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Here you can find info on products and services, updates on the dogs, and the midnight musings of a sleep deprived nursing student, and breeder. 


December 5th, 2017

Wow! Time to take a deep breath! The holidays are quickly aproaching, and I realized I hadn’t posted a blog post since June. I’m not sure how that happened, exactly, but it did. 

My little girl is not so little anymore. She’s eight months old, and looking so very grown up. We’ve been to handling classes, and are starting something totally new in 2018. 

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There’s a new girl in my life!

My course work was done, and I’ve walked across the stage. Whatever was I to get myself for a graduation present? 

I think I did a good job! 

What a day! The first ever Relay-Day at Guide Canine

Important lesson to learn here; when your cousin calls you up and says “hey, do you want to go to this relay thing in a few weeks?” Make sure you have all the details! 

Our team! Joanne with Happy Feet, Linda (my cousin) with Ace, and Faith and I. We were sponsored by the company Joanne works for, so we were Team Telemode. 

The Relay-Day consisted of Barn Hunt, Rally, Cani-cross, Agility, Scent detection, and Disc. We had a blast! Here are a few pictures to show how we did. 

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I’m very thankful Linda (my cousin) didn’t choose the moment a few seconds later where I face-planted after catching my shoe on a tree root. Nothing harmed but my pride… It has motivated me to get back into canicross, which I haven’t done since I lost Cuyler. 

This girl is a crazy fool for disc. She had a blast, but her favourite part was all the leaves on the ground that she could make fly. 

I’ve never done scent detection before, but it was something I always wanted to try. After this experience, we will definitely be doing Scent this fall. I went in the arena with a plan to follow the pattern through until she alterted to a box. I wasn’t sure what that alert would look like, but I was sure I would know. I couldn’t have been more wrong… Faith walked in with me, and after we had our instructions we moved to the first box. She sniffed it, then dragged me to the back row of boxes, smelled the second one in quickly, then moved to the third box from the left (which we are in front of in the photo). Again, I had my plan, so when she sniffed the box and looked up at me I kept moving to the next box and the next box after that; there were twelve of them to get through in three minutes! A few boxes later she wasn’t even giving them a good sniff; she was bored and done and I was thinking that she hated it. I made some comment to that effect, and the person marking said that no, she had already found it and showed me. Very clearly, actually. So I thougth about it for a second. 

She had taken me to the correct box. It was the third one from the left. She looked up at me, perked her ears, and I completely missed it. Bad Mom. We ended up with a time of 1:13, but it would have been under 20 seconds if I had gotten out of my own head and listened to my dog. 

Sorry it’s blurry, but this was us in Rally. As usual, Faith enjoyed it. And she was a rockstar. 

Agility is not our sport. But we had fun, and that’s what the whole day was about. 

There’s not much more that a girl can ask for than a day with family and friends, doing the sports she loves. We were all tired when we got home, and I had a few hours of studying to do before I could call it a night, but it was well worth it. 

Comprehensive exams are in just two days, and I’m barely surfacing from the books to do anything other than see to the basic functions of life, but it was so worth it to take a day off. But, here’s to hitting the books again! 

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Ready, Set…

Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. The end of the semester is looming, and I have two additional courses to complete on top of my regular course work. To say life is busy is an understatement, and I just can’t wait for August when everything will be done for a few weeks. 

So how are we dealing as a family? I spend a lot of time planning my essays and assignments while I hike. Faith and I have new walking partners (a lovely Shar-Pei named Happy, and her human). Tonight will be the first night we get out together. 

Some insight into the mind of a trainer...

        What’s this? Two posts in a week? Yes, I’m on a roll... But you might not feel that way for long.

        As I’m nearing the end of my program I have been reflecting on the past two years, and there’s something that is sticking with me, and the more I think about it the more I see it reflected in myself as a trainer. So here goes.

        When I was applying to the nursing program I was excited. I had spent the last few years of my career as a massage therapist, just looking for the joy; I wasn’t in to it anymore. Ask anyone who’s been self-employed for long and you will hear many times that our time is not our own. We don’t get a regular 9-5 life, even if that’s the hours that our businesses run. I love having grooming and training and selling raw, but running two businesses being self-employed was just too much. I needed some security in my life again.

