Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another Good Read: A Walk in the Dark by Joyce Stranger

The main character is bitter over his loss of sight.
Okay... I never pick up a Reader's Digest Condensed Books volume unless I am really desparate for something to read. And so such a time arrived this past summer!

An extra working dog in the hills

A Walk in the Dark was written by Joyce Stranger who has written lots of stories with Border Collies in it, either as a main character or not. She has become an author that I really enjoy! This book is a story of a man who is by all means, a typical "Olde" Shepherd. this means that he has beliefs that only the old fashion shepherds from the UK or those taught by those shepherds have... such as Border Collies are only happy if they are herding... and other myths (or Olde Shepherd's Tales as I call them). Anyway, this man is in an accident that leaves him blind. He has a hard time adjusting to this new disability, but rehabs and finds he must trust in a dog other than a Border Collie (gasp) in order for him to get around and go back to the hills to his sheep and sheep dog. One thing I find kind of funny is how the book implies that one must be very firm and on the harsh side in order to get a Border Collie to do as he is asked, but when this approach is used on a Golden Retriever, the dog is nearly emotionally crushed by such treatment. Although I do sometimes have to be very firm and sometimes very loud when Rosie is running around off leash, I have a hard time imagining a Golden being more emotionally fragile than Rosie is. But Joyce Stranger is native to the UK herding country and the story wouldn't work without this quirk in it. It is a good book regardless.


This (above) illustration goes with the part of the story when after the guy was too harsh with the dog during the training, the dog becomes scared or doesn't want anything to do with him, but later in a touching turning point, she comes to him and shows him the power of forgiveness so that he can try again and not flunk the class. Like me, the guy seems like a typical Border Collie handler, displaying plenty of the Border Collie characteristics himself: Obstinance, stubborn, willful, but at the same time hardworking and intelligent. If I might stereotype for a moment... Typical Scotsman if you ask me. He is definitely a Border Collie person... I don't know what is so wrong with a Border Collie guide dog. Oh, that would ruin the whole story too, wouldn't it.

Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Volume 4, 1988

Illustrated by Ted Lewin

Illustrations courtesy of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., Smithtown, New York

Book Published by Michael Joseph Ltd., London

Copyright 1978 by Joyce Stranger Ltd.

Happy Reading!!

...And they lived happily Ever after!

"News Update on the Little Female Deaf Puppy"

Although I had success finding a home for "Lilly" the deaf Border Collie puppy, Lilly's brother Oscar was not quite so fortunate. Now named Oscar (Lilly's brother, named Oscar for reasons that will become clear by the end of this article) did not get out in time. Oscar, pictured in upper left corner when he was found and pictured again under a desk, doing MUCH BETTER! Oscar is one special pup!

I received an e-mail updating me on how "Lily" was doing (now nicknamed "Crash") about a week ago. Rosie's and my pals found Crash a home and had planned on picking Crash up from the breeder and shipping her out to her new home in Chicago after Thanksgiving. And so, as planned, the pup was picked up. Born 7/11/2006, Crash was five months old when she was picked up from the breeder. The photos accompanying this post were taken soon after picking her up from the breeder... and after she returned from spending a little time at the vets as well. When they picked her up, she weighed only 7 and 1/2 pounds, and as you can see, looks more like how big Rowena was at 8 weeks (but weighing less). When reading this, I was indeed shocked at the extent of the neglect of this little puppy. If I had decided and was able to adopt this little pup, I would not have been able to ship her by air until she was healthy enough to do so, which she was not. So our Dogster pals got her home from the vet and had her for a day before having to send her off to her new loving home. My e[mail said: "She was extremely sweet and loving, and full of puppy energy." They did fall in love with her quickly. Her new family also fell in love with her and Lily has been described by her new mom as being "the best puppy ever." Crash's best friend is her mini-Aussie sister, and Crash is now up to 17 pounds (in less than a month)... closer to her healthy weight. At the end of the e-mail my Dogster pal stated that because of my help, Crash was removed from a bad situation. I felt good until I got to the next sentence that stated that Crash's brother, Oscar was not as lucky.
Apparently, Crash's brother has epilepsy which is one of those health problems that CAN be common in Border Collies. "Someone" allegedly beat the puppy and threw him in a dumpster for dead. When ACO got to him, he had been buried in piles of trash and bottles and was indeed near death. He is now in Foster care and is doing much better. The ACO of Butte, Montana area is trying to find out (beyond a doubt) who did this to this little pup. I have called the ACO over in the Butte area myself and they are very motivated to find out who did this to him and to prosecute.
I will keep my blog informed on this case as it is close to my heart.
These 2 pups are my special Christmas miracles!

