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!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Deposit on new litter, dispirited at program self-righteousness

Pre pickup 4 weeks 5 days old

Well, the good news is the deposit is down on the next litter. And I am high, if not at the top, on the priority list. So I should be good with getting my choice of puppy. The only problem is I may have to go to the Hunter Valley to test/pick up the puppy!! We'll see, it depends on timing really.

I have had some feedback from some experienced assistance/service dog trainers on my temperament testing, and it seems it was pretty good - so I just have to repeat it times 8 for this coming litter. I am assuming there will be some quick exclusions though, like with the first puppy I tested this last time. It was obvious he was completely wrong for me!

Despite that side of things going well, and feeling good about the directions I am going with my research and planning, I am feeling dispirited by the low number of owner trainers in this country, and how the programs - and in particular one program - completely dominates the assistance dog world in Australia. I don't think it's a good thing at all. When looking up information on laws, guidelines, training etc in Australia, all you do is find information on this one program. Not only that, they hold themselves to be the most brilliant program in the world, and everyone that doesn't uphold their exact standards (owner trainers would find it necessarily impossible to, so must come under this heading) are worthless. To the program trainer assistance and guide world here in Australia, owner trainers (OTs) seem to be slimy scum from the bottom of a slurry-like green stinking toxic pond, or at least that is general view! I am afraid that unless OTs continue persist and believe that it is possible to train their own dogs, and the government doesn't actually start to make it easier, then eventually we will stop fighting for individuality and just wait our 2-4 years for a program dog from THE program.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Temperament testing over, a bit sad

Pre pickup 3 weeks 5 days old

NOTE: If you would like a copy of the test I used to test these pups, please follow this link, thanks!

The temperament testing on the three boys is done, and long story short, it didn't go well, and we are going to have to wait at least another 3 1/2 weeks on top of the date we expected to bring home a puppy, to actually find our Assistance Dog prospect. Basically a month from now. Siiiigh.

Getting there
We arrived at the breeders and I got my testing kit together. The boy puppies were outside in a exercise pen when we pulled up and I saw at once how much they had changed. A lot bigger and they were playing well together. The weather was pretty unfriendly though - windy, cold and spitting rain - and the breeder came out to welcome us and we talked and decided to test the puppies inside the house. As we were going in, a very loud motorcycle went by the property (they live on a small hobby farm) and I watched the puppies carefully to see how they reacted. Two were fine with the noise, but one did cringe a bit. As she had previously told me that there were two possibles, this tallied. However she did say, whilst we were talking, that she wasn't sure that there was even one for me in this lot.

So, she brought the puppies in one by one, to where I sat on a chair in her living room. In addition to the testing procedure being new to them, they hadn't been inside the house before, so hadn't been on carpet at all, nor had they been much apart from their littermates. I used those extra stressors as indicators of resilience to new situations and stress. We used their microchip numbers to differentiate them, just the last four digits, as they weren't wearing collars or anything.

Puppy 1
Breeder came in put the puppy on my lap. I could instantly see that this pup was scared. He was trembling a bit, and basically just froze in a semi crouch. The first test I did was to basically see how he reacted to being near me, and to see eventually what pattern of behaviour he exhibited. This first puppy, no matter how much I stroked him, cuddling him close, just froze in this standing position and didn't put any weight on me. I put him on the ground, continued to stroke, and he was just totally frozen. So, not going well.

Next we tried a recall. My husband moved him a metre or two away, and I tried calling him to me (pup pup pup!!! clapping hands allowed). The poor thing was shivering and frozen. This is part of the working dog PAWS test.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bloody brilliant news!!

Pre pickup 2 weeks 3 days old

Our landlords have approved us getting the Assistance Dog prospect. So there is nothing to stop me bringing a puppy home. If one of the puppies in the litter I am testing in a weeks time doesn't pass, then I will continue searching. Either way, it IS going to happen.

Such joy and relief.

The other fantastic news is my husband starts a new job, working full time, tomorrow.

Life is finally starting to go right for me after three years of, well, the short stick. Yipee!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lupus (SLE), The Spoon Theory and Assistance Dogs

Pre pickup 2 weeks 3 days old

If you're looking for information on whether you can have a service/assistance dog with lupus please read my more recent post here.

So, until this post I haven't actually said what condition I have. Suddenly today I thought it was about time - and past it. I don't know why I have been cagey about mentioning it. I guess I still have issues accepting what has happened to me over the last several years. However, I thought it was kind of silly having a blog all about getting an assistance dog (hopefully, cross your fingers for me) and being unwell and all, and just keeping the manner of unwellness to myself. Especially when I can use this blog to educate, rather than just hide away. Many people don't know what Lupus is, and even when they do, they don't know how amazingly under researched it is, and that only now are we in the first trials of the first new Lupus medication since the 1950s.

So yes, I have lupus, otherwise known a Systemic lupus erythematosus. Or at least, they are like 99% sure. Because it can be a very difficult condition to diagnose - some people can wait 10 years for a confirmation of diagnosis. My diagnosis has firmed up in the last year or so. Systemic lupus is a systemic (in other words, it can effect the entire body) autoimmune condition, where your own immune system can attack anything it jolly well pleases, pretty much. In me it is characterised by joint pain, muscle pain, fever, rash, at times extreme fatigue, sweats and nausea. Well, those are the main symptoms, I could go on all day really :P . In addition I have a couple of bad side effects from medication I take - immune suppression (I get sick easily, eg I got very very sick with swine flu) and dysphasia (I often cannot find the words I want and feel like I have dementia, sometimes misspell obvious words).

