Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment

For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Long (really long!) awaited update

Knightley: 1 year 10 months 1 week 6 days old
Apollo: 9 months 4 days old

Apollo and Knightley together recently.

Well, it has been many months since my last update. That is because on December 26th last year I started feeling dizzy, tired, finding it hard to speak and would also pass out occasionally. I was in hospital for over three weeks, but even after then was unable to walk or do much for another couple of months. I couldn't concentrate, or even get out of bed without feeling like I would vomit or pass out.

I am somewhat better now, months later. I still feel dizzy but not as much, and I still pass out. It is quite likely I have developed narcolepsy (uncontrollable sleeping episodes), but there is still some question. I am waiting for testing up at one of the big hospitals in Sydney. I still spend quite a lot of time in bed as I can fall down suddenly, anywhere, unconscious. I am not able to sew or see to my business (although thinking about opening shop again soonish maybe??), and for a long time just stayed in bed. I've been doing physio since I got back from the hospital and can now walk reasonably well - but I still pass out and bruise myself... sometimes daily, twice a day, or only several times in a week. I wear a helmet for protection after I concussed myself when my head hit the floor. So things have been pretty terrible in that sense. In all the testing it was found out I have 'mixed' sleep apnoea, and now use a CPAP machine which has helped my terrible fatigue and has somewhat lessened my sleep episodes. However, all this passing out business is on top of my immune issues and migraines. SIGH!

Apollo learning to do an assistance retrieve for me. He's holding
a comb in this photo. He's taken to retrieving well.
So, due to all this, Apollo had to go through nearly a month with me away in hospital, and didn't deal with it well - he became pretty destructive and bored. Two months or so ago I got a mobility scooter which finally gave me the ability to get out of the house safely and take the boys for walks again. Since then I have been able to up Apollo's socialisation dramatically and he is doing well. We spend a little time inside our local shopping plaza, but spend most of the time outside it - still learning the basics of ignoring people, ignoring dogs, loud noises and strange objects. We do some basic obedience too, but mostly I'm concentrating on the basic socialisation at the moment as he missed out on a lot of it for months. I did swap him to a new vest today from a small one I've been using since he was quite young. He looks quite official in his new gear - which I had made many months ago before I got this passing out problem.

Apollo at the shops in his new gear. He is still smaller than
Knightley by quite a bit, but I hope he will be a large dog
My happy Knightley with Apollo in the background. I spend
quite a bit of time with them on my bed looking after me.
Knightley is unfortunately going downhill quite quickly due to his hips. The vet hoped we'd have a couple of years of good function left, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I recently got some 'Neo Paws' boots for him to help his hips, and they do seem to help quite a bit. We love Knightley so much, and he and Apollo are the very best of friends. I think Apollo helps keep Knightley feeling young. I take Knightley out to 'work' occasionally just on a trip to the shops because he LOVES it and just gently wags at everyone. It breaks my heart that his hip dysplasia was so bad that he can't do what I trained him for. Even just a trip to the shops leaves him close to limping.

Apollo has turned out to be a natural alerter - he lets me know when I'm about to pass out. I have from between 20 seconds and two minutes warning. Enough time to find somewhere safe to sit or lie, or pull the scooter over to somewhere safe where I can pass out in peace! It is a massive blessing that he can do this, although we definitely need to work on his response to me being passed out. I want him to try to lick my face to help wake me up, and he'll do that if I'm on the floor.... but if we're in public or I'm in my wheelchair at home, he doesn't get that he has to stand on his hind legs and lick my face. But nevermind, he's only 9 months old so there is plenty more training to go.

So, things are going better than they were. Poor hubby is my carer these days, as well as the boys, and it stresses him out. But the boys are pretty great most of the time. They make me laugh (especially my clown, Apollo) and snuggle up to me when I need it. I want to get Apollo to professional standard as fast as I can since he's proven to be quite a reliable alerter. Having him with me is massive reassurance, as well as when you drop things from wheelchairs and mobility scooters it's handy to have someone/something else to pick up those things for you. We've done a bit of door closing training, and I really want to train Apollo to push those big metal buttons for me so I can cross the road. So there is a lot of work to be done. Thankfully he is super food motivated!

