leopardwolf: (Default)
In Boxes So busy. Driving back and forth to Texas, trying to find the energies and lack of pain to sort and pack up more things. Helped Mike get settled in to the new place. Things didn't go the way we originally planned; when do they ever? Lack of Uhaul Northeast side meant all of our belongings and furniture that was at his grandmother's ended up having to stay there. Which meant he only came with what he could cram and Tetris into his car, most of that room being taken up by his work computers and chair and work necessities, and a handful of other stuff he could jam in. So once again we started with nothing and had to get new furniture and things, with the hope his family will go and take pictures of the stuff we left and sell it so we can get some money back for it, but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is slim. Lots of stress, the move almost not happening because Mike's pay drops so drastically from the supposed "cost of living" difference. Which is horrible that companies can do it and base it however the hell they base it off local rent costs or whatever, because when you base it off a city that has reduced prices because of the nearby military base then of course that might be cheaper - only if you live on the base and have access to the reduced base prices. But the rent isn't. And milk and other things still cost as much when you are on civilian side. It's disgusting that by relocating to get closer to work, it basically set him back to his beginning pay rate, removing 3yrs or so worth of raises and a promotion to a higher position. But job opportunities and affordability long term is better, so it was worth doing. It just means things are going to be insanely tight for a while. Crafty Things I have all sorts of things going on and in the process of being completed art and creativity wise and with related efforts. The ceramic rattles are completed, but they were one of the first things I moved via car to ensure they wouldn't be damaged. I will get pictures of them next trip and get them posted online for sale, though I might ask Mike to take a few teaser shots of them I will share via Patreon for anyone interested in catching them before they are released to the general public. Most of my art supplies are going to be packed away until they can be relocated, but I will try to keep out some basic things like a sketchbook, my Wacom for digital, and maybe a few other odds or ends. All of my corals are doing well. I have finally grown some out enough to where I can frag them, and plan to have those frags up for sale when I do. Moving the tank and its inhabitants is going to be all sorts of insanity, but I already have it planned out and hope to document the process and share it later. I have been prepping plants for bonsai and doing my annual collection of flowers for drying. The Sweet Olive and Gardenia smell so wonderful. I have a few ceramics items that are glazed but not yet fired, so I really need to run the kiln and fire them before they get packed for travel. Making of new items is on hold for the moment. Dogs Ember stayed with Mike so I could focus more on working with Tesla individually, similar to how I did back with Journey. Training has been a little slow going with all of the other crazyness going around, and my body having an absolute fit. My ankle has been messed up over a month now, making it painful and hard to walk. Poor Ember was getting to a point where I was having to give her more medicine when she was more active going places with me, and it was clearly effecting her behavior and her ability to alert accurately, to where I decided it was in her best interest not to work her anymore. As a DDR line descendant GSD, Tesla is a very high drive dog, and far more challenging to work with. I'm still not completely certain he has the correct behavior for assistance dog work. He'd be excellent for Schutzhund and IPO activities without a doubt. In fact, I have been in contact with a local Schutzhund club and we went out this weekend to meet some of them and see them work their dogs. Tesla even got to become acquainted with some nosework for tracking. Tesla is insanely strong for his size, and he has a beautiful bite and grip when engaged in play. It's just honing in the focus and building the self control over those instincts, and helping build his "on/off" switch that might prove to be an issue. He is a puppy though, so I am hoping I can shape it and use that drive to our advantage, in a controlled fashion that will make him the best working dog he can be. Going back to the topic of size, that is really the only other concern I have with Tesla. I am not sure if he will be big enough. His growing rate is more closely resembling Chakotay's, which was on the smaller side for a male Shepherd. Journey was huge by this age, but he also had obvious physical issues as a result despite my best efforts to do everything right to ensure physical soundness. You just can't beat genetics. Still, at 4 months old ( going on 5 ), I feel like even Chakotay was larger by this point. But it could just be that I am so worried about if Tesla will work out or not after Journey and Chakotay washing out, that my mind is playing tricks on me. We went in for Tesla's last round of puppy shots/ rabies vaccine. I discussed it with the vet. With his current rate of growth, unless he hits a huge growth spurt, she isn't sure he will be more than 60lbs. He is a very strong little dog, even now. But I need the size. He needs to be tall enough for full mobility assist and have a sound structure for the weight bearing support work and counter balancing. Once again I am not sure how this will play out. If he ends up being too small, I might not be able to use him, even if he is physically sound otherwise. Ideally a person my size should have a dog no less than 80lbs, preferably 100lbs+ for the mobility assist I require. With Ember, I fudged a lot and always used an additional surface/wall/furniture/whatever so I didn't hurt her. Now I am to the point where I can't do that anymore, even if Ember was still young and workable, my body just can't tolerate as much as it used to. I need a larger dog. I am really hoping Tesla will be that dog.

Meet Tesla

Sunday, February 12th, 2017 08:00 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
This is Tesla. His registered name is Tesla Leuchtet Den Weg vom LhunThyla ( Tesla Lights The Way - from LhunThyla ; my owner/kennel tag ). Tesla is an AKC registered German Shepherd ( Alsatian ). He is 13 weeks old. I have had him for about a week, but didn't want to post anything publicly till I knew for sure I was keeping him. He is a Galliard, born Waxing Gibbous ( a day shy of Ahroun! ) . Very vocal and likes to tell you about all the things. He has a great personality and is already more like Journey was in his confidence levels, which is a good thing. Certain personality traits about Tesla remind me of Journey and Chakotay both. Tesla's namesake is in honor of Nikola Tesla, famous Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity system, wireless communications, experiments in wireless power transmission, and much more. Tesla coils, anyone? :D The symbology behind "lighting the way" is both toward that namesake, and the hope he will light the way for me as my new service dog. So far he is doing well with basic training and everything he is exposed to in public. His hips and body structure look great; he does the "Superman sprawl" which is an early sign hips should be okay. When I went to meet him and was doing the initial evaluation, he was quite the character. While talking to the breeder, I set my treat pouch down off to the side. Next thing we knew, puppy had picked the whole thing up and was happily trotting back toward the garage carrying it! A metal trash lid dropping right behind him when he wasn't expecting it and umbrella/object testing did not phase him, he had quick recovery. He happily greets strangers and other dogs. As long as the OFA xrays come back good, he will be clear medically. As long as he can overcome any adolescent fear periods he might have, he should be okay behaviorally. Fingers crossed he will be the one. Third GSD is a charm? Lets hope so. I will be setting up a fundraiser to help cover his medical and xray expenses, and so we can get into some training classes for socialization as soon as possible. Anyone interested in donating can send donations to leopardwolf@gmail.com via PayPal. I am offering artwork or creative things in return, based on donation amounts for anyone interested. Thank you for your help and support! Follow along here: http://www.facebook.com/JourneyWithServiceDogs

