We Return! Tuesday, Mar 17 2015 

It’s been a while, a little over a year now since I last updated my blog.

2014 was an incredibly busy year for me and my pack. My daughter was born in February. From there things have just been wild and hectic.

I’ve decided to pick up this blog again because it seems to be one of the very few ways I can easily keep track of training. I’m an abysmal note taker, and up until about a year ago, keeping notes in my head worked okay.

Holly and Bri. Holly is starting to show her age a little around the muzzle.

Holly and Bri. Holly is starting to show her age a little around the muzzle.

As far as myself, my mental health took a very severe turn for the worse in early 2014, shortly before Le Kiddo arrived. It had been wobbling a bit before then, but that was when it really face planted. It came back with a vengeance, quickly surpassing the severity it had been at before. It was devastating, frustrating, and soul destroying in many ways. A lot of different things I had been planning on that were already made more difficult with being a single mom were made virtually impossible.

Holly has always been helpful. As many will know I worked with her as a SDiT for a while. She washed because she didn’t enjoy the work. Bri was a SD prospect. She was an incredibly shy puppy and I decided early on not to push her too much. If she ever came ready then wonderful. If not, then she’d remain a beloved pet and in home support. My symptoms improved enough when she was around a year old that I no longer needed a SD or service human to accompany me. With that I was content to continue working with her as a pet and possible competition dog.

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Bri performing some quick deep pressure therapy after a meltdown to help calm me. This is less deep pressure, more grounding, but the DPT is harder to get on camera.

With my worsening issues returning I decided to evaluate her again for SD work. She passed her CGC and CGCA in February of 2014 with flying colors. She was no longer fearful of strangers, only slightly wary of very small children and bombproof around other dogs/cats/squirrels and various strange stimuli. Her greatest flaw was barking upon greeting people.

Sun bathing beasties.

Sun bathing beasties.

I decided to give it a shot. If she succeeded, wonderful. If not, then I’d explore other options.

She took her first Public Access (PA) outing shortly before her third birthday in August of 2014. Since then she’s progressed more beautifully than I could have ever dared to dream when I first brought her home. Most of her tasks have been pretty well and thoroughly known since she was a puppy. A little fine tuning, and a few new ones and she’s got the skills I need her to to get me through the day.

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We’re still progressing slowly. Slow is fast. If I see any hint of stress or discomfort I know I’ve pushed too hard and take a step back. So far there’s been very few incidents of that though. If Bri continues to progress at the rate she has been I think she’ll be ready to move from Service Dog in Training to full fledged Service Dog by her fourth birthday. I’ll put her through a Public Access Test as laid out by the ADI, either under a trainer, or video taped, and consider her graduated. It’s completely amazing how far she’s come.

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In other news, Holly, my beloved Coonhound, turns nine years old in May. She’s still as feisty as she ever was. A little slower, a little less likely to bounce off the window after squirrels, but otherwise unchanged. We’re looking at getting into bikejoring as a fun way for her to burn off her extra energy.

Holly. Dreadful beast is still just as prey driven as she ever was. :)

Holly. Dreadful beast is still just as prey driven as she ever was.🙂

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For those who may be reading this, hope you’re doing beautifully!

Always a Blessing,

Kat, Holly & Bri

To Certify or Not Monday, Jan 27 2014 

I realize I’m no longer a SD handler but I still try to keep an eye on that world, stick up for other handlers and educate where I can. This is why I feel it my civic duty to call some attention to the misguided effort that the service dog group, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is putting into calling for a cease in the selling of “fake” SD equipment.

This really, truly hits a nerve. CCI would put an end to the selling of SD equipment over the internet, supposedly with the idea in mind that this will help put a stop to fakers. Sorry, I believe that is akin to gun control putting a stop to gun violence. It simply doesn’t work.

When I was owner training I bought my equipment over the internet. I was legitimately disabled, my dog was by the legal definition a Service Dog, I had every right to use the products I had. There are many, many handlers like me. They buy their vests and patches online, they OT and as such are not affiliated with any program, why on earth should their decision to do for themselves be made more difficult?

This, of course, ultimately becomes a matter of the time honored debate of required SD certification vs. a lack thereof.