        So, I was excited. My mother knew I was applying, but that was it. I hadn’t told the rest of my family, and I hadn’t told my friends; I was afraid of the “what-ifs”. A few years before I had applied to the Midwifery program at Laurentian, and hadn’t gotten in (3000 applicants for 30 spots – not surprising), and because I chose not to reapply the following year there were a few people that saw that as a drastic change in direction; It wasn’t. I’m just plotting a new course to get to the same goal.  After that experience of people being so nosey in my business (ie. well, WHY didn’t you get in? WHY aren’t you applying again!?), I decided it was none of their business until I had firm plans. Shortly after applying to the nursing program I was speaking with a family member and telling her about my plans to go back to school; she berated me, and scolded me. I’m sure she thought she was telling me “positive” things, but it was painful to hear, and I ended up leaving much earlier than planned that day.  The result of that few moments of conversation has been the dissolving of thirty years of a close relationship. I no longer trust her, and while I am civil –nice even- at family gatherings, I don’t go over to her house or seek her out any longer. I hope that we can repair the relationship, but it will take time. I’m sure she thinks she knows all about my life from what I post on Facebook, but that’s another matter for another day.

        Now, I promised you this would be about training, and it is. I talk a lot about the relationships we have with our dogs, but as an instructor I’ve never given much push to how our actions affect these relationships. Every action we take with our dogs has consequences. We get to choose how that plays out based on what our actions and reactions are. We can spend a lifetime building trust, but it only takes a single action to break that.

        We’re human; we screw up. But before you correct your dog for something they did or didn’t do, ask yourself if you’re sure they understood you. Did their physiological needs override their training (ie, if they voided in the house, or chewed something because they haven’t gotten the exercise and mental stimulation they needed)? Is cleaning up a little pee worth damaging your relationship with your dog?

        I want to see my students succeed, no matter what we’re teaching. We all try to do the best we can with the knowledge we have, and we can’t live in the past. If you’ve made mistakes –and we ALL have, - learn from them, and move on. Forgive yourself for not understanding your dog’s needs in the moment. Make a promise to them that you will better learn to listen to them, and most of all, give your dog a voice.

        We can spend a dog’s life supressing their voice, or we can spend their life learning to listen and understand that voice. I choose to teach my dog an appropriate way to ask for things, and room to show me their loves and discomforts.

        What will you choose?

Sorry for the radio silence...

        What little time I’ve had to spare has been spent with my dogs and my family. I haven’t had a lot of time to spend working on the website, but I have made time to train. Faith is getting ready for the rally ring, and we’ve been playing more at barnhunt practice. We may get out before the end of winter, but it will probably be spring or summer. 

         Most days, this is what it looks like. Exciting, I know… 

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         I’m in my last semester of this program, and have applied for consolidation. I’ve also been considering my options for a BScN. It will mean more time living this crazy life, but there are some good options out there. Time will tell. 

         In the meantime, stay safe my friends. The world is a crazy place right now no matter what side of the fence you fall on, and we all need to consider our safety. Start preps, pack your bug-out-bags, and pray you never need them. 

I wasn’t going to go there… Bad Breeding; When it all goes wrong…

        I really wasn’t. I had absolutely no intention of talking about this, but it’s been weighing on me for a while and I just can’t let it go any longer. 

        Friends of my family bought this adorable little black poodle mix five years ago. It was friends of theirs that bred the litter. Mom was a “teacup” poodle mix, and dad was a small black male of unknown breeding that they picked up off Kijiji. Mom was bred three times before the age of five (not a bad thing in and of itself), but mom was blind from cataracts by the age of two when she was first bred. She also has knee issues, but has never been to a specialist for diagnosis or treatment because it’s “too expensive.” Dad had a terrible temperament and had to be put to sleep at eighteen months because he bit the owners’ grandchild. He had also blown both his knees by that age. 

        Why am I talking about this? Because my friends are about to take their dog in for *another* surgery on his knees. The dog is five years old and mostly blind from hereditary cataracts. He’s had two surgeries already on his knees and one on his hips. When I talk about ethical and responsible breeding and why it’s so important to purchase from a health testing breeder, this is why. There is absolutely no reason to breed a dog with hereditary cataracts that leave them blind at such a young age, and there is NEVER a reason to breed a terrible temperament. My friends got lucky, their dog is sweet, but he could also have had a temperament like his father and that’s not worth the risk to me. 

        The owners of the sire and dam of this dog are not bad people. They are both living on disability and unable to work, and were breeding their dogs to make enough money to visit their family out west. Their dogs are cared for and loved. But they failed the dogs they produced. There was no health testing, and no contract or guarantee. A responsible breeder backs their dogs. In this case the breeder has taken no responsibility, and thereby is not assisting with any of the costs of the surgeries (several thousand dollars each). 