If you would like to read more about Oscar, click on the links below:
Thank you Dogster family of Avi for helping to rescue this little puppy for me! I am so happy and grateful! Through this rescue of Crash, we will get justice for poor Oscar!

Pictures of Oscar are from the Chelsea, Bailey, Butte-Silver Bow Animal Shelter in Butte, Montana.

If you would like to view Rowena's page (lots of pictures that change regularly) and check out Dogster for yourself, click on this link:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rowena Plans to Relocate!

What is considered now to be "Daddy's apartment" will soon be Rosie's and my new home as well. It is a small apartment above a double car garage in a wooded, rather secluded area of southern Maine, near the coast. It is surrounded by marshland and is on an "island". There are trails around the property along the marsh and will provide a contrast in living for both Rosie and myself. So far we have only spent a night there and I have taken no outdoor photos as of yet. Rosie has made fast friends with the 2 young children downstairs, and met a Shepherd/Husky looking mix from up the hill. She will have to learn the boundaries as right now she travels as far as she wants which isn't good because there is a road up the hill through some woods. We are closer to busy roads here, but they are well lit and in plain, open view. The view is obstructed by trees at the new place, so I am a bit wary. Also the lighting around the house is rather poor so she may need to be leashed when out at night. Right now however, I am staying put in a rather disasterous looking apartment that still retains about 99% of its original items. My husband stays down in the new place as he has begun a new job and cannot make a 2 hour commute after 12 hour shifts. He is a chef at a very nice restaurant in that area. Preparations have been made for our 2 felines to join us in this move, but the rats must all find new homes before I take off. I will help them with that of course. Rosie has done well in her service dog classes, has finished not only her beginner's classes, but basic and advanced obedience... is task trained and knows how to behave in public. I am very proud of my girl and hope that she can tolerate a more secluded lifestyle. We will have to travel by car to all of my appointments, and I will not be able to run any errands on my own as I do not have a license. It will be very hard for me and I hope she is ready for all this because I am not.

Home Wanted for a Deaf, Female White Border Collie Puppy:

Hi everyone... normally I wouldn't do this, but recently I had been looking into getting a new Border Collie puppy as it looked as if my living situation might change to allow that addition. However, though my living situation changed, it didn't change to allow me to get a puppy yet.
One of the pups I checked into was this little white charmer pictured above. I unofficially called her Lily. Lily was born about 5 months ago from a litter of pups of mostly white parents. Lily, however is deaf. The breeder breeds Border Collies in Butte, Montana... called Tanimara Border Collies. The breeder is selling the pups... all but Lily who is purchasable for free... not including any shipping costs (usually runs about $250 or so). You will have to set up shipping on your end should you choose to purchase Lily. Lily has been raised under foot in the breeder's home, is not potty trained, but is kennel trained. I doubt she has a name or that she has had any type of training... obedience or otherwise.
Deaf dogs are very trainable, they only need to be trained a different way. A person must train a deaf dog by using hand signs and by touch and body language. I believe training Lily would be a very rewarding experience and I am sorry I will miss it. She should learn fast and should be eager to win your approval. She will be a greatful and loving addition to any family who is ready to take on this little white extra challenge. There are very helpful websites that with guide you in the decision of getting Lily and support you once you have her. has groups of dogs who are deaf and/or deaf and blind. They are sweet, smart and loving dogs... just a little more special!
Please do not rush into the decision of purchasing Lily. Make sure you understand some of the needs of Border Collies, and that you understand the special needs Lily will have.
Should you be interested, send me an e-mail at and I will send you the info for you to contact the breeder. You will find this breeder's other pups on

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Northeast United States Sheepdog Trials and Rowena's 2nd Birthday

