Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Journey Comes to a Bittersweet End

We were informed yesterday that Sierra has been released from the Dogs With Wings program. They feel she shows too much aggression towards other dogs, and are unwilling to take a chance on her. We've known for a couple of weeks now that she was very likely to be dropped, but the final reason came as a bit of a shock. Sierra, from the first day we had her, was infatuated with other dogs. She just loves them, and at least when she was younger assumed that all dogs loved her. There are some that don't of course, and she has the scars to prove it. This love of other dogs made her a big challenge to handle in the off leash area when she was younger, and in general much harder to train when there are other dog distractions. It was nearly impossible to get her away from dogs that did not chase her away. Fortunately she grew out of that, and learned to be cautious with the dogs that did not like to play. She now is a treat to take for a run and a swim in the off leash. There is no such thing as quit when it comes to retrieving especially from the water. She will even retrieve when dogs that do not like the water take her stick once she gets to shore. Her dog social skills have also matured such that we have never had any sign of aggression with dogs we meet at the off leash. She now knows when to roll over, and has taken quite a few bites without responding back.

While she does not show true aggression to other dogs as I would define it, she certainly has since her first day with us, shown that she will engage in rough play with dogs of a similar age and temperament. We saw this the first time at the Christmas party last year. While she has improved quite a bit since then, she still likes to play rough with the cooperative dogs, which in particular are her female siblings. So unfortunately for her, the DWW environment, where there are like dogs, restricted room to run and engage in more normal play, brings out her worst. While I'm convinced this is a puppy thing (Sierra is 10 months) that she will grow out of, I can't guarantee that. It also would seem that this peculiar kind of environment is unlikely to be experienced by a dog actually in service.

Enough with the "bitter". Sierra has been offered to us, and we have gladly accepted. While I am a hunter and believe in eating what you shoot (except for gophers!), I'm not very fond of ducks or geese. So, not sure Sierra will ever get to practice her water retrieving skills for real! We do love taking her to the off leash and getting some exercise for ourselves too. The drop in Agility fun sessions are also likely to be repeated. She is a pleasure to have around the house, and helps Jeanine with the laundry, and does her daily paper delivery. Sierra has to be on the same level of our house as me, and goes up and down the stairs exactly the same number of times as I do. Jeanine is scheduled for two hip replacements over the next six months, so Sierra's help is much appreciated by all. We all welcome the loss of a few DWW rules. Sierra had no objections to giving up the Halti yesterday. Mel let Sierra sleep on her bed last night, but I think after 30 minutes, they both concluded the idea was not as good it first seemed, and she was back on the floor (Sierra that is)!

DWW also graciously offered us one of the future puppies, but frankly we are somewhat burned out for the time being, and that offer will remain in rain check status for now. So we may not see any of you other DWW folk for some time. It was fun for the short time it lasted.

Take care,

Ron and Mel

Monday, July 13, 2009

Agility Meetup Session

We took Sierra to The Edmonton Dog Agility Meetup drop in session on Sunday, July 12. It was absolutely excellent. The facilities were just great, and combined with the outdoor setting, a good challenge for Sierra. Jozie and Rita organize the sessions and were very helpful in getting us started and provided tips on how to get the dogs into it, and around the course. There were two courses set up, and some additional equipment to try when it was free. We quickly got to the point where we needed to give Sierra some rest time to recover. Sierra has done a bit of this at Waggin' Tails, but overall there was much more to do here. The tunnel with a chute kind of worried me at first. However, Sierra only needed encouragement the first time through, and after that she never looked back and just barreled through. The dog walk ramps were quite high, and unnerved Sierra a bit the first time. After that she was fine with it too. There are some videos and slide shows below. A fun event that I could recommend to other puppy raisers. This first video is the longer course with Sierra on leash.

Here is one of Sierra's better runs on the short course while also on leash.

This is a video of Sierra on the longer course with the leash dragging. It was probably her best run of the day, except for a double back on the tunnel at the end. Every once in a while she remembers the treats in the tunnel at Waggin' Tails, and has to check to see if she missed them. Up until then she had done many good runs through the tunnel.