Femur Funny

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 08:36 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Ember and I went to an appointment with a new doctor the other day. When we walked into the room, we found this anatomy model, who looked like it had seen better days. The femur bone there was broken in half, taped together with duct tape to make it whole again. After the doctor comes in and we introduce ourselves, I gesture to the model and say "I hope you don't plan on fixing me like you fixed him". The doctor grins and replies "Duct tape really *can* fix anything!" He's a keeper.
leopardwolf: (Default)
Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and concern over me having to go to the ER yesterday. ER finally confirmed what I have suspected for a while - I have Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). And it is probably directly caused by my Sjögren's Syndrome. They gave me a new medication that tries to target TN nerve pain, and it was finally able to break through the agony late last night/early this morning. I went to bed with the lower left side of my face swelling ( inflammation related ), and when I woke up today the entire left side of my face was swollen and eye watering from the puffy around it, making it hard to see out that side. Using an ice pack on it, so will see if that helps reduce the swelling. Otherwise I am stable, still in pain but new med is helping. Follow up with primary doc and Neurology Monday. I am a zombie, will be while getting used to this new med. Recap on what led to this point: I was in so much pain, I hadn't been able to sleep for days ( worse than normal ) because the pain always gets insanely worse at night. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain these days, and my Gaba med normally takes enough edge off that I can "ignore" it ( just suffer through it ). On the second day it was getting to where I couldn't tolerate it anymore. Aunt tried to help by getting me all sorts of ice/heat packs and OTC stuff to dull pain. It got so bad that night/early morning that I almost called an ambulance ( my aunt was asleep and she can't drive at night so only way I could have got to ER is that way or call cab and I was worried Medicaid would not cover ambulance ride and had no way to verify at 2am ). It was weekend, no way to speak with Medicaid people to see what was covered, I just decided to suffer through it. On the third day of insane pain I went through my entire daily dose of Gaba in 3.5hrs and it did nothing. I knew it would only get worse again come evening and I didn't think I could deal with it again without wanting to destroy something from how much it hurt. For pain to hurt me bad enough to make me give in and go to the hospital or ER on a weekend, you know it is seriously bad. So neighbor took me that evening since aunt can't drive at night ( thanks again so much! ) and dropped me off. The EJGH staff was AMAZING. First person we were met with was security, and he stopped me when he saw Ember.... I was seriously ready to destroy someone/something at that point from the severe pain and I was having worried flashbacks of the horrible experience I had several years ago with the security douchebag at LSU hospital ER trying to deny me access if I didn't show him "proof" Ember was a real service dog ( this is against the law ). Thank the gods, this lovely gentleman was far better trained and considerate. He noticed her vest and the patches clearly defining what she was, smiled and said nevermind and told me to go ahead. I heard other hospital staff whispering as we wandered past, all saying "its a service dog" to each other, sounding as relieved she was the real deal as I felt that they recognized what Ember was. They were tons more professional and knowledgeable. That's why I chose to use EJGH general practice doctors for my care, and their conduct in the ER only reaffirms I made the right choice. Compared to the LSU ER horror, getting in to the EJGH ER was quick and rather painless. I was worried it would be crowded on a Saturday evening, and while there were enough other people, the staff had a nice system set up for intake and directing patients. They brought me to an exam room in a wheelchair to avoid me going full syncope due to the pain I was in, worried to make me walk that far down the hallways. I was thankful for that. Ember got to show off what a well trained dog she was and that made her happy. She's been so worried over me the past few days. The nurse helped me into the hospital bed and Ember took her place beside it to wait. I got to watch some HGTV while waiting for the doctor. We don't have live cable anymore so it was a treat to watch. The wait for the doctor was brief. She went over my history and current symptoms, I explained I had experienced this problem numerous times before but this was about the worst it had ever been. After a quick examination she agreed based on my history that Trigeminal Neuralgia was most likely responsible, probably directly caused by my Sjögren's causing irritation/swelling/pressure against the nerve bundles somehow. She wrote me a new prescription to try Carbamazepine, got an additional referral to Neurology for me, told me to follow up with my primary Monday, and that was that. They discharged me with paperwork and took me to wait for a cab in the lobby, and were kind enough to make the call for me and inform them I had my service dog with me. It was while waiting I noticed some tightness in my face on the left side, the effected side. I was still in a ton of pain and rather out of it, but realized after poking at it gently that it felt like swelling, and not realizing it was there before I got a nurse to ask the doctor. Unfortunately since they had already discharged me, it meant I would have had to have gone through the whole intake process again, and my cab driver showed up at that time. Not wanting the poor gentleman to wait or have come out to get me for nothing, I decided it was probably from my Sjögren's attacking the glands or something. I have had milder swelling where the salivary glands are before, figured that was it and decided it wasn't worth the trouble to wait around for them to likely not do anything else for me anyway. Couldn't be medication related because I hadn't started the new medicine yet, so clearly it was inflammation. I figured if it got worse, I could go back. The cab driver was very nice and considerate, thought Ember was just amazing. He called her a Rougarou ( Louisiana folklore / French for Werewolf ) when we first got in and told his dispatch he had "Miss Brittney and her Rougarou". That made me all sorts of happy and geeky, and when I responded showing I knew what the term meant, he was just as delighted. It was a pleasant drive home with good conversation, as much as I was limited to talk at the time. Much thanks to Metry Cab and Mr. Jim! My aunt was able to drive me to the 24-hour pharmacy just down the block, since it wasn't too far and well lit with street lights. Had to wait forever for the new med to be filled. Finally got home. Took meds. Became a zombie. Finally got some rest. Took me way too long to write this so it makes sense. The end.
leopardwolf: (Default)
The Rottie Unfortunately Diva ( an affectionate nickname we gave her ) the Rottweiler puppy didn't work out. After further evaluation and working with her, it was obvious that she just didn't have the right characteristics for assistance dog work. She's still a great little puppy full of potential. but she'd make a better family dog, which is exactly what she will be. With the help of the woman I got her from, we contacted someone else who had responded with interest in the puppy after I had taken her. They are a family of Rottie enthusiasts who have had them all their lives, and it was clearly a perfect match. Some things are just meant to be. New Puppy Afterwards I did come across another puppy. This one was admittedly younger than I am normally comfortable with taking a pup for evaluation, but the mother dog had stopped nursing the litter and they had been taken by the owner's daughter to care for and find homes for. The daughter has experience with animal rescue and rehab, so the pups were in good hands and well adjusted for such a young age. The new puppy is a Labrador ( Chocolate ) / Great Pyrenees mix, who is currently six weeks old. She passed the temperament test and startle recovery test far better than I expected. She has a beautiful personality and is very willing to stay engaged. She is a confident little puppy sponge. She is playful and curious, and has potential. The only thing I am uncertain of is if she will be large enough as an adult. Hoping there is a mega growth spurt coming soon. We are playing the name