Truly though, all three of my boys are absolutely wonderful to me, and whilst so far this year hasn't been anything to boast about, they help me through everything day by day and never fail to make me smile. :)

Will try to write an entry now and again, but I find text hard to read (and type) due to dizziness and double vision. I hope everyone in the blogosphere has been well and is looking after themselves. *hugs to all*

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A middle of the night update, Apollo is home and thriving!

Apollo: 9 weeks 5 days old
Knightley: 1 year 3 months 2 weeks 3 days old

My very cute and fluffy boy.
So, Apollo is home and has been for the last 3 days. He is everything I could have hoped for and more. He's very enthusiastic, a quick learner and very physically agile - much moreso than Knightley at that age, which I hope bodes well for his hips.

They are getting along very well although Knightley sometimes plays a little rough and I have intervene. Apollo is so small compared to him! It is hard to believe that Knightley was ever that size. Having said that though, Apollo at nearly 10 weeks old is probably the size of Knightley at 8 - or even 7. That doesn't necessarily mean that Apollo will be a small dog, but it does make it more likely. Knightley is a big boy afterall.

A bit wet from playing in the paddling pool... he LOVES water!
It's nearly 4:30am and I just was up taking both dogs outside for a wee. Apollo has been sleeping in the master bedroom with me for the last three nights in a little fabric crate, but when I came back inside after the dogs had done their thing 20 minutes ago or so, I decided to put Apollo in the big metal crate. He will have to get used to it as I have two medical appointments later today, and he'll be left in the crate. I had one on Monday too, but since that was Apollo's first day with us, we took him along to the appointment in a crate. He just slept (yay!) in the reception area. Anyway, so I just left Apollo in the big crate out in what has slowly become 'the dog room', then went back to bed. After nearly 25 minutes he has FINALLY stopped barking and whining like the world is coming to an end. Poor little thing, he sounds so very pitiful, but if I give in and go to him he'll learn that it's a surefire way to get attention. The best idea is to only go when he has a break from whining.

Such a cute little darling. And so small!
So he's already pretty attached to me - and Knightley - which is good because I was a little worried that he would just bond with Knightley a lot and so he and I wouldn't have a close bond. So far though he is well aware of who mummy is. Probably because I supply the food! On the subject of food, Apollo is doing fantastically well with his new raw diet - barring a little grain free kibble and a few splashes of puppy milk every day. I started him with two meals of chicken with bone (he's on four meals per day) and his stool was looking great, not loose at all. It is much easier to swap puppies onto a raw diet, and Apollo had already been eating beef and chicken mince at the breeders which made my next decision to try him on beef heart easier. I figured if he had been eating beef mince for a while he would likely be ok with beef heart, even though it's quite a bit richer. And he has indeed been fine with the heart. I am still giving quite a bit of chicken/bone to ease the transition, but he is doing just great. Takes a good while to eat his food - his teeth are so small and his eating involves a lot of shaking the food to get bits off. He also finds it hard to get through skin, so I sometimes take that off for Knightley. He is getting plenty of fat with the big fat caps on the beef hearts.

Knightley and Apollo together. You can see Apollo's ears are
quite dark, I think he may turn out a little darker than Knightley.
Other than that they look very similar.
I'm currently focusing on housetraining (not even one accident yesterday!) and basic manners, although I have taught sit, which he absorbed like a sponge. I am not sure how I will manage doing the training with Apollo as Knightley always wants to be with me when I am doing interesting things with Apollo (and food!). Apollo comes really well to his name as well, frankly, better than Knightley sometimes sigh! This is thanks to the breeder who used their names all the time and played come games with all the pups. I think he is going to be a very quick study!!

A happy little lad
So despite still struggling to get over these infections everything is going rather well. I have more work than I can handle from Oz Working Dogs, but I guess that is better than not enough. Can't wait until Apollo grows up a little more and we can start taking him outside some more. Since he got his first vaccination quite late (9 weeks old) he won't be good to go out places until at least 13 or 14 weeks, and won't be fully vaccinated and completely safe until 17 or so weeks. Annoying for socialisation reasons! I want to take him places right now!

