Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Working Shaman at the Mall

Nick and I took the dogs on the bus, to the Mall today. Shaman does very well on the lift, and rides calmly. He is doing better about stopping at curb cuts and driveways. We worked him on the elevator and he did very well. It was like he had been doing it all his life.The Mall elevator is all glass and you can see out,when riding in it. The people on the outside of it can not see into it. Shaman watched the people as we went up and down. I think he likes elevators. We also stopped at the Mall Pet shop to buy some doggie treats. They had lots of puppies and Shaman did not bark at them,even though they barked at our dogs. He behave himself very well. We also worked on the escalators. Nick would approach the escalator and ask Shaman to sit. He picked up on this right away. When we worked him in front of the stairs, he would not even approach them and automatically sat down in front of them. I don't think I will have any trouble with him taking me down a flight of stairs or the escalator. I will teach him to find the elevator or a ramp instead. We stopped outside, on the way to Walmart, to let the dogs releive them selves. Nala did but Shaman did not. I was afraid that Shaman being a male, would try to hike his leg all the time, but he has not done that. I am very impressed with him. I bought a small digital camera at Walmart, so I can take pictures for this Blog. I will work on that Saturday when we work Shaman again. I am not sure where we will take him. I have been working on his retreiving a ball when I throw it.He will go after it and bring it back to me.I am going to start using a small soft nitted ball to see if he will bring that to me. It is just like the one I put on my keychain. I am hoping he will bring me the keys with the ball on them. He learns so fast. He is still on the benadryl and his scratching and chewing are somewhat better but he has not stopped altogether. It does not slow him down at all and I am finding that he is not as distracted as he used to be. Shaman's training is going quite well and I am very happy with him. Nala is also in love with him........... To be continued.....................

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I took Shaman to the grocery store for the first time today

I decided that it was time to take Shaman to the grocery store to see how he did. He was very good. I used my cane with him as he still does not always stop at the right places all the time. He is improving on this. He was much better about the dogs he saw along the way and did not bark at any of them.He did whine at some,but calmed down when I told him to "leave it."It is hard for me to use the cane and the leash in the same hand at the same time as my wrist begins to hurt after a while. The loner wheelchair that I am using is not very comfortable and tips forward very easily if I shift my position. I will be glad when I get my own chair back. Shaman was very good inside the store and turned left and right when asked and even backed up in the pay isle, with no problems. I was very proud of him and gave him lots of praise. He sniffed at a few things, but did not touch anything. He was very responsive to my commands. We stopped to talk with Tess, a friend who loves Nala and has never seen Shaman before. She liked him and he seemed to like her also. Shaman seems to enjoy going out with me and enjoys meeting people. He is still on Benadryl and the vet does not think it is a food allergy. He thinks it is a seasonal allergy. I'm hoping that is all it is. I was afraid that the medicine would dull his senses but he seems to be just as alert as always. On the way home from the store, an ambulance with siren blaring, passed us and Shaman howled as he trotted next to my chair. I just had to laugh. We will be going to the Mall tomorrow to work on the elevator and sitting when coming to stairs. Nick will be working Shaman and I will have Nala. He really does watch her and I think he will learn a lot faster from watching Nala work. To be continued.............

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shaman's Training begins

Shaman is learning manners. He has learned the commands, sit, down and left and right. We are working on down stay, which he will do for a short time. We need to work on this as he will need to be at a down stay very often and he must stay for as long as I need him to. I had some trouble at the left turn. He would turn right ok, but did not want to turn left. This has improved. He is very responsive to the clicker training. I was taking laundry off the cloths line the other night and dropped a cloths pin. Shaman picked it up. I told him, "what a good boy you are," and I got him to give it to me. He is a natural retriever! We will work on this to expand on other items such as keys, pens, ect. Nick, my trainer has been working Shaman on the bus and at the Mall. He goes up on the lift with no trouble and rides the bus calmly. He behaves well. I have been taking him for walks around the neighborhood. Loose dogs are a problem. Shaman is still very young at 11 months. A lot of puppy still there.He gets distracted easily at loose dogs. I took Nala, and Nick took Shaman to the street fair. Over all, he did very well, but he did bark at some of the other dogs there. We will have to work on this. He is shedding out now and his beautiful fluffy long coat has thined out considerably. I am concerned as he is scratching and chewing him self. We have checked for fleas, but found none. Consulted with the vet. He was put on Benadryl to see if that helps. I changed his food to Lamb and Rice. He does not scratch as much, but has not stopped completely. I am hoping this is just a seasonal alergy. We will have to go back to the vet for some tests. He is also on a supplament to help with the shedding. To be continued.....................

