Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some more time at "Happy Lab Acres" (Donna Reece's Ridge View Labradors)

Brent drove his Dad's Jeep home last Monday. We've been trying to decide what to do with the vehicle (an '09 with 11,000 miles on it) but since we just realized that both crates fit perfectly in the back, we will probably keep it! 
Friday, we took my power chair over to Brunswick (over an hour away to the southwest) for some repairs and my van down to Akron (about an hour away to the southeast) for repairs to the air conditioning lines and to the ramp, which won't come back into the van. We were heading to St Louis Saturday for Dad's funeral, to sort stuff and arrange for some of it to come to Cleveland so we took the Labs out to Donna Reece's Friday evening. We had thought about taking Hardy but decided not to because he seems to be going through a bit of a fear period and we thought that might not be the best time for his first airplane flight! Instead, we left both Laurel & Hardy out at Ridge View Labradors. The nice thing is that whenever we pull up at Donna's house, both of them run to the front door excited to be there again!
The flight to St Louis went well on Saturday and we spent the day sorting and looking through boxes. Dad had moved from his house of 65+ years in March - he had over 100 unopened boxes in the basement alone which we thought we'd have to ship to us in  to sort. We also found some lovely brand new furniture - Dad had been "living" in the basement with a TV and a broken recliner. I suppose he was waiting to move upstairs until he had completed all the renovating and remodeling. Being there and seeing the loving care with which he did the work, we became quite fond of the house and decided that we should use the furniture since he never had the chance to. It was still a difficult decision because although it was beautiful, much of it isn't to our taste and we have a house full of our own. 
Sunday, we did more sorting and finalized things for the funeral home visitation, the funeral and the internment at the national cemetery. Monday was a long day with a "private viewing"; four hours of visitation; a Masonic service; the funeral service, which Brent and I performed (Brent gave a lovely eulogy which honored his Dad but was still truthful); then the procession to Jefferson Barracks, ending in a short but lovely military service. Afterwards, we went out to dinner with some other family members at a local restaurant. That evening, we finished looking through all the boxes except those in the garage. 
Tuesday morning, the packer came and it looked like she did a great job. We headed to the airport about two hours before the flight was supposed to take off. Unfortunately, it was delayed and we got in to Cleveland about an hour and a half late. We had to stop home before heading out to pick up Laurel and Hardy.
The Labs had a wonderful time with Donna and their Lab and Mastiff friends. We're still glad that we didn't take Hardy with us although we'd like an opportunity to take take him on a flight sometime soon. But, we'd like to do that when we can focus on the training with patience. And although they were delighted to come home with us, it was obvious that they had had a blast!
This week, we will be busy preparing our house and basement for all the stuff coming on the moving van. We hadn't planned on the furniture but now we have to swap it with what we already have in our bedroom and office, the family room, living room, and Devin and Kristen's bedrooms! 
And now, having had to do this for Brent's Dad, we've made a commitment to not leave all our stuff for our children to have to sort and decide what might have some value. Hence, while we get our stuff ready to move, we are sorting it into different piles: garage sale, keep, donate and trash.  Poor Laurel and Hardy probably won't appreciate the time we spend doing all that though! Sometimes it's just tough work being a Labrador!