game to see what fits her best. Some names up for consideration: Keala ( Pathfinder, the path ) Raksha ( protection, nurture, pathfinder symbology ) Jakara River Aina ( Joy, Forever, Celtic/Finnish ) Jera Seeker Rain / Rainy Amaya ( Night rain, Japanese ) Zephyr Another Dog So Soon? Something I feel I should say for those who don't know me well enough. Some might look at this as me playing "musical puppies" and think it callous of me. I want it to be understood I don't make any of these decisions lightly. My animals are my family. In the case of these dogs I am evaluating and "trying out" for lack of better phrasing, I get just as attached to them as I am to my animals that have been lifelong companions. The difference in the end however is that I can't let those emotions rule my judgement, if I know that animal is not a good fit for the work I need it to be able to do. I love and respect the animals. I can't force them to be something they are not. I need a very special type of dog, with a very special personality and abilities to adapt to things that most dogs would want to avoid. I need a special dog that will ignore all those pressures and just enjoy working with me and going places with me as my partner. Assistance dogs are considered medical equipment, not pets. Realistically I need to look at it that way and remind myself I can't keep them all, as attached as I get to them through this process of attempting to owner train my new service dog partner. It makes letting them go that much harder. Even if it doesn't work out, I always make sure the dog is going to a good, responsible home, and I keep in touch with and follow up to be sure everything works out. The same as I have always done for any animals I have rescued and fostered over the years. I have seen too many people who owner train use dogs that really should not be working any form of public access, for one reason or another. It is not fair to the dog to try and force it to be something it is not. Doing so would set a bad example on me as a trainer, and be a poor representation of the assistance dog communities as a whole. That is why I am being as selective as I am. Because it is the right thing to do, and it is necessary to ensure my dog is not a liability in public.
leopardwolf: (Default)
This little thing is what has been keeping me busy this past week. She is a 7 week old ( 8 weeks old on Dec 6th ) Rottweiler puppy. After failed attempts to find a dog of the right age/size/temperament/heartworm neg anywhere local for months (50+ dogs again between here and parts of Mississippi), including the recent incident with the touch reactive foster that nearly bit me, my family agreed another puppy might be the best way to go. Except this time no GSD, and lets try a female instead. So here she is. We are doing the same thing with her that we did with Journey and Chakotay, to see what names are fitting. She is a little spitfire, full of spunk and attitude. And damn is she fast. A little whirlwind running around the yard, dashing through all the leaves as she snorks and chomps at them. It's been rainy and overcast so I haven't been able to get a good video of her doing this yet. She is already weighing 14lbs and fitting into the harness I had the boys in when they were at least two weeks or more older than she currently is. She doesn't look like she weighs that much. Here are the names we have narrowed down: Ripley ( Heroine Lt. Ripley from the Aliens movie franchise; aka Badass Bitch. ;) ) Makani ( Wind, Hawaiian; May-Kah-nee ) Kira ( Dusky, dark haired one ) Karma ( Destiny, Listen ) Will share more info and pictures later.
leopardwolf: (Default)
A friend offered to watch Chakotay so I could "test drive" some foster dogs from the local shelters or rescues and such. I have been looking for months, much how I did when I went looking for and found Journey. Nothing in the local area young enough, big enough or heartworm negative. I came across a listing for a dog claiming he was a Lab X Mastiff mix, which I thought was perfect for size and possible good characteristics. Went to see him... the dog was smaller than Ember, and more of a Pitty mix. He was beautiful and beautiful personality, but too small. So I asked to see what else they had. Only one really fitting big enough was an American Bulldog. Had good personality and some basic obedience, we tried cat testing in the cat room and he didn't seem interested in them and even went up to sniff one cage and got nailed and didn't even react, just turned away. Perfect I thought. Went back to test him with Ember and they liked each other. Okay, willing to give him a chance. He doesn't weigh 70lbs like we thought by the size of him, but 103lbs! Mega perfect! Find out he's heartworm positive. Nrgh. Okay. Shelter is willing to work with me, so I agree to try him on foster. Always cautious when introducing strange dogs to my cats, especially one as big and strong as him....he gets excited when he realizes they are there, and it is prey drive excitement. I tried a few different approaches to get him to calm and ignore them, which he actually caught on to amazingly well when realizing he got yummy things for ignoring the cats. But he kept doing the eerie freeze/silence/stare predatory stalking behavior thing. He also tried to nip at Wasabi through the kennel when Wa came over to politely say hello ( if the bars had not been there between them the dog would have made contact, which is very dangerous ). I can't risk that with my cats. I can't risk he go after some other random animal in public and risk dragging me down or worse. I am totally fine working with large, powerful dogs. I have all my life. But at the same time I can't risk injury to myself to fight against trying to reshape that kind of prey drive on a dog that big. I hate to say it, but I don't have the time or energy or finances to do so. So I will be bringing him back tomorrow. Back to square one. It is getting harder and harder for Ember to do what I need her to do for me, and I am afraid she'd work herself to death if I didn't stop her. I am afraid of facing being in public without a service dog after all the freedom and peace of mind I have had with my partners, but I am running out of time and options. Fundraisers don't work ( I can't even help save a cat with a broken leg fast enough). The waiting list for CPL or any program is going to be longer than I can wait, and I don't have $5k-$7k just to travel for team training. I don't even have $2k to get a well bred pup with health guarantee (if something is wrong breeder will take it back and replace it and their parents are screened for HD/ED and temperament tested CGC and above). I feel like just totally giving up. I can't do it anymore.
leopardwolf: (Default)
TLDR: Chakotay's service training had more setbacks. Questioning how much longer to keep trying to make him something he simply might not be. ---------- I met mom in Slidell yesterday to go shopping for some new clothing, since all mine are about to fall apart. Decided to try taking both Ember and Chakotay with us. Chakotay was...... ehh. He was still way too weary even with Ember around and he was leery of different people, especially if they got too close. Some store clerks were moving a clothing rack and he saw it from some 300ft away and suddenly put on the breaks, causing me and Ember to whiplash into him. When I realized what had him concerned, I walked him to it and asked the guys if they would roll it toward us and I went over and pet it to show him it was okay. He tolerated it ( he didn't have a choice since he was on leash ) but he was not comfortable with it. Ember on the other hand was all happy wiggly and wanted to nudge the rack when I pet it, as a target behavior. She did that because she was hoping I would let her say hello to the two clerks as a reward. Chakotay's body language for the few hours we were out just said he was not enjoying any of it. We stopped for food and Chakotay didn't want to stay settled under the table, even though there was plenty of room for both him and Ember. He would lay down and then sit back up a few moments later, much like the restlessness during store training exercises at Petsmart and Petco. The longer we are out, I have noticed he will get more restless and nudge me to let me know he is uncomfortable and wants to leave. He did this in the department store even with Ember present. Any time we moved back in the direction of the store entrance he wanted to pull to hurry us on our way faster, same as he does in the pet friendly stores when he has had enough. Mom saw some of it, but I don't think she understood what she was seeing ( she knows some stuff she learned from me, but doesn't know how to read a dog as well ) or really realized how bad it was till