In my opinion (which is only my own personal belief, based on my personal experience) certification is not the answer. When the government begins to regulate things like health care there arises the problem of bureaucracy. SDs are a health care tool, if we get down to the heart of the matter. They are akin to a cane, wheelchair, or inhaler. They perform tasks for their handler to assist the handler in living the independent day-to-day life. Is it appropriate for the government to tell someone who has a legitimate need for a cane how that cane should be used? No.

There are laws that clearly state who has the right to use a SD. There are laws concerning the rights of stores to remove SDs that display inappropriate behavior. There are two legal questions that may be asked, and repercussions to punish people who fake, or people who refuse a SD handler their rights. That is, in my belief as far as the government may go in the matter.

So, the question remains, how do we prevent people from bringing their pet dogs wherever they wish under the guise of a SD? In my opinion, the answer is education. The more the public is educated as to appropriate SD behavior, the laws (and penalties) surrounding SDs, and that these dogs are not out and about for the fun of it, but rather to serve as a piece of medical equipment for the handler, the more (I believe) the public will respect SDs and the laws surrounding them.

Perhaps this is a little hopeful. But the last thing that SD handlers need in another hoop to jump through as they attempt to go about the business of living their lives as independently as possible. Like I said, this opinion is based solely on my own experience, it does not necessarily hold true for other SD people, trainers, or organizations.

Just some food for thought.

Until Later!
Kat, Holly & Bri

Train The Owner Friday, Jan 24 2014 

I’ve heard the training mantra repeated again and again: “Training is about training the owner far more than the dog.” I guess I never really realized how true that saying was.

The class that Bri and I are taking is more for fun and working with distraction than for anything else. I like the trainer, but I wouldn’t use her methods just out of personal preference. However, I’ve been interested in learning more about dog training and possibly an apprenticeship with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. So last night, at our class I talked with her to see if I could come and help her out with some of her other classes just for my own education.

Lovely lady that she is, she agreed and today I got to assist with the puppy class. Since I wasn’t working with my own dog and therefore, not existing in our own little training world, I got the chance to observe how the average Joe works with their new puppies.

It was a rather surprising.

Lots of owners completely oblivious of dog training basics I’d taken for granted. I watched and helped where I felt comfortable doing so, and the owners were by and large a lovely, receptive group of people.

The surprising part was just how much more work it was to work with the owners than the puppies. I hadn’t realized just how much training the professional trainers put into the human half of their client group.

Discussing that observation with the trainer after the class let out she laughed and said that, yes, the humans are the hard part. The dogs are easy, but training the humans to train the dogs is what makes or breaks a dog trainer.

I’m looking forward to continuing to help out with the training classes and learning how to help the owners just as easily as I can work with the dogs!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Bri

A Little Project Thursday, Jan 23 2014 

Generally speaking I limit my projects to things revolving around the wonderful world of dog training. However, I do also enjoy the occasional handwork project.

Some of these other hobbies that occupy my (little) spare time are fiber spinning and knitting.

I have a friend that I met while in Georgia, and she is pregnant with her third child, a little boy. This inevitably leads to a fiber project! Holly and Bri had to help of course.

The first try was a little big.

The first try was a little big.

So we tried again and got it right!

So we tried again and got it right!

Holly was not pleased with her modeling debut.

Holly was not pleased with her modeling debut.

After finishing it I managed to get the idea into my head that I should use the pups to get a few cute pictures to use in the congratulations card. The beasties tolerated my whims.

No one was particularly interested in holding still for too long.

No one was particularly interested in holding still for too long.

They were even less thrilled when I resorted to the desperate cry of "DINNER!!!" to get their attention. Not amused. At all.

They were even less thrilled when I resorted to the desperate cry of “DINNER!!!” to get their attention. Not amused. At all.

What these pictures don’t show is just how much self control the girls exhibited, or in some cases, didn’t. Holly would start it, she’d flop onto her side, kick Bri in the face. Bri would get up and smack her back and next thing I know both sign and blanket are ditched and being trampled by two dogs with severe zoomies.