The Blue Hill Fair in Blue Hill, Maine USA was held this long Labor Day weekend and the highlight (at least for us) was this year's Sheepdog trials. This year, the fair celebrated 50 years of holding the trials. It was wonderful to be able to take part and watch the dogs do their stuff! Of course I absolutely LOVE Border Collies, and I have a dream of owning a few sheep of my own someday like my grandmother had. I watched the trials today and I would really love to be able to learn how to do that with my dog. Maybe not Rosie, but a future dog.
Sure I got a brief "Old Shepherd's" lecture when I mentioned that I had wanted a blue merle border collie when I found Rowena. The shepherd said that a person shouldn't breed for color, but for it's working ability. And I wonder why one could not breed for both. And then I think how I needed a dog to do a different kind of work for me... not to herd sheep... and I wonder if I could have handled a dog more seriously bred for herding ability. Some shepherds believe that the color of a dog's fur, their eyes or even whether their ears stand erect or not do make a difference in their ability to herd and control sheep. I think it matters more to the human than the sheep personally. The truth is, when I found Rowena, I was actually very happy to be getting a traditional black and white patterned border collie puppy. Her 2 brothers had patterns that were a bit different than typical, but Rosie's glowing and outgoing personality was a major plus as well. That being said, Today we also celebrated Rowena's second birthday! To think after year one I was praising God up above that she made it through pretty much in one piece. Year two went smoothly compared to the first year. The Veterinarian is a little less familiar with Rowena this year though she still knows her well enough to understand what is going on with her when I do need to call. Year two has been full of training and new experiences and further proof that my dog is awesome indeed!!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rowena's Achievements: A "Dog Show" Photos by Sally Bates, Business & Economic Development Officer

*Please click on the above photos to get a larger view*

With the Dog Days of Summer hitting Bangor for a second year, this year's festivities brought the usual sales to downtown stores and free drinking water for all the dogs. The Dog Days celebration also brought more booths from area business owners advertising their services for dog training, dog rescues and dog supplies just to name a few. Lumiere's Photography offered to take a photo of individuals with their dog for $10 and I jumped at the opportunity to have a pro take our picture (black & white!)... we bought 2 copies. There was a more organized formation of events this year made visible and more dogs abounded (while leashed of course). What attracted me to attend the event this year is the Doggy Fashion Show. Even though I was not home to prepare as I would like to have and couldn't find Rosie's costume, I stayed up very late the night before sewing a new sheep costume for my dear Rowena to wear. She would not be alone in her suffering either. In turn for her sheepdog humility, I would sport a kilt with Irish knit sweater and a genuine shepherd's crook (my grandmother had used for her few sheep), and my knee high Wellington-style boots. I would also finish off by wearing a wool cap a top my head and the 2 of us would equal in head to toe coverage. So the day came bright and sunny and quite warm I must add. I was torn between my training consultant's booth and the catwalk, but I wasn't too late getting up there to walk my little Rosie lamb on a rope. At the end, I missed some of the other dogs because some individuals took our pic and then I wanted to get Rosie (and myself) out of those hot clothes as soon as possible! We aren't in the cool highlands anymore Ro-Ro! My camera was broken and so was my consultant's. Fortunately, Sally Bates who was one of the judges got some photos and sent them to me so that I could share them with the rest of you and keep as a momento for myself for years to come!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Adaptive Equipment"

One of the downfalls of having a psychiatric disability and training my own service dog is that I don't always have the emotional energy to deal with the stress and anxiety of having a "high profile" dog at my side all the time. The demands on me to train Rowena to be the "perfect" owner-trained service dog can be overwhelming. These are not necessarily demands I put upon my self either. These are demands put upon me by every critical public eye... Every eye that looks at me with my vested asstistant and wonder why the heck "I" need a service dog. Even those who automatically think I am simply raising her for someone else's benefit are jumping to conclusions that I don't appear to be disabled. (If only they knew that inside I was wishing I had a xanax and a paper bag.) People get nosy and want to know what my disability is. People get nosey and want to know what I am training Rosie to do for me or what she already does for me. I mean, she is task trained. We are simply smoothing out the rough-coated edges a bit... waiting for maturity to complete. They can ask the latter question... but I don't know if I "have" to answer it fully. Do I need to verbally tell them atleast three of the tasks that she does for me when they ask or can I be vague? If I tell them what tasks she performs, I may as well tell them what my disability is too.

Then there is the person who feels that they can walk right up to Rosie and pet her because if she is wearing a vest then she has to be friendly. For some reason the big yellow stop sign patch on the top of her bright red vest that says "Service Dog- Do not Disturb" is not very obvious... Or the employees at businesses who see her come in covered with IDs and patches announcing her as a service dog who still need to clarify this fact by asking: "is that a service dog?" Then there was the incident when I was being chased down the corridor of a hotel where my father was staying just so a late arriving employee could be sure that she was a service dog when I believe the front desk had already taken note of her as we came in. Sometimes I do get snappy: "She is a Service dog."

