minutes before I expected to compete and then I took Laurel out with 3 dogs before us. We did a down stay next to the ring and then went right in. Whether it was the Reiki or the down stay; Laurel was still not completely her normal self but she was much closer to it and I was thrilled as we left the ring! As it turned out, we got a 98/100, tied for first place. With my power chair, we never win ties based on time because although we move right along on the course, it takes me longer to get around her and Laurel longer to get around me. The judge announced that the first place team had won by 5 seconds so when she called the number, "107", I sat there. It took me a couple seconds to realize that was our number. So we finished Laurel's Advanced title Saturday with a first place in the class, and got our photo taken by the show photographer. 
Hardy didn't seemed bothered by anything. He spent time in his crate and also went to man the Canine Affair booth with me for awhile, watched agility and went shopping. We visited with his breeder, who still seems to think he's a very handsome boy. 
We stayed home yesterday - Brent and I were tired so we rested and prepared for our trip to NYC for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hardy loves Holiday decorating

Ah, yes, Hardy's first Holiday season! Once again, I'm reminded how special the world is seen through the eyes of a child (even a chocolate Lab youngster). It's been an exciting time for our Mr. Hardy! First, cold and snow - what could be better than that! And, now we are decorating the house with all sorts of interesting, shiny, new things - poinsettias (fake), Nativities with lots of pieces, New England village complete with fake snow and best of all, the Christmas tree! Hardy's favorite cat, Maggie, likes to sleep under the tree which presents all sorts of interesting possibilities and although we use nonbreakable ornaments, we did put some on the bottom of the tree . Thankfully, Hardy tends to bring it to us if he does take something off the tree! 
With the big winter storm this week, most of our classes have been canceled but Hardy has been on crate rest quite a bit anyway. A couple weeks ago, while working at the training hall, Hardy tore one of his dew claws. The claw was hanging sideways off his leg and he was leaving tracks of blood where ever he went. Because Hardy is so stoic, we have no idea what happened! We took him to the Vet the next day where Dr Neal cut off most of the nail, prescribed pain killers and gave us vet wrap for when he was outside. I tried putting ointment on the raw area where he pulled the skin off but he immediately licked it off. He seems to be healing well and feeling much better - he no longer limps. 
We're headed to the IX Center for the big Crown Classic dog shows Thursday - Sunday. Laurel and I are competing in Advanced Rally and Hardy will be attending in his official capacity as my service dog in training. This will be a test for Hardy since the facility is huge, noisy, and overwhelming! So far, we haven't found many things that bother him (trains racing by on both sides of a platform being the exception); we'll see how he does with this new challenge!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The flu, Thanksgiving and trips out-of-town have waylaid my blogging efforts

It's been a couple long weeks since I last wrote - when I looked at the date of my last blog entry, I was stunned by how long it's been. And yet, there really hasn't been lots of noteworthy Hardy news over this time period. At 7 1/2 months, he is still an adolescent and hence, still has those butt head moments. But considering how boring it was for him the week I had the flu, he was actually very well behaved and found generally good things with which to stay busy. 
When I felt up to it, I did take Hardy on some short public access trips - we went to Costco a couple times and now, depending on how well he's doing, we are venturing into the food areas. He has also been to Target, Office Max, and World Market recently. He is doing well with these trips but they are still primarily for his benefit and I watch him carefully for appropriate behavior and for any signs of stress or his being overwhelmed. 
We attended APDT Rally trials the weekend after Thanksgiving. Laurel got her first Level 2 Championship (RL2X) and her APDT Rally Champion Excellent (ARCHX ) titles, which makes 6 rally or obedience championship titles this year.
In part because it got suddenly cold over the weekend, we put Laurel and Hardy into the same crate in our van; something they handled beautifully. I'm not sure that will still work when Hardy reaches full-size but for now, they settle in and snuggle together. Once again, we were thrilled with how well Hardy handled hanging around in his crate at the trials and then coming out to meet people and do some behaviors with me. He's also starting to appreciate one of Laurel's favorite activities - hanging out with us at hotels! 
Unfortunately, Brent slammed his back into our kitchen island on Thanksgiving day and although he felt okay through Friday, on Saturday morning, he was absolutely miserable with muscle spasms and radiating pain down his leg. He feels okay as long as he is sitting or laying down but the minute he gets up to do anything, he is just hobbling and hunched over again. This is the worst he has felt in a long time and it is reminding me how much of the physical things he does around the house. He is using Laurel to pick things up for him and do some of the other tasks she does for me. Hardy loves to join in but he is not real consistent ... he might pick the item up but that doesn't mean he's going to bring it to you - not yet. 
He is doing very well learning (and now that he's an adolescent, relearning) basic obedience skills and loves his classes - conformation, obedience and agility foundations! I know there are many people who say that dogs can't learn more than one thing at a time (which is the reason many people won't train conformation dogs in obedience - because then they might sit in the breed ring; and why some people won't do obedience with dogs they are training in agility - thinking that the dogs won't want to leave their sides to do obstacles away from them).
I know from my experience with Laurel that she has, in fact, been able to learn exactly what is expected with whatever activity we are doing. When she is "dressed" and out as my full public access service dog, she is very different than she is when we are doing those activities in which she is allowed to "just" be a dog - obedience, rally, agility and now, freestyle. Not only does she know the appropriate behavior when she is "working" and needs to be serious, focused on me and not overly enthusiastic or friendly; but she knows and understands what we are doing when she sees the rally signs, agility equipment, an obedience or a freestyle ring. I truly believe that Laurel is much better able to do her job as my service dog because she does have all these other opportunities to be her energetic, enthusiastic and incredibly friendly-self! Plus, it helps build our relationship - our connection, communication and level of teamwork.
Even at 6 - 7 months, Hardy has been showing the same ability to discriminate what behavior is appropriate when he is dressed and working; when we are doing conformation or obedience or when he sees the agility equipment. And, working together in these different ways is also building our relationship. In our agility class, for instance, we work off-lead and Hardy is learning to work away from me a bit plus, in addition to learning all the jumps and obstacles (with the teeter board on the ground), we are learning how to work together to get from one to another which is all about teamwork.
I include training and competing in various dog sports in my training plans which, I believe, keeps me from getting too serious or focused on the ultimate goal of having a full public access service dog when they are just puppies or service dogs in training . Also, I think that for me, doing the different dog sports gives me opportunities to do fun things with my service dogs as well as continuing to train and be tested as a team.
I'm including some of the photos Jack Powers took at the beginning of November below. One change since the photos, however - Hardy is now as big as Laurel!