The Whirlwind That Was January

  • Have been incredibly busy. One of these days I’ll elaborate, but the short of it is that it’s awesome and I’m having a blast.
  • Still managed to post and/or write something every single day and I am quite proud of that. Let’s see how another 28 days goes.
  • After deciding that the photo-a-day thing was just not going to happen, I’ve kept up with the photo-a-week and that’s going much better. I’m happy to say they aren’t all of the dog, but I’m sure to have many more as the year progresses.
  • Daily yoga starts today, however, I’m still fighting a sinus cold that is thoroughly kicking my ass so I’m not quite sure that it really will start today. But whenever it does I expect to start it off with a full 31 consecutive days.
  • I went the entire month and didn’t even finish a book. I’m honestly appalled and just a little disgusted with myself. But that first bullet has really been all consuming.
  • In a shocking twist, I found out there’s a school issue. I think I may just take this as a sign that classes this semester are not meant to be.
  • Uschi has been shedding like it’s an Olympic sport. Since she was so great for the groomer her first time, I’m thinking of sending her there again because I can’t seem to keep up with the fur and I’m at a point where I don’t know if I’m so much stuffed up from the annoying cold or all the dander.
  • Coming up: portraits, cupcake projects, book reviews, and I’m getting my hair did.

Moving Forward

Now that things are official with Yara’s retirement and reapplying for my next guide is well under way, I have been slowly sharing the news with people. This included having a meeting yesterday afternoon with my supervisor at work to discuss all of this. In specific, I wanted to talk with her about the two weeks I’ll need to take off for training.

I was actually very surprised at how supportive she was. I didn’t really know what to expect, but historically things at work that involve Yara haven’t always been dealt with in the best way by my superiors. Anyway, she seemed to take everything fine and well. Maybe because she had her own little bombshell to drop.

Turns out that there have been complaints about the smell from my area due to Yara. She was quick to affirm that she personally never noticed anything and none of the people near my desk were aware of any odious smells from my area or Yara herself. Regardless, it had been decided that the carpet under my desk would be cleaned as soon as possible. She also wanted to have an air freshener sprayed around daily to help mitigate any lingering odors.

I really don’t even know. I did mention to her that perhaps this smell that someone is bothered by doesn’t have so much to do with Yara’s lack of cleanliness — which I stressed was unlikely anyway since she’s groomed daily and often sprayed with a coat spray that has a lovely scent of tea tree oil — but rather this might have more to do with the medicated spray she was being dosed with for the sores on her rear end and back legs. I also noted that during the whole of my time at VESID I’d only ever heard such a complaint about my dog stinking one other time and that was in January when she had hot spots — which did smell quite raunchy — and was also being medicated with a topical treatment that wasn’t so pleasant on the olfactory sense.

She admitted she hadn’t thought of that, but even so the cleaning regimen was already in place in spite of the fact that Yara’s healed up from her wounds. Honestly I think they are pretty lazy about cleaning the building anyway so I wasn’t going to make a big fuss about it. I did ask that if they were going to use any scented air fresheners to perhaps only do so on Fridays after I leave so as to limit my exposure to any migraine triggers. Shouldn’t surprise you that suggestion was most agreeable to her. I also told her I’d bring home Yara’s blankets and have them laundered, even though I routinely switch them out every few weeks. Hopefully that will resolve any wayward complaints from random coworkers about any possible smells.

On a sort of related topic, Yara will be off the antibiotics in a few days. Her sores, as I mentioned, are fully healed. I can’t tell if she still has hives, but the steroids seemed to have finally kicked in and relieved the itchiness. She still seems to be sneezing quite a bit, but her nose isn’t all stuffy sounding or drippy. All in all, I think she’s basically on the mend. Fingers crossed that we can get through the rest of our working days with limited interruption in my work schedule because I need all the leave time I can accumulate.

By Popular Demand

My guide dog:

Yara, looking quite prim, lying on a bundle of blankets

Her fur:

An undercoat rake being dwarfed in size by a pile of Yara's fur

That would be the result of one grooming session. This is a task done on a daily basis. What is most astounding about that pile of fur is not its size but that somehow its removal from the dog does nothing to stop the house from being completely covered in black-tipped gray hair within a day of vacuuming. It’s truly uncanny.

I used to think labs in general shed the worst of any dog, Dolly in particular. Lab fur is basically like dust and they shed year round. I used to joke that all my congestion problems weren’t due to allergies or sickness, it was that my lungs were coated in black lab. However, I amend that statement. Her fur might not be floating through the air like dust particles, but Yara definitely sheds more than any dog I’ve ever known before.

The really sad thing is that this isn’t even a “heavy” shedding season. I can’t imagine there being more fur to shed without her developing bald spots.

Understanding Yara

Last night during some free time, Yara noticed something outside that got her attention. I heard a few woofs before I’d found her pacing around the dining room. When she saw me, she came running over, but whatever it was still bothered her enough to growl softly about it. I gently reprimanded her and after one more tiny bark she trotted off to the living room and started batting her ball around. I didn’t hear anyone outside, so my guess is it was most likely one of the various cats in the neighborhood. Probably out pawing through the garbage cans in my driveway. Still, barking is kind of a big no-no in guide dogs.