"What kind...?"

"It doesn't matter what kind... she's a service dog."

My husband doesn't understand the whole service-dog-in-public game enough yet to stand up for me. He still thinks we have to call hotels that WE will be staying at ahead of time to see if they accept dogs.

I am weary of the anxiety I have when my dog displays her imperfections while in public. If she startles and swings around or freezes while in public I just keep thinking how people might judge this scenario. I mean, this has to look "unprofessional". Then I wonder if this service dog thing is really the best thing to have for someone who has any kind of social phobia. Then when a training consultant gives a lecture in class about legistlation and how people want to take my rights away (for training my own service dog or maybe even having one at all), I can't help but feel a build of anxiety in my chest. I just want to grab my dog and run away screaming.

Something new to me this year is something called liability insurance to cover my dog when she is in public. I had never heard of this before I began consulting this trainer. However, I must purchase this insurance before I can do public access work with the class. I guess normally people just include this in their home insurance or renter's insurance, but my husband and I had none such creature and I did not know how to go about getting some. Social-phobe that I am, I couldn't stand the possibility of having to CALL around to find out what was out there. It sounds like something a caseworker would do, but that is a different story all together. To think someone would accuse my dog of something horrible (when in fact she hadn't) scared me. To remind myself how sue-happy our society has gotten added to this extra stressor.

Then there is the internet owner-trained service dog support groups... some individuals actually think that if our dogs are not absolutely perfect in every aspect then it is a reflection of our setting low standards for our dogs. Here is a sample list: A service dog must not... sniff anything, lick himself, itch himself, get sick in public, lick anything, eat in public, must only drink water descreetly, must not fear anything, must NEVER "scavenge", eat food unless given permission by handler, drink out of puddles, urinate with the vest on, Poo with the vest on, not ever beg, jump up, sniff another dog, respond to anyone or anything other than the handler, ever get excited...

I think you get the hang of it. It is like if my dog even makes the slightest error (or something that says "never" by it from the list above) then she should be flunked... or I am not training her properly or then my dog is less than because she did one of the horrible acts listed above (some of which are outright laughable to begin with).

I take in all of this tumultuous information and have to remind myself and others in the groups that although service dogs are considered "adaptive equipment" for someone with a disability, they are not machines. We humans are not machines either. What does this mean?? It means that dogs cannot be perfect and should never be considered faultless or bombproof. How can I tell if my dog will be sick that day and puke out in a public setting... like (eww) in a restaurant. Did I fail if she did? Hell no. Even when Rosie is completely trained, I can never gaurantee that she will always do as she is asked or taught. What if even when I though Rosie was bombproof on never eating things off the floor she did anyway while at a restaurant or something? Is it because I set low standards for her? NOOOO! She is a dog... NOT a machine. She has her own brain and can make her own decisions: right or wrong just as we can. We humans are raised and even if we had the best parents who set reasonable standards, we are taught what is right and what is wrong. However, even with the best parents, we can choose to do the wrong things or heaven forbid, make a mistake. This does not necessarily mean that our parents were failures. We are all imperfect living beings on this planet called Earth. God does not expect perfection from us... he only expects us to work towards perfection to the best of our own individual ability. My fear is this: God knows that our dogs may make mistakes or have accidents, but does the public take this into consideration when a service dog does show a glimmer of imperfection? I have to keep telling myself that I am not perfect and so that I could not expect Rowena to be perfect either because one can never fully control the actions of another living being no matter how hard one tried to.

All in all, I seem to keep coming up with the same conclusion... For what Rowena has done for me over the past (almost) 2 years, I have to say that having her for my service dog has been a great thing. I believe she has done more for me than any paid professional has in a long time. And so I continue to take my anti-anxiety meds to help me through training and dealing with public.

There is a quote by someone famous, says something like: "The more people I meet, the more I love my dog."

Deep Breath.
(By the way, people asking what my disability is are asking something that is private medical information. Basically I don't have to tell anyone. One person said that when asked that question by a man, she answered with "How's your prostate?" WHAM!)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Summertime Fun With Rowena


A Clipping of my letter in
The Bangor Daily News, 6/21/2006
(Click to enlarge picture to read article)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Latest ROWENA Photos"

It was a warm and rainy night and Rowena was bored. It had been raining for what seemed days and days. Cabin fever was setting in. So, late that night, I took Rowena and her lighted frisbee and we played a wet and muddy game of frisbee fetch. I took a bunch of pictures of her and we had a whole lot of fun!

