Canine Companions Graduate Workshop & Halloween Costume Fun

This weekend was the Annual Canine Companions for Independence (I said it right! Trying not to say CCI, at their request, is tough!)

We had a great day and a half saying hi to new and old friends (and when you’re a well-trained Labrador/Golden, everyone is a friend), getting training tips, learning about new programs, and just socializing.

Of course, the highlight of the day was the costume contest! I decided that Cassius had to be something (someone?) literary, and wanted to re-use his costume… so he was Curious George! He was a good sport about it, and won Best Dog Costume! I will enjoy the water bottle and Cassius will undoubtedly appreciate the toys and treat!

That bit of Canine Companions goodness will hold us over for the workweek ahead, which for us starts tomorrow afternoon – No rest for the weary, I guess!

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“Please no closer, mom…”

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My dog is, if I do say so myself, is genetically superior. Descended from long lines of sweet, obedient and wickedly smart Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, he is smart, devoted, and hard-working (as long as he gets his beauty rest!) He is, however, missing one pretty crucial and breed-defining characteristic: he despises getting wet. If it is raining (which is rare these days, California seems to be in a permanent drought), he eagerly waits for me to put on his raincoat, huddles close under our large golf umbrella (when I can use it, it’s hard with strength and coordination issues to manage both dog and umbrella!) and generally hopes this wetness will be over soon. Somewhere, his water-retrieving ancestors are ashamed. He can lay by the pool on a loose leash with no fears he will jump in. I think he tries to pretend the water isn’t there! I see photos of doggie pool parties, and wonder what would win out: peer pressure or lack of desire to get wet?!

We spent last weekend at the beach, I ventured into the water a bit (mostly the pool, the ocean was a bit cold!), Cassius kept watch from the safety of his blanket, undoubtedly hoping that he would not be required to do anything involving getting wet. Luckily for all involved, he ended his weekend dry and relaxed.

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But his look in the first photo is hysterically accurate “The nice warm sand is perfectly fine – please no closer to the water, mom…”

International Assistance Dog Week

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This week marks International Assistance Dog Week. I think it’s a great idea to make us think more broadly, and more compassionately, about the entire assistance dog community. I recently had a sort-of encounter that made me reconsider this.

Normally seeing other working dog teams out in public is nice. There is the moment of acknowledgement, the admiring of both dogs behaving themselves, and then going on our own separate ways. Often this is done without so much as a word between the two handlers, just a communal acknowledgement. (Unless it’s a fellow CCI handler/raiser/volunteer, then you end up discussing breeding and raising and who trained the dog in Advanced Training!).

Last week, though, I had my first “bad” encounter with another service dog handler, and I was honestly a bit shocked. I was at my local independent grocery store, checking out the prepared food. Cassius was standing between me and the counter. Guide dog and handler come barreling down the aisle behind me (aka, before I had time to react!), dog sticks its nose in Cassius’ face on the way past. Cassius rocked a pretty darn good “leave it”, guide dog got a stern forward. All good, right?

Apparently not. As I was checking out, I heard the handler asking the cashier if they knew there was another service dog (in a blue vest. Hello, if you gave enough vision to see the blue vest, how about seeing the big honking yellow dog in said blue vest?!) in the store… “And if they knew if it was a real service dog?” Sigh. Thankfully I buy a lot from said grocery store and they know I’m almost always there with Cassius, so they stood up for me… But it was rather bizarre.

So what can be learned from this? Education! Education for other service dog handlers (yes, there are indeed other types of service dogs besides the kind that you have!). Education for the public about fake service dogs so that the default question isn’t “are they a faker?” And education for businesses so more can make good judgements like this one did.

And while we’re at it, how about some education for your dog so it doesn’t sniff things on the way past. 🙂

Wordless Wednesday: A Good Dog

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It’s funny how many people randomly say that to me, as they pass Cassius and I. I guess he just sends off “good dog” vibes… or he’s just so darn adorable that people can’t imagine he would be bad! His expression in this photo really captures his personality. He is a very good dog , indeed.

One Year!

One Year!

I could write a long-winded post… but this picture speaks for itself.

Spent a wonderful day at Canine Companions for Independence Northwest Region Graduation/Matriculation yesterday, watching ten new teams graduate and catching up with people including Cassius’ puppyraiser. I love how much Cassius loves “his” people, no matter how long it’s been since he’s seen them. If you love him, Cassius loves you. The ceremony always fills me with renewed hope, and a passion to volunteer and spread awareness of the amazing things this community does.

But really, Cassius has made this past year and my life so much better. He’s an awesome sidekick, a wonderful help, and will always bring a bit of levity to my life. You can’t help but smile when confronted with 70 pounds of wagging goofiness. Here’s to many more.

