Posts Tagged 'assistance dogs'

It’s Carnival Time! #ADBC and PFAM

Martha at Believe in Who You Are is the host of the October edition of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Even though she is between dogs right now, she has taken up the challenge and come up with a great theme: Moments. Please visit her Call for Entries for topic ideas, guidelines, the deadline, etc. Thank you, Martha!

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

Is this the Moment for you to get involved?

Lately it has struck me how many people follow assistance dog blogs (mine or others) who are not assistance dog partners. I know a lot of wonderful dog trainers and lovers of dogs who follow After Gadget here or on Facebook. When I learned of the topic for the next ADBC, I thought, “Anyone can write on this!” I mean, I know some of you who train assistance dogs or who train pet dogs but read about service dogs on lists or blogs or Facebook must have moments you want to share — don’t you? Moments where you read something about assistance dogs or training that made you stop and think? Moments where you read an idea relating to a service dog issue and you realized it could apply to your pet dog or you? Moments that moved, inspired, or irked you?

Why not join the carnival? Come on over, the moment’s right!

And speaking of getting more people involved in the ADBC, I’ve decided to introduce the hashtag #ADBC on Twitter so that people who are tweeting about the Carnival can more easily spread the word. So please, if you write a post for the ADBC or you read a post about it you like, retweet and add the hashtag #ADBC. I am very fond of everyone who participates regularly (or sporadically) and always look forward to their take on the new topic. At the same time, I think it would be fun to expand our family and get new people reading and posting every quarter. Thank you for your help! (By the way, my handle is @aftergadget.)

Green and white rectangular badge. On top, "Patients" is written in all capital letters, in Times New Roman font in white on a kelly-green background. Below, on a white background, "for a moment" is written in green, slanted up from lower left to upper right, in a more casual, slightly scrawled font.

Meanwhile, another blog carnival is taking place now. The monthly Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival is being hosted today by Selena of Oh My Aches & Pains! She has done an amazing job of putting together a really big and fantastic(ally frightening!) carnival of The Fright Files: Stories of Medical Mistakes. Don’t miss it!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Mr. Barnum, SD/SDiT


What Kind of Dog Is That? Reactions to a Bouvier Service Dog

This post is for the third Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC), which is now up!

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

The Third Carnival Is Up!

There were so many tempting topics to write about for the third ADBC, the theme for which is “Reactions.” Some options were my MCS reactions and how they affect SD training and partnership, my current SDiT’s or past SDs’ reactions to various events in life, other people’s reactions to encountering a disabled trainer, etc.

However, I decided to write something fun: Public reactions to a little-known breed of service dog.

Warning: My SDs are not golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, standard poodles, mixes of any of the above, or German shepherd dogs! Yes, it’s shocking but true!

This topic is a goldmine of hilarity. Oh, the stories! The outrageous guesses! It does a former humor columnist’s heart good to remember and compile them.

Let’s start with the standard question:

“What kind of dog is that?”

If I had a dollar for each time I’d been asked that, I could probably buy a new dog!

In fact, after a few months of public access work with Jersey, my first bouvier des Flandres service dog, I created a little pamphlet that I kept in her pack, which I handed out to the curious general public.

The title of the pamphlet was, “What Kind of Dog Is That?”

It gave a brief overview: That bouviers were developed as a herding and general farm-work dog in the region that is now The Netherlands and Belgium. They herded cattle (their name is French for “cattle herder of Flanders”), herded sheep, pulled carts, drove livestock into town, and protected the humans and animals on the farm from intruders.

It mentions that they are hypoallergenic, with hair instead of fur — hair that grows until you cut it, and mats easily, and requires a lot of upkeep. It also says that they are not the right dog for most people, and as a result, they are not a popular breed in the U.S. (which is good, in my opinion).

I include some basic service dog information, such as that I trained the dog myself, and that I prefer that people not pet or otherwise distract my dog. I also say that I need to get my errands done as quickly as possible to preserve my health and functioning, so I prefer not to have to field a lot of questions.

I encourage them to learn more about assistance dogs by visiting the IAADP website.