Many days of rain has left the city forest overgrown and under water. The vernal pools overstayed their welcome, but not for the dogs! Here Rowena gallops through the swampy vernal pool that extended over its usual shores. She and her two K9 friends played tag that day.

Once in a while, I like a nice posed picture of Rowena. I choose a nice setting, hold up the frisbee in the direction I want her to look in and then I snap the pictures. She is a regular K9 beauty queen!

Rowena runs full throttle through the field during a romp with her two k9 buddies. This action shot is one of my favorite photos this spring.

Not just Rowena, but even Chloe came when I called! This rare moment was captured on film! Now they want their treats.

Announcing the Long- Awaited 2006 PSD Calendar...

Here is the Front Cover of the calendar.

Calendar Dogs: "Mr. January"

A smiling face starts off the calendar with "McGreggor". If you would like to see a larger view of McGreggor's page, left click on his picture. Then right click if you want to save his page to computer or print his page off.
I want to thank McGreggor's handler for sharing his photos and information with me to make this calendar possible. McGreggor and Rowena have something in common! They are both Border Collies!

Calendar Dogs: "Miss February"

Our Valentine sweetheart is Comet. If you want to see a larger view of Comet's page, left click on her picture. To save or print Comet's page, right click and choose the appropriate option.
I would like to thank Comet's handler for sending me Comet's photos and information to me so I could do this project.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Calendar Dogs: "Miss March"

This is Paxil. If you want to see a larger view of Paxil's page, left click on his picture. If you want to save her page to your computer or print her page off, right click and choose the appropriate option.
I would like to thank Paxil's handler for sharing her photos and information with me. She is a great dog!

Calendar dogs: In Memory of "Miss April"

Sadly, after creating this calendar, Becca (shown above in her vest) passed away. She is dearly missed by her beloved handler. However, Jenna follows in her Becca's pawprints as she learns how to be a service dog. I think Jenna is about a year old now.
Please left click on Becca's page to view it in a larger size. Right click if you want to save this page to your computer or if you would like to print Becca's page out.
I want to thank Becca's & Jenna's handler for contributing a photo in information for Becca to help me create this calendar.
I am glad that Rowena and I got a chance to meet Becca before she died. We will miss her too.

Calendar Dogs: "Miss May"

Say "hello" to Dodger! Again if you wish to view Dodger's page in a larger size, left click on her picture. If you wish to save a copy of her page to your computer, or print a copy of Dodger's page, right click and choose the correct option from the list that pops up.
Thank you to Dodger's handler for donating Dodger's photos and information to this calendar project.

Calendar Dogs: "Mr. June"

this handsome guy is Choya. If you wish to see a larger size of Choya's page, left click on his picture. If you want to print out a copy or save to your computer to resize later, Right click and choose the option that fits the action you wish to do.
I'd like to thank Choya's handler for contributing Choya's photos and information to this calendar project. It was an honor to have him represent the month I was born!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Calendar Dogs: "Miss July"

This little girl is "Cheyenne". If you wish to see a larger view of Cheyenne's page, left click on this picture. Right click if you wish to make a copy or save one to your computer.
I want to thank Cheyenne's handler for sending me her photos and information for me to use her in my calendar.

Calendar Dogs: "Mr. August"

This cute little guy is "Charlie". If you would like to save Charlie's page to your computer, right click the photo and select the 'save' option. If you would like to view a larger picture of Charlie's page, left click on his picture. If you right click, you can select the "print" option to print off a copy.

Thank you to Charlie's handler for sending me his photos and information! With out Charlie, there would not be an August this year!

Calendar Dogs: "Miss September"

Anyone reading this blog ought to know by now who this beautiful Border Collie is! It's MY baby, Rowena!

Right click on this photo if you would like to save it to your computer or print this off now. I recommend saving it first so you can resize it before printing.

Calendar Dogs: "Miss October"

This is "Desiree". If you want to see a larger view of Desiree, click on the picture and it will open up in a new location on the screen. If you want to print or save, right click on the picture and click on the appropriate choice on the list that pops up.
Thank you to Desiree's handler for lending her photos and information to me to make this calendar project possible.