we were close to getting ready to leave the restaurant. Mom had to get up and leave the table a few times, and her and I both had to keep repositioning our legs to stay comfortable. Any time Chakotay remotely thought either of us was getting up to leave, he was getting up to try and move from under the table. This is something I worked on a lot with Ember and Journey, and now with Chakotay. Holding a stay position, waiting patiently and quietly. He is great with it at home, and he was great with it as a puppy up until the fear period started. We even practiced under tables and other objects similar to how I trained him to wait for a release command from his kennel when I open it. He understands the cue and what I want him to do and in the past didn't have problems with it. Anyway, we were getting ready to leave and I gave a clear verbal stay command with the hand signal and indicated to mom to go ahead and get up ( Chakotay could not see me tell her ) while at the same time I again gave the stay commands to the dogs as she was moving to stand and I was swinging my legs out so I could get myself into position to let the dogs come out and get on my feet. Ember didn't flinch, waiting for me to release her. Chakotay on the other hand suddenly acted like he was on fire and came barreling out from under the table, trampling Ember who was at the open end of the table ( I sat him by the wall on purpose to control his movement )......and slammed right into my legs and through them. I don't know what hurt more. Chakotay hitting them or the impact causing them to slam against the pole and underside of the table. It was very unpleasant. I was biting back pain, embarrassed because of his behavior startling people across from us ( who I apologized to ), with Ember and mom both checking with me to make sure I was okay because they knew I had been hurt by it. I was holding Chakotay by the collar at that point to make him stay in place while I let Ember out and tried to get up. The whole time he was yancy and clearly ready to GTFO. Mind you nothing at all bad had happened all day. He didn't have to go relieve himself because I made sure to let them both do so before we went into the place to be safe. He simply had enough for the day and wanted to go back to the car because he knows eventually we will go "home" in it and he doesn't have to be out in public anymore. Mom couldn't believe he'd done that. She's never seen any of my dogs behave that way, mostly because they all know better. Sure sometimes they jump the gun if they get excited, but a quick reminder would set them right again. Even as big of a clumsy dork as Journey could be, he never behaved that way, even when closer to the end of his short career he was clearly not wanting to work because he was in pain. He was grumbly and somewhat impatient but he never plowed through me in his desire to leave a place. I was hoping having Ember around would help Chakotay more than it did, especially in the non-pet places we go for public access training. The more I evaluate him and watch his behavior in public with our short training sessions, and go back and look at video I take, I'm just not so sure he will grow out of this; it has been going on since August without improvement. Him finally interacting with the handful of people that one day in Petsmart was only because I let Ember spazz and say hello to people to try and make it a happy fun thing and missing out on the excitement was enough to overcome any concern he had about the situation. I can't do that every single place we go with every single person or thing we come across that he might be uncomfortable with. I also can't take both him and Ember together every single time. It takes a lot of energy to safely handle and direct one, let alone two large dogs in coordinated movement. Especially when one is a strong puppy who clearly doesn't want to be out in the first place. I just don't always have the physical ability to do it. While Ember's presence seems like it might be enough of a distraction to boost his confidence some, I can't say if it will change enough for him to grow out of this phase completely. I also have some concern about him somehow becoming dependent on her presence as being the only way he feels confident enough in public. I can't help but somehow feel like a failure all over again. I haven't done anything vastly different with Chakotay than I did with raising Journey, that may have inadvertently caused the behavior shift. After this most recent outing, I'm not sure what to do anymore. We are so far behind on training skills, mostly because the primary training and reward systems we use at home won't work in public ( he currently won't take food rewards or toy rewards in public ). I have tried relaxation protocol and methods to get him to relax and focus on me, with no luck. I am in essence forcing him into situations he is not comfortable with simply by the action of taking him out in public anywhere. Even places he has gone to since he was a tiny puppy and previously been happy to visit. But if I don't take him, he won't get the exposure or continued socializing he needs. Which even if he washes out as a service dog, he should still have these skills and experiences to be a balanced pet dog. How long do I keep trying? If he was a program trained dog, he probably would have already been washed and career changed because it would be a risk to the handler and dog both. He already has a problem with being exposed to common every day stressful situations that a service dog is required to face, and it is pretty unlikely to change. So rather than invest time and money into trying to overcome that and train past it and hope it works, they cut the dog loose and move on. I just hate the reality of having to look at it that way, because he is obviously more than just an object to me. I have become so much more attached to Chakotay in a shorter time than I was with Journey. My heart wants more than anything to make it work because I love him and I have bonded with him and invested so much into him already. But my gut instinct tells me it just isn't meant to be. If I was to evaluate him from a neutral standpoint like I would any client's dog, it is painfully obvious from that perspective he isn't a good fit as it currently stands. So then what do I do? Finding a good home for him is going to be so much more difficult. He'd need someone that was not only familiar with GSD, but someone who is familiar with working with a dog that might live the rest of their lives on the high strung side. Then what? Search for another puppy or a young adult dog and try again? Maybe a Rottweiler instead? They are larger, which is what I need. Or do I try and find a Labrador, Golden Retriever, or a mix of those breeds and hope it will be big enough? On average most only get around 75lbs on the larger side. A Rottie will easily top out at 120lbs or more. Going through any reputable breeder who actually OFA HD/ED checks their dogs and does temperament testing and goes by health standards, I am looking at $1k plus easily (unless I can find someone willing to work a price for me for the dog being a service dog, which is less likely for pedigree working dogs). I always encourage rescue over buying, but as I have discussed in the past, with needing something so specific for a working dog career, it is hard to find a dog that can live up to the standards health and behavior wise from the shelter ( especially with high rate of heartworm positive dogs here in Louisiana ) or hobby breeders. Maybe I could try fostering for local rescues to see if I could find a potential candidate. It could help save a life by simply being a temporary home if the dog wasn't the right fit, with no long term commitment to keep the dog if it didn't work out for whatever reason. Otherwise the only choice is just keep waiting and applying for a program dog, and hope nothing happens to Ember before I get accepted and paired with a successor dog. Then I have to hope either the dog is offered free of charge, or that I can somehow come up with the money to travel wherever I need to go and to cover the cost of the dog ( which is likely $5k to $7k easily with travel, hotel, food, aid to come with me, etc. ). The money from the service dog fund is completely gone now, used on expenses for Ember and Chakotay. The service dog fundraiser hasn't seen any activity despite me sharing and asking for help and even offering artwork commissions and things in exchange for it, because I hate having to ask for help and not being able to offer something in return. The whole situation has been very difficult and trying. Chakotay is a great dog. I'm just not sure he will ever be comfortable enough to work in public.
leopardwolf: (Default)