This is a video of Sierra on the long course without a leash. We had a little trouble with the weave poles in the beginning, but on a retry Sierra did probably her best with them. She now seems to be listening to left and right, which we use all the time on the street in jacket. This run did not end so well. Think she was getting tired. We knew it was time to quit when she laid down in the shade about half way through the course!!

Overall I was quite impressed with Sierra's performance on these courses. She made significant progress in the time we were there. It is a good controlled situation where you can practice obedience with other dogs and an outdoor environment for distractions.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sierra at the Underwear Affair 2009

On Saturday Sierra went to see Melanie and the rest of her team, the Rydell Runners, do the Underwear Affair run to raise research funds for cancers below the belt. Sierra was not fazed by the hundreds of runners going by in their, lets say interesting, outfits. The team raised nearly $4000 and overall the event raised $675,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Love Those Bicycles!

Bicycles and a few other fast moving things like joggers, seem to drive Sierra to distraction. We're not sure what it is about, but we first saw it during the winter in the off leash parks when we ran into the very occasional biker or jogger. One thought is that she has some herding instinct like a Border Collie. Once they stop then there is no problem, so it seems to make some sense. We have been working with her by riding a bike along the road as she walks on a loose leash. We also take her to a local bike and skateboard park using the Halti and as much distraction with treats as possible. It seems to be slowly working. She is ok with the bike riding along, and only gets somewhat somewhat agitated when it goes out of sight -- perhaps like losing track of the sheep!?

Today we took one further step and tried riding the bike with her on a loose leash. While at first she was preoccupied with the front wheel and wanting to get in front and bite it, she seemed to quickly adapt to the faster pace loose leash walk. Video below on the ride in the crescent. Hoping that frequent rides like this will be another step in getting her to forget her Border Collie genes!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Last weekend, Sierra spent her first time at a bordering house. Jill, a future puppy raiser, was kind enough to take really good care of her. Of course, Sierra was a handful and puked many times, I wasn't really surprise. She always knows how to make the best impression! But Jill was awesome with her and even took her on a run for cancer. This is Sierra in the backyard proudly wearing the medal she earned at the run. Thanks again Jill!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Way Too Much Energy

After Sierra's surgery she was full of energy so trying to keep her from running around in the backyard was a challenge. I tied her up to our deck fence while I went to go get her bone and this is what happened... Turns out she is a lot stronger than I thought.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Surgery Day...

Tomorrow is Sierra's surgery day. She is pretty nervous about it so we introduced her early to her cone that she will have to wear. I think we made it worse. But she looks really cute so that's a bonus!

Happy Easter!

We had a very busy Easter Weekend with lots of food and lots of company. The Easter Bunny came but she ate most of the candy she brought, which included a whole bowl of bunny shaped gummy candies. She's a very selfish Easter Bunny!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A tough leave it...

Here is baby Sierra learning to "leave it" on her head. As soon as you put the treat on her head, she completely freezes. But she soon learned she could just drop her head down and eat her treat. We're working on it...

Here is Sierra at the off-leash park with her best friend Chloe... it's just a shame that Chloe hates her. Luckily we got a picture where she wasn't trying to bite Sierra and we can pretend they get along. Chloe just doesn't like Sierra's puppy kisses.

Still a Baby...

Sierra has been growing up, but here we got a moment of her acting like a little puppy again. This toy always gets her quite excited and brings out her playful side.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Snow Train to Jasper

We took the VIA Snow Train to Jasper this past weekend with Sierra to visit our daughter Dayna. VIA were great. They even issued Sierra her own ticket, and made a special Busy Busy stop for her in each direction so there were no accidents. While not the fastest way to Jasper, it is certainly interesting and relaxing. Astrid and Richard at Amanda's Guest House where we stayed were very accommodating. We did all the tourist things except for skiing. Sierra took a walk in the lower Maligne Lake Canyon, and had her first encounter with a river. She had quite a frigid look on her face after she rushed into it. As usual the Elk were cooperative for a photo shoot. On one walk (when we did not have a camera) we came within about 25' of an elk and Sierra was content to just watch it without even a woof. Dayna and I climbed the hill at Old Fort Point a couple of times and we saw Rocky Mountain sheep both times. Sierra was fine with them, but was much less impressed with the sound of a few blasts that I presume was for avalanche prevention. Saturday night we ate at the Moose's Nook dining room at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This was Sierra's most upscale dining adventure to date. At the end of the meal when it was time to leave she was sound asleep on the floor and we had to wake her up to leave! All restaurants we ate at were both interested and accommodating. It was a great get away weekend for Sierra and us.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

The 9:00 to 5:00 Girl!