It's weird having two dogs now, but Apollo is a happy intelligent chap and learns quickly! So everything going well here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Apollo comes home tomorrow!

Knightley: 1 year, 3 months, 1 week and 6 days old
Apollo: 9 weeks and 2 days old

Apollo on the right. This was taken yesterday after three pups
had already left to their new homes.
Well, the day is just about here, that Knightley gets a new little brother. I'm very excited, despite the fact I have a triple bacterial infection, sigh! But tomorrow hubby and I drive up to Sydney to pick up our ball of fluff and sharp little puppy teeth. I could have pneumonia and I'd still be going!

I'm going to give him a couple of days before we start training in earnest, but the first couple of days will be dedicated to house training and general manners. I am so looking forward to see what happens between him and Knightley. They should be well matched in personality.

Apollo a couple of days ago. This and the following pic are our
formal puppy pics from the breeder! He looks good.
We still have a bit of puppy proofing to do, but I've set up our 'dog room' back to how it was when we got Knightley. Currently we don't have a big crate for Apollo - he's got a little fabric one, and we have a big fabric one too.... but I haven't got around to getting a wire crate for him yet. I will though, it's useful and that's where I feed Knightley, and I'd like to have Apollo with his own. It'll make sure there is no squabbling over nice fresh raw food. I'll have Apollo sleeping beside my bed in his little crate for the first couple of weeks until he can hold his bladder all night, but after then he'll spend nights in a wire crate - so I'll have to get one before then.

Apollo age 9 weeks, face shot!
Definitely looking forward to diving into Sue Ailsby's levels from the beginning again. I'll have to get my books out soon and re-read level 1. From what I can remember it teaches a basic sit, zen (leave it), down, come and target. While you are supposed to do the steps in order when doing 'the levels', I found working on target really helped Knightley 'get it' as regards clicker training. I'll be interested to see how the first training sessions go with Apollo. I'm a much more confident clicker trainer, for a start, and I'm also really really hoping for a more food motivated pup! It was always so hard to get Knightley enthused in his training because he really doesn't care much about food. Hoping for a massive food drive with Apollo.

I am thinking of getting a dehydrator so that I can make my own jerky for Apollo (and Knightley) our of the lovely beef hearts I buy in bulk. That way if I need some extra good treats with Apollo, I can use raw food, or even a little cooked with parmesan or garlic. That is the only problem I've found with raw feeding - finding treats that don't cost the earth for your dog, but are good nutritionally. I feed a lot of beef heart - they come from near here and are from grass fed beef, so I am reassured about the quality. Knightley loves them raw.

That's the other thing I'm looking forward to with Apollo - starting him on raw from day 1 with us. He has already had a reasonable amount of raw in his diet, although it has only been minced beef/chicken. It's much better than nothing, but doesn't offer all the great benefits of feeding a proper raw diet. I plan to use a bit of Artemis dry food in addition (very high quality grain free stuff - I don't believe in feeding dogs grains). Eating raw should slow down Apollo's growth and make hip dysplasia (HD) less likely. I do wonder what would have happened if I had fed Knightley raw from the beginning - would his HD be as bad as it is? It would probably be a little better, even though I did a slow growth plan with Knightley.

I'll be starting Apollo on raw chicken - just a whole chicken cut up into Apollo sized chunks (about 180g, four times a day). Because he's had some raw already, and because he's so young, we won't have to stay on plain chicken for long. Hopefully he'll be eating beef heart by the end of our first week together with no tummy repercussions (heart, while it is counted as muscle meat and not organ, is quite rich for a dog not used to it).

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be very interesting, especially seeing them meet each other. We'll be going up and back to Sydney in a day, so we'll be back just after dark tomorrow. I'm pretty excited!!!

See ya later internetland, will try to upload some Apollo and Knightley pics soon - hopefully showing how well they're getting on!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Internet, meet Apollo!