Today started off a bit stressful. Had to get up early for the dog training seminar. Got my coffee and breakfast ( milk and meds yummm ) and got myself dezombified enough. Was right on time, loaded the car. Then my car wouldn't start. Of all the days? Really? Yeeaahh. Can't have it looked at till Monday. Thankfully my aunt could give me a ride.

Got there just in time and got settled. A room full of dog geeks and dog trainers and professionals somehow dog oriented or with their own fearful dogs, and here I am with Ember. Everyone wanted to gobble her up and she would have gladly let them and become one with them if it were physically possible. Everyone was real polite though and resisted the temptation of the cute little black and brindle dog in the room.

The seminar was great. Debbie is thoughtful and has a wonderful sense of humor, and her presentations reflect that. So did the random times a certain image would flash on the screen and she'd lob various dog toys into the audience. Ember was sad she didn't get to fetch them all, but behaved herself by simply watching as they went sailing and squeaking. In the end I made up for it by letting her get all sorts of love from people who had asked, when it was safe to do so.

I was stuck when lunch time came since I didn't have a vehicle. Some nice folks invited us to ride with them to go get lunch, which I thought was very awesome of them. Thanks again guys!

Great topics were discussed and lots of questions were presented and answered. It was so wonderful being surrounded by so many dog and behavioral geeks, that sense of common ground and understanding we all shared. I even got a chance to share my reptile geekery.

Time to speak one on one was limited, but I did have a chance to mention my situation with Chakotay and got some confirmation that we were on the right track. Echoing what I already knew; it is really dependent on the dog, set them up for success and hope for the best. But there is the reality that certain characteristics come with certain breeds and it may need more than behavior modification. Medication can be used to help get things in balance, and once that is used in combination with the training methods, the dog may get to the point where it is no longer needed.

We got a copy of one of Debbie's books and asked her to autograph it, which she was tickled by. Then Ember and I got our picture taken with her. After which Ember got sooooo much loooove from Debbie and anyone else who was still there waiting to speak with her.