Since today is one of our “off” days for training, I took advantage of that and slept way later than I should have. Yara didn’t seem to mind that I wouldn’t crawl out of bed until 9:00 a.m., but I do wonder how much she sleeps at night. Any time I roll over I can hear her jump up and excitedly run around the length of her tie-down. It’s pretty cute how attentive she is to me, but it’s kind of creepy thinking about this dog just staring at me all night long. She’s so silly. It cracks me up.

Of course, when I finally dragged my lazy butt out of bed, I was greeted with the morning crazy. Yara had chosen one of Dolly’s rejected chew toys1 to toss around this morning. For all the excitement she has when I get up, I’m always surprised that she never relieves herself on the first trip outside. It’s odd. She didn’t eat much of her breakfast this morning either. Perhaps the novelty of the canned food has worn off. Dinnertime will make this hypothesis a bit more conclusive. I still have yet to fully understand her eating pattern as she’s been so finicky.

She’s still not a big fan of being groomed which I’m not so used to. Dolly never enjoyed it either but she just stood there with a forlorn expression and let me brush her out and clip her nails and all that other stuff. Yara, on the other hand, gets quite doggishly annoying; she’s very whiny and mouthy with me when I get to a sensitive area. If she’s really getting fed up, she’ll just plop her butt down and starts getting very silly. This morning, I managed to get a good amount of brushing done before she finally had enough and since the session had managed to fill up my sinuses, I thought I might try to vacuum a bit. There is already a ton of Yara hair in the house already, but I’ve been reluctant to take out the vacuum since I don’t know how she’ll react.2 I decided to start off using the Dirt Devil hand held vacuum to test things out and so I started in my bedroom and cleaned the rug under her fleece bed. She didn’t seem too thrilled about it, but she wasn’t especially bothered either. In fact, she seemed cautiously curious about it all. I’m relieved.

  1. A very sturdy tire on a rope toy that my grandmother gave Dolly one Christmas as a “last resort,” having had every previous gift be eaten up or destroyed before all the presents under the tree were unwrapped. Whether it was simply uninteresting or she lost interest because she couldn’t destroy it immediately I don’t know, but the toy’s basically untouched.
  2. Dolly gets pretty traumatized by the vacuum cleaner, for instance.

Dog Food and Pine Hills

As I mentioned yesterday, Megan suggested adding some cookie treats to Yara’s dinner last night. We both figured there was a good possibility Yara would just eat around the kibble; however, she did one better than that, she ate all the cookies and spit all the kibble into her water. This morning I tried feeding it to her dry, just to see how she’d react and again she wouldn’t touch it. She chugged down water, though, and then vomited it up all over my kitchen floor.

I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think Yara’s not a big fan of Abady.

Anyway, I talked with Megan about it and she suggested adding some canned food tonight. We picked some up during our route today at Price Chopper, so we’ll see what happens.

For today’s training we went to the Pine Hills area of Albany where I used to live. I really love this area because it’s still very residential and yet a very accessible part of the city. As we had hoped, the sidewalks were very clear and I got to really work Yara on her curb stops since she’s kind of hesitant to get right up there. Apparently she thinks I have about another foot of length in my legs. We got to work lots of obstacles, too, as it appears to have been trash day. Yara is very cautious with obstacles which is good in the sense that she’s not barreling by and walking me into things, but it’s a bit of a chore prodding her along sometimes. I have to keep remembering I’m not in a rush to get anywhere so it’s okay to stop and take my time with her.

We did some indoor work at Price Chopper. We worked on follow with Megan walking ahead of us and weaving around. Yara was a little distracted at times, but she was very good. We also did some work with heeling behind the cart. Like Dolly, or any guide dog really, she had a bit of trouble not treating it like an obstacle to go around, but she got the idea pretty quick and I think eventually got bored just walking around and started up that whining thing of hers. I will say she is a ton better about the whining than she was on our first day, but it’s still super annoying.

After that we had some lunch at the Subway food court on Madison and I was quite pleased with how well she was. She’s just a tiny bit solicitous, but she’s got nothing on a Labrador retriever. At the table she was just perfect and didn’t make a peep while Megan and I ate our food.

Once we were back home, Megan showed me our new obedience stuff for the day: come to heel and come around. The come around is a new one for me to wrap my head around. At GEB they were always against the “cheating” come where you switch hands with the leash and after awhile you get so used to your dog being on the left anyway you don’t even question it. We also worked a bit with Yara about grooming. Oh, she’s such a brat about it! I admit, I was spoiled with Dolly, she may have hated all of that stuff like grooming and having her teeth brushed but she just stood there and tolerated it. Granted she wore an expression that plainly said it was torture, but she never put up a fight about it. Yara, on the other hand, just gets really mouthy and starts being very silly when I start brushing her in more sensitive areas like her tail. It’s funny, but also kind of annoying at the same time.

Speaking of the furry one, she’s groaning in her sleep beside me!

For part of tomorrow’s training, we’re going to the mall and then grocery shopping. Who says guide dog training has to be all work?

EDIT: Oh, for those of you reading this via syndication, let me remind you to please comment here on the website. Syndicated entries are automatically deleted after an indefinite amount of time and I don’t get any notification of comments left elsewhere like LiveJournal, so I likely will not see them.