Knightley: 1 year 3 months old
Apollo: 7 weeks 3 days old

So, in two weeks times we are embarking on Downunder Assistance Dog: Mark 2. The temperament testing last week went really well. We travelled up to Taree without a hitch and met the lovely breeders and their adult dogs. Then finally, we met the litter. They were so lovely, lively and happy. It was great to see what a lovely area they had been brought up in. I was pretty nervous and worried, because we'd come a fairly long way to find a new assistance dog prospect, and I really wanted to succeed with this litter.

I was also there to help temperament test some of the girl pups for a family with a boy with autism, to make sure we picked one that would fit well with him.

Our puppy on the right.
We set up in the shade because it was a very hot day - especially for us Canberra people!! So, the first dog we started with was a boy, with a green ribbon around his neck. He was extremely curious and affectionate on my lap which was great. He was happy to get attention at my feet. Hubby moved a couple of metres away and called him over and he sprung towards him eagerly - despite the heat. The other puppies were still milling around a bit at this stage, but 'Greenie' focused on us, it was very impressive. We next tried him out with our squeaky toy, which I had got specifically for our new pup. He was very curious, ran around after it eagerly. Then we tried a retrieve test, throwing a mini tennis ball and he brought it back, to my hand, twice... despite all the distractions around. We were very impressed - and the very first pup we tested! He watched the umbrella open suddenly but didn't draw back at all, and couldn't care less at loud sounds. The pinch test was great - about 9-10 seconds, meaning he wasn't particularly physically sensitive. A good thing when a dog is going to be wearing a harness/vest etc. He seemed a very friendly, happy and well balanced puppy.

We tested all the boys after that. They were all pretty good, none of them flinched from the umbrella, they all were interested in the squeaky toy - but only Greenie retrieved.

Meet the Internet, Apollo.
We tested three of the five girls for the breeder. Two of them were very good for bombproof-ness, probably the most important aspect for a pup going to a house with an autistic child - or any average family really lol! One of them actually wanted to investigate the umbrella/loud noises. I thought that was great. The other one was the only other retriever of the litter. If they had been wanting a full on assistance dog, I perhaps would have recommended this one, but the other one 'Dark Pink' was just so bombproof and loving I thought she would be the better match.

So it was obvious to us which puppy we wanted. While the others were pretty good, Greenie retrieved and that is often a big indicator for trainability as an assistance dog. So, he is ours!!! We racked our brains for a name for a few days and eventually (thanks for the suggestion, mum!) came up with the name Apollo, for the Roman god of healing. We pick up Apollo two weeks today.

The litter today, getting fluffier every day!
Knightley is well, we continue to do a reasonable amount of training. I am keeping up a little bit of his public training because I want to use him to train Apollo in what is expected of him in terms of public behaviour. I feel sad when I do take Knightley out as he really is well behaved, and I wish that we had been able to be the team we were meant to be. At least he will now have a best friend to play with - and very soon!! Knightley is currently undergoing treatment for his hips in the form of Zydax injections weekly for four weeks, and he'll get that every six months. It should stop his cartilage degrading too fast from the osteo-arthritis that goes with his hip dysplasia. Now it is warming up we hope to have him swimming regularly soon.

This breeder has been a real find, and it was really exciting to see the litter, and all the adult dogs. Their mother is a gorgeous Golden, quite dark and very delicate looking especially in the face. Although I like having male dogs, a part of me wants to own one of those feminine beauties.

So the pups are growing very well, and Knightley is as well as can be expected. Oz Working Dogs is growing and doing well, and I'm considering buying a new sewing machine. I've been pretty busy with it.

So that's us for the moment. We're up to Sydney next weekend for a wedding, and Knightley will be going to my parent's place again for the weekend. Then the following weekend, it's time to pick up Apollo. Can't wait!!

'Til later, internetland.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don't faint, it's a new post!!! Temperament testing the litter this weekend!

Knightley: 1 year 2 months 3 weeks old
Possible puppy: 6 weeks 1 day old

I know, I'm a very bad girl. It has been so very long since my last post. Hah, that sounds quasi-religious.