Travels (with dog)

I just got back from a wonderful first “real” vacation-with-service dog. Not that I expected anything different, but Cassius was wonderful and (nearly) perfect.

We went to my favorite West Coast hotel, the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s helpful to go somewhere where you are very familiar with for a first major vacation, just because it takes the unknown away from the humans and let me both relax and work on giving Cassius a good experience.

Besides the fact that I really think Cassius missed his big bed (!) he took everything in stride. He enjoyed (human) sunbathing/doggie sleeping, was mildly confused when I went into the pool without him, and rather offended when I left him with my mom to go to yoga class. And don’t get me started on the look on his face when I went down to the water with him…

We had no access issues whatsoever, although I think we attracted nearly every toddler in the resort. Apparently the “get” command is exciting… there was an audible gasp in the airport baggage line when he picked up my glass case on command!

Our flights were both good, we were lucky to pre-board on Southwest and get bulkhead.

Although I have been away on a few short trips (Carmel-By-The-Sea, Ashland twice)… this trip felt like a nice milestone to reach with Cassius.

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Don’t sit on the shih tzu!

Cashie, sit

Human pauses. Dog sits.

But next time try not to sit on the Shih Tzu’s head!

I’m always happy when Cassius and I meet nice dogs.  I feel guilty that he doesn’t get enough doggie playtime, so whenever I have time and the inclination to do so, I let him say hi to the well-behaved ones we meet in our local cemetery/park.  We occasionally meet a very sweet older gentleman with an equally sweet shih tzu.  Yesterday, he was walking his dog in a full suit and tie!  Anyway, Cassius is allowed to say “hi” if he remembers his manners.  He doesn’t quite realize that he’s about 6 times bigger than the small dogs he encounters! So I had him in the beginnings of a sit yesterday when he gave me this rather perplexed look:

How am I supposed to sit when there’s a shih tzu under my butt?

Little dog moved, Cassius sat… but looked a tad concerned that he was being told to potentially squish his new friend! (luckily shih tzu moved out of the way and was not harmed by a big yellow butt and ferociously wagging tail).  We went on our separate ways, with Cassius positively bouncing from his allowed doggie interaction.

This morning Cassius went to the groomer, which is a very fun thing!  In addition to the obvious joys of attention and a bath (well, I might like the bath part more than he does!),

it also means a little off-leash indoor play with Henry, the resident Frenchie.  Much fun was had by all today (and they both look positively annoyed that I was stopping their romping for the photo op).

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It always makes me happy when Cassius finds doggie friends, and especially when he has an opportunity for some off-leash romping.

Cassius is now zonked out in his dog bed; playing is exhausting!

Graduation (6 months ago!)

It’s hard to imagine that graduation was really 6 months ago.  Feels like both yesterday and forever ago.  I wasn’t completely assured that I actually knew what I was doing after a total of 10 days with Cassius (who now responds to Cashie as well, hope he doesn’t find it silly or unmanly!).  But despite my complete lack of confidence in knowing what in the world I was doing responsible for this living being with a perpetually wagging tail, we’ve done pretty darn well.

We’ve found our favorite walking trails, the pond where sometimes we find ducks or geese, the house down the street with the friendly cat and unfriendly dog, the groomer down the street who is super-fun, and more dog beds than he probably knows what to do with.

He is extremely adaptable, he loves going out and doing things as much as he loves hanging out and doing nothing. He’s a big fan of going shopping, mostly because he usually gets fussed over and told what a good boy he is.

He thinks doing events with the local CCI chapter is super-fun, mostly because he’s rather biased and thinks Labs and Golden Retrievers are much more fun than any other kind of dog.

He is obsessed with his (fortunately) indestructible lobster, Stewie, and has not managed to destroy him in 2 months.  On the other hand, he managed to destroy a Kong Wubba in 30 minutes flat today.  Silly gentle guy with an insatiable need to chew (Goughnuts are also fun, although they don’t squeak).

He thinks traveling anywhere is fun, mostly because he can be a lapdog in the back seat.  He wishes I would let him sleep on the bed, and makes very sad doggie faces at me when he doesn’t… but forgets that I have a track record of accidentally kicking him in my sleep (sorry Cashie!) 

He regularly barks is in his sleep, where he does these absolutely adorable sleep-woofs.  He obviously has an active dream life.

I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months and beyond hold for me, Cassius, and us as a team.

I can’t wait to go to graduation tomorrow, and really take it all in for the first time without being completely and utterly nervous.  Then I can’t wait to watch Cashie run and romp in the doggie playground, until he gets pooped and plops himself on my feet for a rest.

I think these pictures sum the graduation experience up.

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