        From the start this was doomed to fail. Five years ago I was just starting to think about another dog in my home, but I was already in contact with several breeders, getting a feel of where they stood and what they had to offer. I knew what I wanted in a dog, but I wasn’t quite sure where that would take me. I didn’t know then what I know now (and I still have plenty more to go!), but when I saw that adorable ball of fluff and stood him up in a stack I cringed. From toes to hips his back legs were in a straight line perpendicular to the ground, and that’s exactly what it still is today. When I saw a picture of the sire, his rear was the same. 

        I’m not here to bash on the breeders of this dog, and certainly not his owners to whom he means the world. I’m writing today to bring awareness to how important it is to select your breeder carefully. No one can do it for you. You’re not “saving a life” when you buy from an irresponsible breeder; you’re lining their pockets. My friends paid more money for their puppy than they would have for a CKC registered Toy Poodle from a good breeder. Had I known at the time that they were looking for a puppy I would have put them in contact with a Toy breeder that I know. She didn’t have puppies at the time, but chances are good that she would have known someone who did. Breeders try to stay up on what other breeders are doing so we can make recomendations to inquiries, and we usually have contacts for other breeds as well. The theory of seven degrees of separation works well here; someone knows someone. 

Why we hike

Welcome to Monday! I know, it’s not what most people say, but after a very busy weekend I’m very happy to be back to normal classes and regular life. I spent the weekend with a very good friend who was having her baby. It was a long process, and far from the first birth I’ve been honoured to attend, but every birth is a miracle. That’s not to say, though, that every birth goes according to plan. 

So what does that have to do with hiking? For starters, I’m gone for often days at a time with a birth, so my dogs are with a caregiver. There’s more than one reason why I don’t take many clients for labour support, but I love when I do. 

So, back to hiking. And on that note, welcome to Tuesday! I set my laptop down and fell asleep last night. Always happens after a birth. The last two mornings I’ve taken the dogs out hiking at the camp. They’ve dipped their toes in the river, and run through the fields. We need those times to recharge and reconnect. 

As I prepare for the new year, I’ve been thinking about what the new year will bring. I don’t really talk very much about my religious beliefs (both here and in my personal life) but I will say that this time of year is sacred to me on a spiritual level. I try to get outside and take it all in as much as I can; it’s my way to store up all the energy I need for the long Ontario winters. 

I’m thinking about what next year will bring for my dogs. The last twelve months have been full of changes, and the next twelve will be much the same. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope to very soon have exciting news to share. 

It’s a beautiful morning...

Last night it was finally cool enough to work the dogs. Faith and I went for a 90 minute walk (we’re both out of shape after a quiet summer), and it felt great. 

We’ve played a little frisbee over the summer, and worked a bit on some fun agility and rally, but for the most part it’s been a write-off summer. The fencing at the training field is down, and the indoor location I was using wasn’t  available. We’ve played, and had fun, and the dogs have been my constant companions. 

This morning we woke up early, and got in another walk and a game of frisbee. These cool temperatures aren’t here to stay yet, but soon. And I’m hopeful. 

Faith will be making her Rally debut this fall. We’ve taken our time getting ready; there’s no ticking clock. I’ve seen too many dogs soured by the “race” to get titled, and I don’t want that to be us. Our debut may be a total cluster, but that’s okay. She will be ready for the venue, and that’s what I want for her. 

We made it!

I wrote my last exam of the semester this morning. That may not seem like a big accomplishment considering there’s still a full year of coursework left, but for me, it’s huge. I had fairly major surgery the first week of May, then started classes the following Monday. The summer semester is compressed from 17 weeks into 10, and two of the 17 week courses are compressed into 5 weeks each so they can fit an extra course into our timetable. 

It’s been ridiculously hot outside this summer. My dogs are indoor dogs, but they like to play outside and that just hasn’t been possible this summer with the heat warnings and the storms.  So we’ve done some trick training, indoor games, lots and lots and LOTS of kongs and puzzle toys. And once in a while I can get them out for a swim. We’ve lived in the air conditioning. 

When we do get outside I always bring blocks of ice. I’ve taken kongs and frozen them upsidown in homemade stock, so the dogs have something to play with and chew on. 

I’m looking forward to autumn. Or at least cooler weather that we can get out in. But for now I’m going to fill the baby pool and see if they want to play outside for a few minutes. 

© Shari Joanisse 2018