Service dogs are not robots…

Kai, my service dog, is a complete goofball off duty but when his vest is on he’s like a different dog. I’ve got so used to how well he behaves on duty that I’ve not been keeping up with his training. There are tasks and obedience commands that I don’t use often and to keep them active I need to practise them with Kai frequently. So over the past couple of days we’ve started working on these commands/hand signals again so that he doesn’t forget them.

Additionally, I’m teaching him a new command.

On Saturday night I attended the musical ‘Shrek the musical’ performed by the Sault Ste Marie Musical Comedy Guild. It was a fabulous show. However, on this occasion I had to wait for my guest to meet me in the entrance way before the show. As you can imagine the area was full of lots of people milling around. Kai was a star and kept in a tight sit next to my legs but I was still concerned that he would get hurt as people don’t expect anything to be at his height and a lot of women’s bags are just at the height of his head.

As a result I decided that I want to teach him something that is called a between the legs heel. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve ever watched any shows with police or military dogs. It’s where the dog is between the handlers legs and moves in sync with the handler.

My reason for wanting to teach Kai this is so that I can protect him better in situations such as Saturday night. So a couple of days ago I decided to start teaching him the new command. Oh my gosh! It was like he was a puppy again. He couldn’t understand what I was asking for so tried everything he could think of to get the reward (food on this occasion). It was extremely funny but also somewhat frustrating. However, I soon realised that I had missed the first step, and went too fast, so I need to go back to the beginning and start building it up in steps.

While we’re at it, as mentioned earlier, I’m going to reinforce the tasks and commands that he already knows and keep them all fresh. It will only be ten-twenty minutes once or twice a day but knowing Kai he’ll soon be acing it all. Including the new command!

However, his reaction to my trying to teach the new command reminded me that Kai isn’t a robot. He’s a dog and he’s going to make mistakes. Just as I did in not breaking the command down into small enough pieces.

So when you see a service dog that isn’t acting in the way that you think it should I’d ask you to consider 2 things:

1. Could the dog be tasking for its handler? Kai, and many other service dogs are trained in intelligent disobedience. A good example of this is a guide dog refusing to step into a road despite the handler giving the command to move forward. Additionally, some tasks look odd if you don’t know what they’re doing.

2. Is the dog just having a bad day? It happens and sometimes life is such that you can’t just call it quits and go home for the day but you have to work through it with your dog. As long as the handler has full control and is correcting any inappropriate behaviour the best thing to do is leave them alone.

I’d also like you to keep in mind that handlers hold themselves and their dogs to incredibly high standards. If something is off I can guarantee the handler is well aware and trying to work out the best way to deal with the issue as fast as possible.

But most of all, please remember that service dogs aren’t robots!

Photo Credit: Megan Parlow

Just for one day I started to feel like myself again….

Yesterday I felt like myself again, just for a day. It was wonderful. I packed up snacks and emergency survival equipment, loaded up the dogs and hit the road. It was wonderful to feel well enough to just drive….

So Molly, Kai and I went to visit the home of Winnie-the-Pooh, White River, Ontario.

The day was mostly spent driving as it’s a good 4 1/2 hours from Sault Ste. Marie. However, it was a nice sunny day for the most part. Though I drove through two storms on the way home just in time to beat the massive thunderstorm that hit last night.

Some gorgeous views and amazing sights. I saw moose and birds of prey. The lakes were starting to unfreeze so the edges were mixed between waves and open water and icebergs. Some of the waterfalls were just flourishing with the snowmelt.

I loved the sense of humour of whoever was naming some of the lakes. At one point there was ‘Mom Lake’ and ‘Dad Lake’ just next to it. Just as I was wondering what you’d call a third lake I came upon ‘Orphan Lake’ just far enough from Mom and Dad to be orphaned!

It was a lovely day out and the dogs loved the ride and the walk by the Winnie-the-Pooh memorial. Next time we’ll have to go when the museum is actually open and see if I can handle the scents.

However, for right now just getting out for the day was such a huge step for me after almost a year of being mostly housebound. I’m only extending my limits to my vehicle but now that I’m well enough to drive like that again…. it’s wonderful!!

Even with the thunderstorm last night all three of us slept well last night!!

Such a pretty boy….