In keeping with Cesar Millan's thinking that dogs need to have a "job" to be really happy, Sierra has taken on a couple of household tasks. Each day I bundle up the newspaper in a bag for her and she takes it upstairs for Jeanine to read in bed. She is getting very good at delivering right to hand, and always cashes in on the first treat of the day for her work.

Sierra's other job is bringing out the laundry basket from the laundry room to the family room for folding. This is good for even more treats!

We are not so sure she is ready for prime time yet though as she has been known to sleep on the job! Perhaps one too many runs at the off leash...

One Last Winter Blast???

One of Sierra's favourite play activity is retrieving a frisbee at the Mill Woods off leash. This area has a large berm that collects fairly deep snow on the downwind side. Earlier in the year when Sierra was smaller and the snow was lighter she would literally disappear under the snow like a submarine when going for the retrieve. With this last (hopefully) blast of winter I thought we should try and capture it on video. We had a rookie on the camera, so apologies for the quality. Obviously it does a digital zoom not optical. This first one shows how the run out is a little easier than the way back which is uphill, and especially if you do not follow the same path. The snow was pretty heavy so no submarine tricks this time. But it does look like you can swim in the snow. Also the handler was showing his lack of confidence with the frequent commands!!

The last retrieve shows both the dog getting a little smarter and the handler more confident! It didn't take many retrieves to get the exercise for the day in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Look what I got!

We never expected this, but Sierra scored two great toys in her visit to Yellowbird Preschool. She would like to thank the Pederson family for their thoughtfulness. Surprisingly for a puppy she treats toys like this with a lot of respect, and I'm sure they will be with her for a long time. They tend to get used more as a soother than as a chew toy. As I write this Sierra is sound asleep with the bumble bee under her chin!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yellowbird Preschool Visit

Sierra visited Yellowbird Preschool Monday and Tuesday this week, as part of their Community Helpers study unit. We explained how Assistance dogs help in the community, and how they are trained. At the end we took a group photo of each class with Sierra.

This is the 3 Year Old PM class

The 4 Year Old PM Class

The 4 Year Old AM Class

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Terwillegar Logging Tales

Sierra loves our walks at Terwillegar off leash park. She meets new friends at every turn in the path. Well at least she thinks they are all friends, and most are. When Jet, Dash, and Pilot join her, it is even better, as "keep-away" with a stick or whatever she can steal is a fun game too. But probably her favourite activity is retrieving sticks, and even dragging the log size ones that are too large to pick up. A couple of videos explain it better than words...

I need snow tires!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sierra at the U of A

Sierra has graduated to two classes a day...French and Psychology. She sleeps through both but I think she finds psychology particularly boring, she falls asleep instantly.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christmas and More...

We had company over the past weekend. Our friend was relaxing in the family room with a glass of white wine. She placed it on the carpet along with her large gold hoop ear rings. Sierra thought that was quite generous, and had a few licks of the wine without spilling a drop. Our friend then noticed her ear rings were gone, and Sierra had something in her mouth. When I tried to take it out, she swallowed. As we searched for the ear rings, Sierra obviously had second thoughts about the deal, and brought up the ear rings along with her dinner, and I presume the wine. Looks like she is going to be a real party girl!

Sierra seems to be liking her new jacket, complete with reflective strip. When Melanie takes her to university classes, she notices that Sierra behaves much better with the jacket on. Here is a picture of Sierra practicing her down and eye gaze, with a bacon and cheese twist as a distraction. At home this seems to be easy, but with other dogs in the picture, well that is another story...

Christmas was fun for all. Sierra loved her gifts, and found it hard to believe we would not only let her in the living room on the hardwood, but also that we would let her have the good stuff instead of the usual leave it!

And just like most youngsters, the paper and boxes were the most fun of all.

Wow that was tiring. I think I'll just crash on the new throw and dream about what trouble I can get into next...