The reason, once again, is Oz Working Dogs. When I started it I was rather tentative about its prospects of suceeding, but now it is very obvious that it is taking off in a big way. Especially this last week I have been working very hard - probably too hard - and I'm exhausted. I am stocking all sorts of things now, toys, first aid, dog cologne, and making quite a few vests, capes etc. I am happy that I am making others happy with the equipment.

I've also had several bouts of sickness since my last post, including one big whopper of a migraine coupled at the same time with some sort of flare in my primary illness - fever, bad rash, joint pain - which had me as close as going to a hospital as I've been since I spent my 29th birthday in ICU. After that horrific experience I swore I wouldn't go back unless I was half dead. Last week made me reconsider, but I did get through it.

The good news is that Knightley and I have been getting back into training some more. We're working hard on his recall, and it's improving - even at the dog park, gasp!! He's very good at coming at home, even when he is doing something fascinating outside. We continue to work on Level 3 of the Sue Ailsby Step to Success Levels, but without the urgency of before. If I get a new puppy, I plan to take him back to the beginning with the pup. Sometimes I realise how much Knightley does know, especially the indoor manners that are so useful in turning a dog into a nice companion.

Ready world??? Here we come!!
So the big news is the litter of puppies I talked about in my last post are old enough now for temperament testing to see if they are up to assistance dog quality. While temperament testing gives you just a guide of how good the puppy could ideally be when it grows up, it is a valuable tool to rule out puppies who are definitely not going to make it. I am very excited to meet them. The breeder has continued to send photos of the puppies daily - to the point I feel like I already know them somewhat. I'll also be temperament testing some of the girl pups. One of the families getting a pup has a high functioning autistic child, and they're getting a girl. The breeder wants my input to make sure they get the right pup. I've had a chat to someone who is very involved in autism assistance dogs, and with my own knowledge of temperament testing I think I'll be fine to find the right girl for the family. Or maybe two, and then I'll get the breeder to judge which one the child bonds better with.

A small part of their awesome puppy yard, completely with pipes
to crawl through, little seesaws, all sorts of things that blow in the
wind, balls, toys, objects hanging from ropes... just so many thing
that contribute to making a scare proof well balanced pup.
We leave for the trip up to the breeders later today, and it is a long drive - about 7 hours including breaks.... so we are splitting it up there and back over three days. First day will be about 4 hours driving or a bit more, second maybe 5.5 and third 5. Not a bad split. We'll be testing the litter on the second day. I am pretty positive about finding a good prospect in this litter - even perhaps two. These pups have been brought up extremely well, with an amazing expansive puppy yard filled with all sorts of interesting objects. Compared to how the first litter I tested (very very timid litter) was brought up it is just completely and totally different. These puppies have every chance of being amazingly well adjusted dogs. The breeder doesn't let them go until they are 9 weeks old as she vaccinates late, which is fine by me as an extra week with their litter and mother is good continued puppy education and socialisation for the pup. They are a touch over six weeks old now, and will be just about 6.5 weeks old when I test them. 7 weeks is meant to be ideal, but next weekend just wasn't going to work out. They'll only be four days off the ideal, so I think that will be fine.

If there is a puppy in the litter for us, we will have a few purchases to make as I have held off getting things like a crate, bed and mat, although I will be able to make all the leads, collars and harnesses that I desire. The main thing I want, with the whole of my being, is for this puppy to be healthy. If we had another pup with hip dysplasia I would find that extremely hard to accept. We will get PennHip done on this puppy, early, so we know what we are working with.

The puppies exploring the spray from a hose leak. It's so wet!
Knightley will be staying with my dad while we are away, as my mum is also away down on the coast. So I think that will be a bit challenging for him!! He's hoping to engage my brother as a helper to tire Knightley out and babysit him a bit. It's a good idea. My brother lived with us when we first got Knightley, and even though he has grown up a LOT from the lanky adolescent he was when my brother moved out, my brother is still more familiar with him than my parents.

So this weekend is make or break time. Cross your fingers and toes for me as I desperately want to get back on the assistance dog train!!

Will give you the news soon internetland, as to whether Knightley has a new best friend.