So we both survived our time apart, Kai came home looking very handsome. However, he’d caused some concerns while being groomed as he’d peed pretty much constantly not just when I arrived to pick him up.

So today we headed to the vets. The good news is that Kai doesn’t have a bladder infection, nor does he have diabetes. He does have a touch of staining between the pads of his feet and the tip of his penis from licking. Apparently there’s something in a dog’s saliva that can turn white hair red. Nothing serious though as the skin underneath wasn’t inflamed or infected so I just need to watch for excessive licking and most likely his hair will go back to being white in those places in the summer when he doesn’t have ice and salt to lick off.

Sorry Kai – looks like winter boots for you more often next year!

My thanks to the new groomers for their concern. However, unfortunately we think it was a reaction from the bad groom and being at a strange groomers. Hopefully, next time it won’t be so new to him and he’ll relax. However, as he hasn’t continued with the uncontrollable peeing since I picked him up and didn’t pee in the vets office we’re pretty sure it was more like a little kid peeing themselves when they’re scared.

That’s mixed news. I hate the fact that he had a bad groom that caused it. Especially as the groomer used had been grooming him since I got him and had always done a great job before. It must have just been an off day. However, I won’t risk him there again. So I’ll let his coat grow out a little longer this time before his next groom and hopefully all will be OK.

He certainly looks like a handsome boy today, even upside down!

Oh, as for me. I was right, one fall, a few bruises and a couple of mild asthma attacks. The lung rehab. program staff commented on how much more off-balance I was without him and how much more I needed to hold on without him providing counter balance for me. It’s amazing to think how much more restricted my life would be without him. I’m so grateful for his love and presence in my life. Good boy Kai!

Online dating is an adventure in imagination!

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to try out online dating. Well, here we are a few weeks later and I have to say that as long as you view it as entertainment it’s a fun waste of time.

I can’t believe how much people lie. I feel like House is actually right – “Everybody lies”

They lie about the most stupid things. Interestingly men and women seem to describe themselves very differently. Pictures of men who self-describe as ‘athletic’ and ‘average’ are self-described as ‘a few extra pounds’ by women with the same build.

An interesting research study could certainly be designed to look at why that might be.

Secondly men lie about their height. As a 6′ woman I’m well aware that many men are intimidated somehow by tall women so I pay attention to their height. What I don’t understand is how somebody thinks that they can describe themselves as 6’2″ when they’re barely 5’10”. Do they only date women who are 5′, who may not be able to tell the difference? Crazily enough they’ll often post pictures of themselves with backgrounds that make it quite clear that they’re nowhere near the height they mention. Of course, even if they manage to post a picture that doesn’t give it away meeting for the ubiquitous coffee soon gives the game away.

If you’re going to lie about your height what else are you lying about?

Marital status is an obvious one and most men give themselves away pretty quickly. I don’t understand why they don’t just join the sites that are designed specifically for people who want to cheat. Are they just lying to themselves?

Then there are the ones that hate judgment as they pass judgment on complete strangers, or who are grammar Nazi’s and can’t spell grammar correctly to begin with!

Also, since when did it become acceptable for the opening line in a conversation to be about whether or not you give blow jobs? Again, there are sites that are totally about sexual hook-ups, can’t you use those instead?

So for those of us that just want to find friends, and date a little, please let’s talk about the weather, the day, our work, our interests, places we’ve traveled to or would like to travel too.

I guess at the end of the day, it’s a cheap form of entertainment. I just came across a site that say’s that it’s different and really supports friends and dating rather than cheating and sex hook-ups. I’ll try it and report back in a few weeks.

In the meantime, the thing perhaps to keep in mind is that I’ll only use the free sites (having paid for the expensive ones in the past and found them no better) and the old adage seems to be true:

You get what you pay for!


Learning to listen to your gut instincts is the first step…

Learning to listen to your gut instincts is the first step, acting on them is the second.

I’ve got great intuition. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons I’ve spent most of my life ignoring it in terms of personal relationships. Now that I’ve been single again and finally able to get out a little bit now and then it seems like it’s time to put just my little toe in the dating pool again.

However, given my health restrictions that really means that online dating is the only way that I can test the water.

Now online dating is a form of entertainment! It has to be seen that way or else it would be too depressing.