We managed though, and card and hat are on their way to the recipient. Hopefully she enjoys them enough to make it all worth it!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Bri

 

 

 

Slow and Steady Thursday, Jan 23 2014 

I love Holly, and I love Bri. Both of them have their own incredible winning qualities. Sometimes I forget though, just how different both of them are.

Holly picks up new behaviors within minutes. About five clicks into a behavior if I’ve got the pattern right and she knows generally what I want and will narrow it down from there with incredible precision. Really, the only thing that kills me with Holly is that she works for food and tends to be very, very easily distracted. If something becomes more interesting chances are she’ll go check it out and then come back.

Bri… Insert a sigh here. My dear, darling Bri… I am discovering she is a little, ah, slower.

Do not mistake that quality for stupidity, not at all! Once Bri has grasped an idea she will run you right over with her undivided attention, dedication and effort that she gives it. In fact, as I am discovering, my solid puppy training and her effort may actually be hindering some of our current efforts.

For example: We recently started an intermediate obedience class to continue working on distractions, meeting new people, and just for the fun of it! One of the things that this particular instructor has owners teach their dogs is to go a mat on cue. Bri never learned that since I always prefer her to be lying under my legs if possible rather than targeting a mat. But, it’s part of the class and it could certainly come in handy later. So I started working on it.

It has been unexpectedly difficult.

Bri gives me complete and undivided attention. Meaning she keeps eye contact almost 100% of the time, and only offers behaviors she knows, or are asked for. My tactic when working with Holly was to wait for a correct offered behavior. Holly knows this and plays around until she gets it. Bri does what she thinks has been requested, then sits, maintains eye contact and waits. And waits… And waits…… I’m incredibly proud that she’s so good at paying attention, but it’s a little tedious. Especially since, after about five minutes of solid eye contact and waiting for offered behaviors, she just slides into a down and continues to watch me.

Something I’ve noticed is that her focus is so completely on my face and movements that she doesn’t even notice when she steps on the mat. I rather suspect that she has yet to put two and two together that stepping on mat gets treats.

I tried getting Holly to give her a “cheat sheet” by working Holly and Bri together. It fell flat as well. Holly had it down in five minutes. Bri watched Holly, sat down to the side of the mat, stared and waited. Patiently, quietly, holding an excellent wait, ignoring another excited dog, but not trying to follow Holly’s lead.

Next I tried sitting next to the mat and having her target my hand on the mat and slowly fading the hand out. No go. She went so far as to target the hand in my pocket, behind my back, and didn’t translate hand target into mat target.

Sigh.

In total I think we’ve logged about 3 hours of working on this over the past week. With little success. Hopefully my instructor will have some ideas but I’m almost shot. I now appreciate the genius that is my flighty Coonhound.

Oh well. We’ll get there eventually! When I finally figure out how to help her get it, she’ll run me over with her dedication and effort with it. Just a matter of time.

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Bri

Work In Progress Saturday, Jan 4 2014 

My life is a work in progress.

As most people who read my blog know, I started it several years ago when my mental health became very poor and I began to work with Holly as a Service Dog prospect.

Thankfully, with a lot of work, effort and help I was able to work through those issues, learn how to cope, and continue on with my life relatively unhindered by the residue of my past problems.

After coming back from my stint in Georgia, where I picked up quite an education about life and the not-so-great sorts of people out there, I have been dealing with a continuing issue that began while I was down there. At this point I don’t really want to put more about that up on this blog but a brief vent is in order.

I do not understand.

That simple. I do not understand why people who are older and supposedly more mature than myself feel that they can and should be able to exert control on my future and my life. While I am certainly responsible for allowing them to enter my life in the first place I am quite frustrated by how manipulative these people have become.

With this frustration comes fear. That fear is overshadowed by my own concern that all the work I put into my own mental health is slipping and I may once again have to work very hard to get through it.

On a positive side, this is where my dogs come in. Despite the fact that neither of them are Service Dogs, and I have my doubts about whether either of them could ever reach that level they teach me so much. Through working with them I learn skills to help myself. Calming and coping skills, and how to reinforce that in myself as well as my beasts.

There’s a post in the works that will be more in depth, but I wanted to do a little reflecting and venting first.

Until Later!