Monday, June 20, 2011

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

This past weekend Canine Affair (our training hall) hosted a C-WAGS Obedience and Rally trial for which I served as the C-WAGS Advocate (or Representative). With the potential for hot weather and because I haven't been working much to get ready, I wasn't sure I'd be competing. 
About 4 or 5 weeks ago, we found out that Brent's father, who lives in St. Louis had inoperable (terminal) lung cancer and that he had 6-8 months to 1 year to live. At that point, he was living at home and had gone to see his doctor. When he was dissatisfied with what his doctor had to say, he decided he needed to go to the hospital. Once there, he was diagnosed with a very aggressive, untreatable cancer and it became quickly apparent that he would never go home again. Brent's mother has been in a nursing home for about 10 years with advanced Alzheimer's and he is an only child with a very small extended family that hasn't been close for many years. As a result, everything fell to Brent and suddenly we were trying to pay their bills, make living arrangements for his dad and take care of his mom. Unfortunately, his dad's health declined quickly and two weeks ago, we were told he had 2-4 months left and he immediately went into hospice. Brent decided to spend a last father's day with his dad so we made reservations for him to go there Friday (the 17th). He was scheduled to land at 8:00 in the morning but we got a call 5 hours before (at 3:00) letting us know that his dad had passed away peacefully in his sleep. Brent went there but instead of getting to see his dad, he had to make arrangements for his funeral, talk to the lawyer, go to the banks and the nursing home to see about his mom etc. 
For all sorts of reasons, it's been a stressful couple months for us and although I've made time for continuing our service dog training, I haven't been working on anything related to competition. Despite that, I decided on Saturday to try Level 1 Obedience with Hardy. Brent and I also used FaceTime to be together while making the funeral arrangements which made it an emotional day. Although we hadn't worked on all of the exercises, Hardy got one Q. On Sunday, I did Pro, Zoom 2 and ARF rally with Laurel and although she was worried about me, we got 3 Qs with 2 firsts & 1 second place. At the last minute, I decided to try Zoom 1 with Hardy. He was really on and we won the class with a 98/100! I have to admit that I was surprised and very proud of him! And he has requested that I not come out of the ring telling everyone how surprised I am when he does a good job! Funny boy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hardy spent today at Working Dog Weekend event

Hardy, Brent and I spent today at the Working Dog Weekend event at Lake FarmPark. I've taken Laurel in past years but this year more than ever I really  appreciated what a great place the FarmPark is for service dog training, whether the Working Dog event is going on or not. I'm thinking that a membership might be a worthwhile tool for our training plan. 
Working Dog Weekend is an annual event at which various dog related vendors and exhibitors are in attendance along with a dog friendly audience as well as some unsuspecting visitors who didn't realize there was a special event going on. 
In general, the FarmPark is a beautiful place with nice paths to walk on, farm animals and some farm-related exhibits. Besides this event, they have a wine tasting event and a arts and crafts show, a farmers market, and a harvest festival, to name a few. 
Today, Hardy got to see llamas and alpacas, Clydesdales and Belgium draft horses, sheep, and huge tractors pulling wagons carrying people around for the first time. He wasn't a big fan of the tractors as they came past us so of course, we spent lots of time letting them do just that. When we went to see the Clydesdales, they were standing very still and the first time one of them moved, Hardy jumped. We hung around long enough for him to get comfortable watching them. Then, we went into the arena and met some Belgium drafts who were standing right at the doors to their stalls. Up close, they have huge heads and are pretty intimidating (although they are generally gentle giants). It took Hardy a while to get close to the stall door but we waited around until he could do it. He found the llamas and alpaca interesting but much less worrisome! He also watched intently while a flyball team demonstrated that sport and then during a police dog demonstration. He was pretty thrilled by the dogs trying out dock diving as well as those playing Frisbee. We also saw a Border Coolie herding sheep and enjoyed watching our friends doing agility and freestyle.  
The benefit and curse of the day was the fact that most people there were dog friendly. Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily mean that they were dog knowledgeable! As a result, many people came up to Hardy - some asked first but most did not. Both children and adults "mugged" him by grabbing his tail or his face. I kept thinking how dangerous that behavior could be with the wrong dog. I was very proud of Hardy though because he remained relaxed and nonplussed throughout and waited for me to ask him if he "wanted to say hello" before he approached people or responded to their attention. 
I do believe he got tired of dogs "goosing" his behind - I know I certainly did! Too many people had dogs on flexis without paying attention to where they were going or what they were doing! Other people were just unconscious or unconcerned about what trouble their dog might be getting themselves into and once again, I thought how dangerous that could be. Hardy handled it all like a trooper and I worked to keep him away from uninvited interest from people or other dogs but I couldn't always do that since they would approach from all directions and climb over me to get at him. Brent commented that most people weren't paying attention to my attempts to get them to control themselves or their dogs! I don't know if I suddenly become mute when in my chair but it certainly seems like I do! 
Still, it was an enjoyable day; Hardy handled a number of "firsts" with calm confidence and had great opportunities to practice his public access skills in the most difficult situation to date!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wow! Time Flies!