Men seem to come in three categories:

  1. They really just want to hook-up for sex, but want to pretend otherwise for some reason… yet the first question they ask is sex related.
  2. They are in their 40/50s and never had a serious relationship – there’s a reason for that!
  3. They’re divorced, or separated, and want to start the second family and ‘get it right this time”

Trying to find the man who has baggage, but knows it and is working on it; is not only about sex and actually is interested in a conversation and is also attractive to me and not lying about something as simple as their height is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

So once in a while, you come across the ‘nice guy’ and that’s when that gut instinct kicks in. So I’m learning to listen out for my warning bells and red flags and then think through what to do about them.

Am I over-reacting due to past experiences? Is it a real warning that I should listen to and run? Am I over thinking it all? Probably….

The best advice I’ve been given recently though is to just relax and see what evolves….  Not something I’m good at. I’m a serial monogamist. Three long-term relationships in my life and I married two of them and lived with the third. Dating is pretty new to me…. So as the saying goes… let’s see what the water’s like!

Bucket List – Items #1-20

So it’s been a little while since I last looked at my bucket list but I’m delighted to say that I am getting closer to accomplishing some of the items on my list. As it last stood, just over a month ago, I had 18 items:

  1. At least once a month, taking appropriate precautions, get out and do something social
  2. To be a bridesmaid
  3. To visit New Zealand
  4. To live on the ocean
  5. To own a Class B motor-home (Roadtrek ideally)
  6. Waist length hair
  7. Day-trip to Frankenmuth & Bronners
  8. Reschedule & enjoy my belated 45th birthday vacation
  9. Acceptance of RADS diagnosis and limitations that places on my life
  10. Despite RADS diagnosis, work on improving the quality of my life and work at getting back to work
  11. year long road trip following 70 degree (21 C) weather throughout the contiguous United States.
  12. Lose steroid wait and return to a healthy weight
  13. Get out walking, locally and a little further afield on walking trails and then snowshoeing as determined by the weather
  14. Visit Harrison Hot Springs in BC
  15. Go indoor skydiving
  16. Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival
  17. Go on a picnic
  18. At least once a day, do something creative

With the help of a fantastic friend and some amazing staff at local facilities I have been able to keep up my plan to do something social once a month. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of effort, increases my risk of allergen exposure greatly and I pay for it afterwards for several days in recovering from the impact of just being in a space with other people and their scents. However, on balance it’s great to be able to resume somewhat of a normal life for an hour here and there.

So I’m achieving #1. Items 9 and 10 are also moving forwards. The details have yet to be worked out but a plan is being developed that will allow me to return to work, initially just part-time, as of next week though I will be working from home. Unfortunately the minimal social activities that I have undertaken have demonstrated that I can’t manage the impact of scents very well physically and that the allergen/anaphylaxis risk is too high to return to my actual workplace. However, I am delighted that my employer is working with me to accommodate my disabilities.

Losing my steroid weight is a very slow work in progress but with sticking to a regular routine and eating regularly I have turned the corner and started to lose a little of the weight. I start a respiratory rehab program next week, again with a great deal of precautions in place, that should also help me take off the weight.

Unfortunately, the weather has been so changeable and I’ve been so reactive that I haven’t been able to get out and walk yet. But I will! So item 13 is a work in progress.

The last item that I’ve managed to start progressing is item 18. Each and every day I try to make sure that I do something creative, even if it’s as simple as colouring in an adult colouring book.

So what comes next? Looking at my bucket list I still have a lot of items that depend on my regaining my health and reducing my allergies. That’s looking less likely but I’m not giving up hope yet. However, I think that in order to be able to see progress I need to add my next items in categories that I can do from home.

Years ago I used to make a lot of my own clothes and in fact made several formal evening gowns for myself and others. While I can’t see a need for formal wear anytime soon I do still have drawers full of fabric and patterns and think that it’s time that I start dressmaking again. Just because I’m at home most of the time doesn’t mean that I need to spend all my time in leggings and sweatpants! Though to be fair, if I made them for myself it would probably be cheaper and a better fit than buying online. So item #19 is to resume dressmaking.