Friday, April 17, 2009

Long search, not finding a suitable dog.

I have been searching for a suitable guide dog candidate for a while now. I am finding dogs that are too old or too young and dogs that are afraid of my wheelchair. Some dogs that just don't want to work. It is imperative that I find a dog that wants to work and enjoys doing the job. I have tried to retire Nala but she does not want to retire. When she sees me getting ready to go out, she get all excited and brings me her harness. When I put the harness away where she can not get it, she gets upset. She has been picking fights with the other dogs as she is bored and not getting the excesize that she needs. I have decided to work her on her good days. She seems so much happier now. I had been offered a beautiful black and white husky male and was excited to get him here from Phoenix. I guess the owner changed her mind as she has not answered any of my emails or phone messages. I am very disappointed. Several people have done this to me now. Why offer me a dog and then not follow through?..................I am beginning to think that I will have to expand my search to other dog breeds. I really like the husky as a guide dog as they have a great work ethic and can keep up with my wheelchair all day. They also have a great sense of self preservation which makes them excellent at keeping you safe. I have finally found a dog on craigs list that is a Belgium Shepherd. The woman is going to bring him to me this week.... This dog is very beautiful and works well with the wheelchair. He had never even seen a wheelchair before. I am very impressed as he walks in the right position needed for guiding. I did not really want a shepherd, but this is the first dog to meet the requirements of being trainable as a guide dog that I have found in a long while. I have decided to take him. He was rescued from a Phoenix animal shelter, by this woman who just wanted to save him. His adoption fee of $65.oo was very reasonable and I have decided to name him Shaman. He is a beautiful golden color, with a dark nose and ears and some dark hairs on his tail. He has had almost no training, so I am working on his house manners and obediance first.

Found a new dog at the shelter

I found the most beautiful Husky at the local shelter. My friend, Carla who runs the Tucson Siberian Husky Rescue told me about this dog at the shelter. With her help, we went up to the shelter and adopted her. She had been there for a while and came down with kennel cough, so they were going to euthanize her if we had not adopted her. I named her Wanagi Tate, pronounced Wan ah gee Tah tay. It means Spirit Wind in the Lakota language. (I am half Lakota) She is so beautiful and looks a lot like my Lily! She is pure white. The vet checked her out but at the time, no xrays were done because of cost. Training started. Training was put on hold as her cough became much worse. Back to the vet and test to be done. Diagnosis : the dreaded Valley Fever. She has been on meds for a while now. The cough has cleared up and she is doing very well. Training started again. Making great head way. Teaching her to sit when she comes to steps, drop offs, and stairs. She is really learning fast. Took her to the street fair and she did great. Have been hooking Wanagi's leash to Nala's harness and taking them both out together. The really do learn from each other. The weather was cold and rainy, but I needed to go to the grocery to pick up some odds and ends and decided to take Wanagi in harness alone without Nala. I had my cane with me in case I needed it. She started out ok, but I noticed that she was having trouble keeping up with the wheelchair. She started limping on the way home. I used my cane to get the rest of the way home. Wanagi's Training came to a halt again. When the weather was hot, she was ok, but it has been discovered that she has a hip problem, now that the weather is cold and rainy. I am heart broken. My beautiful Wanagi has to be career changed. Now I must look for another dog to be trained. I just can't part with Wanagi, as I love her, so I will keep her as a pet. I did the same with Max, the Border Collie that could not make it as a guide dog.

Training a guide dog with a private trainer

When I became legally blind and needed a guide dog, there were no schools that trained guide dogs for wheelchair users. I already had a service dog that was a white Siberian Husky named Lily. I decided to have her trained to also guide me. I first trained her to lead me with just the leash. She did very well at this. I finally found a trainer who was willing to work with me. He and I trained Lily to lead me from the wheelchair. Several years later, Lily became very ill with Valley Fever, and I retired her. She died a month later, while I was still looking for another dog to train. I was heartbroken, but I knew I needed to find a dog soon.I tried out a rescued Border Collie, but he had been very abused and could not handle being out in public. I then found a Siberian Husky who is named Nala. My trainer and I worked with this dog and within 4 months she became a trustworthy guide dog. She learned very fast and really seemed to enjoy working. I have had Nala for 7 years and she has been a wonderful guide dog. She is now 9 years old, and has some arthritis and has been diagnosed as having asthma. It is time for Nala to retire.