Overall a good day.

Chakotay Update

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 09:02 pm
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Hey everyone. Apologies for the lack of updates about Chakotay lately, but there hasn't been a whole lot to report with him in the fear period. I have been keeping Chakotay home and just practicing basic skills and not much else. I took him out a few times, once every two weeks or so to try and get him over the fear period, but it was always the same reactions of suspiciously shying away and caution barking even at people he has known since he was an 8 week old puppy. Today I decided to try something different. I took Ember with us.

Dogs are social learners, and learn a lot by watching others. Ember is such a moosh and loves everyone that I hoped if I let her say hello to everyone, Chakotay would follow example and be more willing. I have used a similar technique with other shy or fearful dogs in the past. First I took him into our local Petsmart alone. Ember waited in the car while it was remote started with AC running. Same nervous reactions he has been displaying, which I recorded if anyone cares for me to share.

Then we went back to the car and took Ember in with us. Chakotay's behavior at first was still hyper vigilant and weary, but slightly less intense. We wandered around some but everyone we knew at the store was busy and it was slow so no one to test with. Then a woman brought her German Shepherd puppy in for grooming, and found her way over to us. I told her about Chakotay's fear period and asked if she'd like to help, and she happily agreed because she looooves German Shepherds! Ember was total velcro and getting all the love, and surprise surprise! Chakotay decided he wanted some too!

He even went back several times on his own to ask for more. Another couple was there with one of their German Shepherds, a huge male pup a month or two older than Chakotay, who was more the size Journey was at that same age. Chakotay was good about greeting them too with some encouragement and Ember support. They were all real nice and chatted about the fear period and other dog geek stuff, and we exchanged contact info. Yaay new dog people friends! Chakotay is still on the smaller side for a male, and seeing him next to this other dog near his same age I just don't think he is going to be a large dog like Journey was, unless he hits a huge growth spurt in the next month or so. Which may not be ideal if he's going to do full mobility work. We'll have to wait and see, and put some Miracle Gro in his food in the meantime!

I plan to repeat today's training experiment a few more times to get Chakotay to open up to people again with Ember along, try and see if I can get him interested in treats while doing so, and eventually transition him over to not having Ember along and see how he does. Hopefully he'll go back to being the happy cuddly dork he was with people before the fear period kicked in.
leopardwolf: (Default)
Dog training friends, I am in need of some help. Chakotay is going through one of the "dreaded teenage phases" ( I try to say that jokingly ) of puppydom. Better known as a fear impact period. He's at the 7 month mark, so I understand this is normal and I was expecting it might happen ( even though ironically it never really did with Journey ). Poor Chakotay has gone from being a confident (but sensitive) sassy pup to having weird reactions to situations, people, objects, and sounds he has always been exposed to or has experienced before and been okay with.

His body language is reserved, he won't take treats/toy rewards like normal, and has avoidance or distancing behavior, so I know he is uncomfortable. People he has known since I got him, he acts suspicious of them and reserved to approach for pets where in the past he'd go right to them for love. With strangers the behavior is obviously worse with over vigilance and general weariness and wanting to avoid contact.

Same thing with certain environmental stimuli; places we have frequented, smells or sounds he is familiar with, he acts overly surprised, worried, or wants nothing to do with it. It has been hard for me to keep his attention and keep him under his threshold of tolerance because it has varied so much from one point to the next.

I know this is normal behavior during fear periods in adolescent dogs. My concern is if I cannot help him overcome this, it will disqualify him for being a service dog.

Service dogs need to be friendly toward and accepting of all people and animals they meet, for obvious reasons. If Chakotay continues to show lack of confidence in public and around strangers, it means he isn't a good fit for the job, and it would be wrong of me to force him to do something he cannot, same as it was with Journey having to be washed for medical reasons.

So for all my canine behavior savvy friends out there, any recommended reading materials or feedback you can offer? I know the general rules just as it is for the initial puppy fear stages in the 6-12 week or so fear periods and any others. Counter conditioning and desensitizing, make everything as happy and fun and AMAZINGLY positive as possible, do my best to show him it's all normal and nothing to be afraid of, so on and so forth. I plan to continue to socialize him to get the exposure but trying to do so without overwhelming him. But if he won't take offered rewards/treats for reacting correctly or as part of the OMG AMAZING situation pairing approach, is there anything else I can do to help get the message through to him besides letting him approach as he is comfortable doing so? Depending on circumstance, he may not want to at all on his own, so I don't want to inadvertently reinforce fear with my own reactions or lack of reactions.

I'm not sure how long I should give him to overcome it. I know normally you'd just let the dog get comfortable with something at their own pace and work on anything that can boost confidence with that object or situation and confidence in general, which I have already been doing. But I am concerned that as a service dog in training he needs more exposure time than a pet dog would to keep him on track and avoid any huge training setbacks. It is also a matter of how much time till it passes. I know on average it can be several weeks worth. But if it lasts past that point, does it mean it may simply just be part of his behavior ( genetically influenced or otherwise ) and accept that he probably isn't cut out for service dog work and go ahead and wash him?

That's not even touching on the other possible problem I may be facing with him; I'm not sure if Chakotay is actually going to be nearly as big as Journey was. He hasn't grown as much as Journey had by this point and his paws are smaller. I am hoping the fear period is directly related to a developmental growth spurt or something and he is about to supersize himself.

Journey for all intents and purposes was pretty bulletproof from day one, and not much ever really phased him - which was amazing considering how bad some GSD can get. That's why I am more concerned about Chakotay. From the first day I got him, I already knew he was a lot more sensitive to certain things in ways Journey never was. Journey just didn't care. But Chakotay does, and the fear period is amplifying it. I just want to make sure I do what is best for him. Even if it means facing a similar situation like I did with Journey.
leopardwolf: (Default)



Good Sits, Downs, Leave Its, Waits

Working on Stay, Focus and Duration

Multiple Outings To Pet Friendly Stores ( in short time I have had him )

Met 100 New People Before 10 Weeks Old ( yaaay puppy socialization! )

Got Nails Trimmed Without Batting An Eye

Visited Local Starbucks And Did AMAZING down-stay!!! (First "no pets allowed" store exposure.)