The last item for now is to work with Kai and Molly on Rally Obedience. I can’t trial in normal obedience because I can’t hear the commands being called out and I’m not fluent enough in ASL to use an interpreter. However, in Rally Obedience there are stations with signs telling you what to do with your dog at each point. Kai’s obedience as a service dog is incredible. However, for more formal obedience he is somewhat unstructured and tends to always position himself to be able to see my face. So I’d like to teach him better positioning with alternate commands simply as a brain exercise for both of us. Molly will join in for some training but given her age, often works best as the distraction for Kai!

I don’t know if we’ll actually compete but it’s actually a possibility as the CARO trial is held outside at the local KOA campground each August so as long as I can control seasonal allergies I may be able to attend and participate in it. If we do compete it will be for fun. Kai’s service dog training will always come first so if he alerts during a trial that will always be the priority, even if we fail the trial. However, with over 40 commands to work on it will help keep both of us active and hopefully, I’ll be able to get out in my garden to practice once the weather improves. If not, my basement will suffice.

So there we have it, 20 items on my new bucket list. As before, the ones in italics are the ones that I’m accomplishing or making progress towards.

  1. At least once a month, taking appropriate precautions, get out and do something social
  2. To be a bridesmaid
  3. To visit New Zealand
  4. To live on the ocean
  5. To own a Class B motor-home (Roadtrek ideally)
  6. Waist length hair
  7. Day-trip to Frankenmuth & Bronners
  8. Reschedule & enjoy my belated 45th birthday vacation
  9. Acceptance of RADS diagnosis and limitations that places on my life
  10. Despite RADS diagnosis, work on improving the quality of my life and work at getting back to work
  11. year long road trip following 70 degree (21 C) weather throughout the contiguous United States.
  12. Lose steroid weight and return to a healthy weight
  13. Get out walking, locally and a little further afield on walking trails and then snowshoeing as determined by the weather
  14. Visit Harrison Hot Springs in BC
  15. Go indoor skydiving
  16. Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival
  17. Go on a picnic
  18. At least once a day, do something creative
  19. Resume dress-making
  20. Train Kai in Rally Obedience

How’s your bucket list coming along?

Dating for the first time after two divorces and a live-in relationship….

Life is weird sometimes. My dating history is somewhat unusual. I’ve been married and divorced twice and had one live-together relationship. Yes, somehow along the way I never really dated.

My first marriage we dated once as a couple, got engaged, delayed the wedding after his mother had a stroke and all dates after that were with a group of friends. That continued after we were married.

I did a little better with husband number two but seeing as we were dating across the Atlantic we were either living together or hundreds of miles apart. We did manage a few more dates on our own but this time we tended to have his youngest son with us and his cousins or friends.

By the time we get to the living-together relationship I had a teen daughter and he had a teen son. So once again we rarely had time to date unless the kids were both engaged with cadet activities but as we met because my ex was a cadet officer he was often needed there too.

In between long term relationships I’ve had a half dozen other dates. However, either we never got past a first date due to lack of interest on both sides or the guy proposed!

So here I am single again at 45. Single for a good two years so have worked through the majority of the issues gained coming out of another relationship that I thought was for life, and was apparently not. Alcohol being his true life partner, not me.

I have to learn to date! Thankfully my students have educated me over the years so that I know things like “Netflix & Chill” really means hook-up for sex. However, some of the other ‘knowns’ are very hard to work out, especially if you’re pretty naive as it turns out that I am.

Then there are the dating books on rules, no rules and men and women are aliens to each other! Basically what I’m realising is that I have to trust my gut. The problem with that is that I am an analyst, a researcher by nature so I tend to over think things. I’ve ignored my gut in the past to my extreme cost. So now I have to find the balance between listening to it and making sure that I’m not over reacting.

Now add in the complicating factor of my extreme allergies, intolerance to scents and try and work out just how you date anybody even if you give in and join the online dating sites as a way of finding somebody.

Just how do you explain that we can’t even meet for coffee because all the coffee places in town have fresh fruit smoothies on the premises (which I’m allergic to), that they can’t have touched citrus let alone eaten it recently, and must be wearing no scents. That even then, I may have to leave abruptly. Oh, and I work a service dog because I’m deaf and I tend towards fragile fractures.

So I’m going to throw it out there… all advice welcomed. Please tell me about your experiences dating as an adult with chronic disease and conditions….