Kat, Holly & Bri

Happy New Year! Wednesday, Jan 1 2014 

What a year it has been! Some lessons have been learned indeed.

I moved to Georgia in January and stayed there until November. I don’t regret the decision since it led to some needed life experience, lessons, and meeting some wonderful, wise, kind-hearted folks. I got some professional job experience and learned a whole lot about giving trust to people who don’t deserve it.

Coming back I learned that I will be perfectly happy to never leave my beautiful Pacific Northwest home again, and that no one is worth leaving my friends, family and most of all my dogs. I will never make that mistake again.

Holly turned 7 this year. She’s getting a little gray around the muzzle but still continues to be her busy, elegant self. She still dislikes face-to-face interaction with other dogs, though she simply ignores them unless the issue is forced. She has grown more and more confident over the years. I’m so proud of her and how far we have come together. Here’s to another wonderful year with my opinionated hound dog!

Bri turned 2. She has really come into her own this year. Her self-control is beautiful, her precision is getting better and better. She is no longer shy with other dogs at all, but confident, playful and polite. She is still shy meeting strangers, but no longer shies away. She’ll take food, sniff and accept pets. She has even grown to accept strange children! We started draft training in earnest and this coming year I have high hopes for her continued socialization, training and maybe some competitions.

What a year! Hoping that 2014 will be better and more successful for me and that it will be just as positive for the pups.

One last picture series from 2013 for you:

Holly likes her bed. Bri was on it. Holly didn't care and showed her baby sis by lying down on her.

Holly likes her bed. Bri was on it. Holly didn’t care and showed her baby sis by lying down on her.

Bri dealt for about 3 minutes with this familial mistreatment.

Bri dealt for about 3 minutes with this familial mistreatment.

Then Bri gave up and Holly was left looking smug with the successful repossession of her bed.

Then Bri gave up and Holly was left looking smug with the successful repossession of her bed.

Happy New Year!

Kat, Holly & Bri

 

 

Merry Christmas! Tuesday, Dec 24 2013 

Merry Christmas all!

The girls and I participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange this year, so the girls got to open their gifts a few days early.

Holly and Bri were very excited about their Secret Santa gifts. Ever since the presents arrived they’ve been snuffing the boxes and waiting patiently.

Oh so patient!

Oh so patient!

Holly, having seniority, and being a generally pushy hound got to open hers first. She took that responsibility very seriously.

Rip

Rip!

Tear!

Tear!

A little too seriously, since I ended up having to “help” her to make sure that she didn’t end up shredding more than just the box.

 

Face first into her present.

Face first into her present.

She was ready to rip the treat bags open right away.

She was ready to rip the treat bags open right away.

Bri was much more polite. She snuffled around her box and waited patiently for me to open it for her. She wasn’t sure what to do with her wrapped presents. Though Holly gladly would have helped.

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She figured it out!

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Over the last few days they have been happily swapping toys and waiting (in Holly’s case, very impatiently) for more treats to be dispensed.

Thank you to our Secret Santas for making the girl’s Christmas so exciting! They loved everything!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Bri

Shameless Exploitation Friday, Dec 13 2013 

What with being recently returned from the other side of the country, I’m looking for a job. There’s a big difference between job hunting in the middle of a small town, middle of nowhere area and a huge city packed with dogs and their people. The competition around here is rough!

Today I had my first interview with a lovely daycare facility. OCD little job hunter that I am I always write thank you notes that I mail directly after an interview.

Determined to make myself stand out from the crowd I decided to exploit my adorable dogs. and paste a picture of them to the inside of the card. This was the resulting picture.

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They held it for a few minutes.

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Then Bri dropped the stocking, Holly tried to pick it up. We sorted it out, then Holly dropped her sign, Bri decided she was exhausted, and it all went sideways.

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Needless to say, I think they were adorable and the resulting card was, if not a masterpiece, significantly adorable to help me stand out from the crowd. Hopefully I won’t have the need, but if I do I plan to continue shamelessly exploiting my pup’s adorable little mugs in the future.

Until Later!

Kat, Holly & Bri

Wordless Wednesday Thursday, Dec 5 2013 

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Happy Hump Day!

Kat, Holly & Bri

 

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