AKC STAR Puppy Material! ( Need class and testing eval, but he already does behaviors)



Chakotay will be 10 weeks old this coming Sunday, April 17th.
leopardwolf: (Default)





Finally have a chance to sit and write a puppy update for those who have been waiting.

Chakotay is the pup's name.

After a week of narrowing it down and seeing which sounds he responded best to, it was between that and Tesla. He chose. He responded far better to "Chakotay" and "Kotay".

Been busy with puppy stuff. Socializing and training. We have gone to local Petco and Petsmart for exposure to new things and meeting awesome people and even a few different animals.

He had an appointment with the vet today, and both the vet and one of the vet techs recognized his name. They kept wanting to call him "Commander" ( the character's eventual rank in the show ). I think they decided they needed to go rewatch the series on Netflix after our visit.

Chakotay weighs 13.6lbs and is 9 weeks old currently. He has big feet and big ears and is a fluffball of an adorable Alsatian. Healthy as a horse and it is obvious he's going to be a big dog as he gets older. Which is just what I need.

Chakotay is a lot more sensitive than Journey was, but he also seems to be learning much quicker and has a better body structure.

Some things ( mostly sounds ) startle him at first, but when we come across such a thing he recovers quickly. I normally recreate the situation if I can, so he can see what causes it. Once he does, he's totally okay with it after I make it into a big happy thing and give praise and treats.

I have pictures and video to upload and share and some funny things I have been taking note of to share.

I have to raise money for upcoming vet expenses and PennHIP Xrays, and puppy and obedience classes. Anyone interested in helping, who can spare a few dollars, please consider purchasing artwork or creative things from me, supporting me on Patreon, or donating to the service dog fund raiser to help us stay on track. Feel free to share, repost, reblog, re-whatever! Thank you for taking the time to read and for your support.

Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/LeopardWolf

Support: http://www.patreon.com/leopardwolf

Donate: http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674

Puppy Names Take 2

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 02:40 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)



Originally it seemed like Tesher would be the pup's name. I liked it, he seems to respond to it, and there is symbolic meaning behind it. So I thought. But I like to research meanings behind things. I found that it is actually the Hebrew word meaning "tip". As in giving your waiter a "tip" or "gratuity" at a restaurant. And Tesher-t in Egyptian is blood, red land/desert, or a vessel for drawing water (wisdom/truth - thus teacher?).

So for those reasons alone, we'll probably nix it. The other problem is people I interact with on a daily basis ( thus he would interact with also ) are having difficulties remembering it (and pronouncing it correctly).

Amusingly, the longer fictional name Chakotay seems easier to remember, maybe because of how the spoken syllables flow together. Anyone who watched Star Trek Voyager will know and remember it. In the Star Trek universe, in the language of Chakotay's ancestors, the name means something akin to "Man Who Walks the Earth But Who Only Sees the Sky/Stars".

Some people had a hard time with remembering Journey's name at first too, and that is far more common in usage than the other possible names I came up with for this new pup.

I like unique and "off the beaten path" sorts of things with meaning behind them. Plus it offers far less chance of a "common" name causing a problem in public or confusion in social situations with people who might have the same name or a similar sounding name.

Tesla is easier to remember it seems, simply because of the greatness behind such a name. Genius and inventor. Energy, electricity, spark, brilliance, lightening (tesla coils), all those things come to mind in symbolic association.

Solar might be the easiest of all to remember. There was solar storm activity and solar wind activity increase the day he was born. Solar is Sol, the sun, brilliance, life giver, guiding light. Lots of similar symbolic meanings.

So now I will flail some, edit some training videos documenting progress, and maybe roll a D6 to see which name comes out on top.

Puppy Names

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 02:45 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)



A list of potential names for the new puppy. Keeping in mind as a working dog, I needed something people wouldn't commonly use in conversation, something preferably multiple syllable so it doesn't sound like a command, and something that doesn't sound too much like any other names in the household / family.


He is a Ragabash, born under a New Moon (amusingly enough).


His father's name is Midnite. His mother's name is River.


Trevor ( I have a Bone Gnawer Ragabash by this name)

Voodoo

Mojo

Tesla

Lantesh

Chakotay

Tesher ( Gift, Teacher )

Hunter

Sounder

Solar

Haze ( State trooper at traffic checkpoint suggested it. :) Foggy night. )

Thor

Draco

Orion

Chance
leopardwolf: (Default)
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently took a trip to Pennsylvania to attend a CPL support class and meet some of their dogs and working teams and to get some hands on participation. I found out all the alert dogs they had available have been paired with other people that were on the waiting list ahead of me, and there are still others waiting. So I wouldn't be getting paired with a dog this year unless they came across one from another source, which is unlikely.

A few days before our flight home, my friend Christy messages me to ask if I had found any new prospects, since she knew what had happened with Journey washing out from the hip dysplasia. I told her what I had just learned from CPL.

It was then that she told me her family had come into the possession of a little male German Shepherd puppy, and that they wanted to give him to me if I wanted him. They know how valuable service dogs are, Christy being an owner-trainer herself.






Shocked and humbled by their offer, but very hesitant to try again because of what happened with Journey and the hip dysplasia, Mike and I began doing some serious talking and considering. It could be up to 2yrs before CPL might find the right dog to pair me with.

I'm not sure how much longer Ember will be able to work. She's starting to show signs of her age when she works on top of her damaged toe issue. She won't be around forever, as much as I hate to think that way. She's 10yrs old, and most service dogs retire around this age.