An assistance/service dog forum I am a member of linked "The Spoon Theory" (pdf) by Christine Miserandino, someone who has lupus whose article has had a great deal of impact upon many people. I highly recommend you read it, not only is it a great analogy for anyone with a disability, but it gives you a very very accurate idea of what it is like to live a day in my life. A lot of people in disability circles have read the spoon theory these days, and you hear people refer to 'saving my spoons' etc. It hit me quite hard in that it was someone with lupus who had written it, but it also helped me to know that there was someone who day-to-day was going through *exactly* the same balancing act I was. So thank you Christine, wherever you are out there in the world. I am pretty poor with saving and balancing spoons still, I give into people - and myself - too easily, but more importantly, I think having an assistance dog around would give me an extra several spoons per day. As someone with a very limited spoon supply, that is something I very very much need!! So now I have mystified you completely with my talk of spoons - GO BACK AND READ IT! :D

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Official request to keep assistance dog prospect on rental property - in!

Pre pickup 1 week 5 days old

Well, as the title of this entry says, my request to keep this dog is in. Now it is up to the landlords, and in a small part, the property managers (who can influence the landlords as to what good tenants we are!). I am pretty confident, as I have said before.... but I am still nervous. I will be waiting with baited breath until we get an answer. There are options if we are refused, as the Disability Discrimination Act supports the right of people with a disability to have assistance dogs in rented accommodation... but I would much rather this be very simple. We have been here for nearly four years and I would say we have done well by them, so I think and hope everything will go ok. Cross your fingers for me though, just in case.

In the meantime, I have heard from the breeder who says since we were there only five days ago, the puppies have changed a lot - getting a lot more lively and exploring the world a lot more. I've asked her to introduce them to loud noises, strange movements and if she possibly can at all, children (as children can occasionally be a problem in public access with assistance dogs). Assistance dogs, and in fact all dogs, can also have a problem with men in general, as well as the children thing. So one of the very important socialisation goals in those first few weeks will be a good number of men and children. Apparently puppies react more favourably to girls than boys, and that even at that young age they seem to know that a boy will grow up to be a scary scary man. Odd that they can tell the difference!

Anyway, time to hold my breath and do some serious finger crossing!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More about meeting the puppies, pet insurance and food

Pre pickup 1 week 3 days old

So I have mostly recovered from our trip and the flood of medication the evil place pumped into me the day after we got back (they had to put the cannula into a vein virtually on TOP of my forefinger knuckle....owwwwies lots of nerves there!!). I managed to get out and see the last Harry Potter movie today, so sad in bits!

Anyway, time for more about the pups.

They were such sweet warm bundles, I do hope one of them passes the temperament tests with flying colours (or more than one!). As I mentioned last post, they had only just come out of the whelping box and were pretty unresponsive still, happy to sleep in the sun. One of them - the small one I mentioned - had a go at pawing at a ball a bit but other than that they mostly just slept as I watched them, entranced. The breeder tried to wake them by calling them a couple of times, which did at least work as a very rough hearing test, although I will do another at 7 weeks old. They did respond..... before sleeping again. Awwww, too cute.

One good thing I found out is they come with six weeks pet insurance, which is great. I was worried about getting the new pet insurance to start as soon as we got our bundle at eight weeks. However, six weeks is a great buffer to have, and will cover a lot of the early problems that may come up. It may also let me experience a pet insurer, although hopefully the pup - assuming it is going to happen and one passes well - doesn't get sick of course.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Pre pickup 1 week old

Well, the puppies exist! And boy are they cute!!! Boy being the operative word - we ended up seeing only the three boys, which was absolutely fine by me... more than fine, they were soooo gorgeous!!! The breeder was very friendly, and we got on well. She has a good idea of what I want, and knows now how serious this all is for me. We were the first prospective owners to go look at the puppies.

Anyway, I'll just post the photos we took and will make a longer entry later. They really were just gorgeous little things. That is me in all the photos holding the puppy. Click on the photos to get larger images.

This is one of the puppies (they are four weeks old) with their mum Connie. Notice how the puppy's ear is darker than the rest of its coat. A golden retrievers coat darkens after it leaves puppyhood and grows its other coat (it is born with only an undercoat), but while it's a puppy, the ear is meant to be a good indicator of its final adult colour.

All the boys asleep in a pen outside. They have only just left the whelping box apparently and are starting to explore the world but are mostly still just sleeping!

One of the pups with mum Connie saying hi.

A pup!


Looking cute.

Sleeping again.

Anyway, speaking of sleeping, time for me to sleep as I have my last treatment at hospital tomorrow and it has been a long two days driving up there and back. Still can't believe how warm and tiny they were though!! Very exciting.

I'll leave you with a photo I took very near where we spent the night at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It is of the rock formation they call the "Three Sisters". If you look at the big version and the base of the left most "sister" you can see some very tiny people crossing a bridge over to it. It gives you an idea of the scale, which is pretty massive.