Apparently time flies whether you're having fun or not! I've still been struggling with the side effects from the Baclofen which combined with the heat (very unusual in Cleveland but we've already had 3 days with temperatures in the 90s. It looks like it's been hot around the country but it should be in the 60s - 70s in May and early June here. As part of my various disabilities, my body doesn't regulate it's temperature well (or sometimes, it seems, at all) so I can't be outside when it is too hot and I don't deal with extreme changes in temperatures well. Hence, I have struggled with that recently.
Hardy has been going out with me on errands whenever I go and he is gaining confidence and enthusiasm for the job. His default down is lovely when I'm looking at something or we're standing in line although it makes doing sit stays somewhat more challenging. 
Last week was a really big one for my big brown boy! On Wednesday, June 1st, he spent the day at the Ophthalmologist's having the procedure to freeze his errant eye lashes. Again, he doesn't have Entropion, in which the eyelids roll-in. Instead, he has something called Distichiasis - abnormal eye lashes growing out of the oil glands of the eyelids. Often, there are no clinical symptoms but since Hardy has had gunky eyes since he was a puppy we believe his are irritating his eyes. While under a general anesthesia,a procedure called cryoepilation was performed - the abnormal hair follicles were frozen using a liquid nitrogen probe and then the hairs were removed. It appears that the procedure was successful but the vet believes that Hardy reacted to either the gas or anesthesia used because he was throwing ventricular beats every once in a while when he was under. When he was coming out, his heart beat evened out and he recovered uneventfully. Of course, we'll have to figure out what was going on since he will have to be under anesthesia a couple more times in his life, even if he doesn't have any unexpected medical conditions needing surgery. At some point between 18 months and 2+ years, he will be undergoing a neutering and at the same time we will have the orthopedic X-rays done to ensure that his hips and elbows are good. 
Then, on Thursday, June 2, we drove up to Canada for the 4th Dogs in the Park Service Dog Seminar. Although I had some physical difficulties over the weekend, the 3 day seminar was amazing and well worth our trip! There were about 35 people in attendance with many different disabilities and almost as many SDs or SDiTs. Hardy got to practice his public access behavior around other dogs while we attended the various sessions. Both Laurel and Hardy had a difficult time because of my medical problems. At one point, Hardy gave me what was obviously an alert but was something different than I'm used to. Thinking it was for muscle spasms, I took some muscle relaxants but when that didn't stop him, I took pain meds for the rheumatoid. He was still persistently trying to tell me something so I tested my blood sugar to find that it was very high (the overdose of baclofen screws up blood sugar levels). Then it took me a couple hours to realize that the wrong dog had alerted to the blood sugar! Hardy has never learned that particular alert but apparently it's a natural for him as well as it was for Laurel. He and Laurel also got to get into a police car, see it with it's lights on and jump up on the hood to have photos taken! They also had the chance to get into the back of a paramedic's rig - Laurel leaped in and stood with her wagging tail looking at everyone while Hardy took the more conservative approach of climbing up using the step and then laying down. 
There were photos taken of the various adventures and hopefully someone will send some of them to me. In addition, one of the attendees is a professional photographer and took some "studio-type" photos of Laurel and Hardy that I'll be able to share. 
We had an uneventful trip home on Monday and then Sue Alexander & Ann Munsch, President of K9 Helpers (a Canadian non-profit that places psychiatric SDs with people in the Guelph area) arrived on Tuesday to look at Hardy's breeder's kennel (Ridge View Labradors) for a puppy. Neither Laurel nor Hardy were involved with the testing or selection of the puppy (Hardy's half-brother, Widget) but the visit still impacted them because there was another service dog in the house (D'fer) and of course, Widget came to stay with us for a couple days. Both of them got to spend some time with him - Laurel thought we were out of our minds since she had just helped us raise a puppy last summer (Hardy). Hardy enjoyed him (he probably thought it was pretty cool to have another brown boy around who looked so much like him as a young puppy). He even let Widget take his Frisbee away from him! 
Everyone left for Canada this morning so quiet once again reigns at our house (as it turns out, Widget is quite the screamer and of course, he was, in part, selected for his persistence!)