On top of that, I have to come up with over $5,000 just so I can go and get a dog when CPL finds one to pair me with. That covers the expense of hotel for a month and some other expenses, but there is also needing to pay for travel expenses for myself and someone to come with me, which is another issue.

I need someone to be with me during the entire month of team training. I originally thought mom would be able to do it, but she has to take care of my grandmother and their dog, who cannot be left alone. Mike and my aunt cannot take that long off work. There aren't many other options that won't be awkward or expensive unless I can find a friend or volunteer to go with me.

So after discussing this with family, we finally decided it was worth the risk to try again with a new puppy and for me to owner-train it in hopes it will work out.

Our reasons were pretty simple. If this new puppy works out, I save $5,000 and the stress of having to somehow raise such a large sum all at once, possibly on very short notice, to afford the travel and hotel expenses to stay the month for team training at CPL, in the event I couldn't find volunteer housing or other ways to save on cost. Even if I could I am still looking at over $2,000 for expenses.

If by some stroke of luck CPL does find a dog to pair me with *before* I finish training this puppy and have a chance to see if he'll really work out as an assistance dog, then I always have the option to rehome him if necessary like I did with Journey.

If I end up having to wait nearly 2yrs anyway in hopes of being matched with a CPL dog, we should know by then or even before then if this new pup will work out.

He comes from working lines, his parents look solid and no history of issues, and his paws are huge for his size. He's going to be a good sized dog when he grows up and fills out. He's a lot like Journey in a lot of ways, but also vastly different in many others. He's insanely smart and responsive and already catching on to things fast like Journey did, and he is just making 7 weeks old.

Still, our experience with Journey makes this a very difficult decision. To put that much into a dog only to find out the hip dysplasia is there. I would rather know sooner than later, and there is some sort of version of the OFA hip/elbow screening that can actually be run on puppies instead of having to wait till they are almost 2yrs old for growth plates to close.

The problem is that testing is very expensive from what I understand. It would be worth it for peace of mind to know the dog I am putting work into is proven solid. But on the other hand it would be heartbreaking to spend that much money on the testing only to have worst fears confirmed and find out I am right back to square one again, and with all funds exhausted.


Either way, I will still be on CPL's waiting list. As long as I keep following up regularly and meet their criteria, I will still have the option of getting a dog through them in the future.

Now I just need to come up with a good name for this little guy.



I am still keeping the fundraising active. It can be found here:


http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674


I may still need the full amount for getting a dog from CPL, either now or in the future. In the meantime I will also need to cover puppy vet costs and related expenses as the pup matures and for x-ray expenses. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.

Decade Dog

Saturday, March 5th, 2016 02:32 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Ember is officially a Decade Dog today. 10 years old and just as silly and spazzy as the day we first got you. You don't act a day over 2yrs. My gross, disgusting Dogmeat creature. I love you. Here is to many more years of the joy and happiness that is you.



Christmas 2015

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 08:54 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Bright and blessed Christmas / Yule to everyone.



leopardwolf: (Lhunie Floof - Foxfeather)



I'm in New Jersey visiting Mike. Was sort of a last minute trip. He had time to take for vacation and we decided to do it now, because his time was limited and flight prices skyrocket for the holidays. I'm thankful we have a chance to spend time together. Had a chance to go see Jen and Girlie cat and visit with them and have dinner. Was so nice being able to see them again and love on Girlie. Went to my first Rangers hockey game at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. It was an amazing game to see in person. Had a ton of fun.

Took Ember along with us into Manhattan. She did flawlessly well for such a loud and overstimulating place as the big city and a sports arena can be. MSG staff were awesome about Ember being along. She got an official MSG ID card and everything. I have been taking her out with me since I got here, each time we went anywhere to get her re-accustomed to working in public and to see how she'd do with it, before deciding to take her into Manhattan and MSG. Ember went back to her solid work ethic as if nothing ever changed, even after not working for almost a year. She alerted me during the game when I got distracted by the intense beginning and forgot to take my medicine. She also woke me at one point when we overslept ( alarm didn't go off ) and I was late taking my meds. Woke up with my heart racing ( yay tachycardia ) from a dead sleep to her on the edge of the bed trying to get my attention. After she woke me and I showed her I took my meds, she went back to doing her own thing.

Ember will probably end up going home with me and be put on an anti-inflammatory to help keep her comfortable while working. Mike has been pretty unhappy about it because she keeps him company and keeps him sane around here, which I can't blame him for feeling that way. I wouldn't take her if it wasn't as much of a medical necessity as it is. Hopefully it will only have to be for a few months.

I was originally supposed to fly home Nov 16th, but plans suddenly changed last minute when I heard back from Canine Partners hours before my flight. Originally I was supposed to contact them when I got home to set up details for me going to their facility for a tour and an interview with the training staff. But that would have been more money spent to travel there to not even know until after April if I was being accepted as a client.

I told them I could stay if they could somehow work me in, that I'd change my flight home. With the holidays and other things going on, it didn't seem like it would be possible. The woman who has been helping me got in contact with the training director and they approved it! I have a client interview with them on December 3rd and will get to work with some of the dogs so they can see what might be a good fit. I really, really hope that means being partnered with a successor dog is right around the corner. Maybe I will get lucky enough to be in this coming Spring team training group.
leopardwolf: (Default)
We found an amazing new forever home for Journey. He'll be with a wonderful couple who have had Shepherds all their lives. They lost their last Shepherd not long ago to old age, and the gentleman couldn't go long without getting another. They have promised to love him and spoil him. We are invited to come out and visit anytime. They live down by Houma on the bayou, real Cajun country! Journey has his neuter surgery Tuesday ( managed to get a sooner appointment ), he'll recover a few days so I can make sure he's okay, and then he'll move in with his new family. Already teary thinking about it. I'm going to miss this dog so much. On the way home from meeting this couple, it was rainy, and then the sun shined through. There was a beautiful rainbow. I took it as a sign to mean things were as they should be, falling into place as needed.



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