When Jersey retired, and Gadget started working, I revised the pamphlet, changing the references from “Jersey” to “Gadget” and the “she”s to “he”s. When Barnum is trained, I’ll update the pamphlet again, although I’ve now developed  a policy of not telling people Barnum’s name (a story for another time).

Usually, when people ask, “What kind of dog is that?” the conversation proceeds as follows:

Me: A bouvier.

Person: A what?

Me: (Enunciating very clearly)  A boo-vee-ay. The full name is bouvier des Flandres. It means “cow-herding dog of Belgium.”

Person: Huh, I’ve never heard of that. A what-was-it, did you say?

Me: Bouvier.

Person: I’ve never heard of them.

Me: They’re not very popular in the U.S. They can be difficult. Some of them can be aggressive if not trained properly.

Person: (Looking disappointed and wary) Oh. Well, he’s beautiful!

Me: Thank you!

Then there are the “Guessers.” These are the people who want to play twenty questions about what type of dog Barnum is.

This starts with the stranger approaching and saying, “Excuse me, is that a [breed]?”

The most common guess is a Labradoodle. Now that I have met doodles, I see why this is such a popular guess. We met a black Labradoodle last summer who could have been Barnum’s twin.

In all fairness to the people who are way off, I give my dogs terrible haircuts. They don’t look at all like the bouviers people see on TV in the big conformation competitions, like Westminster. If I’m really trying hard to give a haircut that looks in any way fashionable, it usually comes out like a giant schnauzer cut or some sort of mutant terrier. Which is why. . . .

Other frequent guesses are giant schnauzers (which is pretty close, appearance-wise), briards (again, a good guess, a lot of similar characteristics), standard poodles (it’s the coat),  various terriers, including a wire-fox terrier (I think it’s the coat) and wheaten terriers (which are about a third the size of a bouv, so again, it’s the coat), Kerry blue terriers (again, yes, if the Kerry blue was on steroids and black or gray), a pointer or Weimaraner (when Gadget’s coat was shaved for the summer), Newfoundlands (size problem in reverse), and in more recent years, thanks to President Obama, Portuguese water dogs (which is close in many ways, except the size) and sometimes, remarkably . . .

Someone will say, “Hey, is that a bouvier?”

I say, “Yes!” And give them a big smile. I might even chat with them a couple of minutes and congratulate them on their discerning eye. Usually they have had a bouvier of their own or have a family member with one, which is why they recognized the breed. (Bouviers are much less common in the Northeast than in the Midwest and California.)

Among the Guessers, there are also the people who question my knowledge of the breed of my dog. Particularly when the doodles trend  had just begun, and people were asking me, “Is that one of those mixes between a poodle and a Lab?” and I’d say, “No,” they wouldn’t leave it at that.

“Are you sure?” They’d say. “Because it really looks like a Lab-poodle or [fill-in-the-blank other doodle breed].”

“Mm,” I’d say, and move on.

Most often, “Challengers,” want to suggest that really my bouvier is a mixed breed, and I just don’t know it:

Person: What kind of dog is that?

Me: He’s a bouvier des Flandres.

Person: Hm, well to me he looks like a mix of a [breed] and [another breed].

Me: Well, he’s a bouvier.

Person: Did you get him from a breeder?

Me: (In the case of Jersey and Gadget) I got her/him from bouvier rescue.

Person: I’ve never heard of a bouvier.

Me: Uh-huh.

Barnum, in particular, stumps people because his coat is so very curly that, even though he resembles them in no other way, poodles are the most common guess.

A recent interchange:

Man: Is that a poodle?

Me: He’s a bouvier des Flandres.

Man: Is that some sort of poodle?

Me: No.

At least all of the breed Guessers are guessing the right species. They earn cookies for that.

There is a whole subsection of people who have not realized that my dogs are, in fact, dogs.

Jersey, bless her heart, was pegged as a non-dog more often than Gadget or Barnum have been. I attribute this to four factors:

  1. Her cropped ears and docked tail. While I am not in favor of cropping and docking, when I first was trying to adopt a bouvier, it was very hard to find a bouvier raised in the US who had natural ears. That is becoming more the norm, but it’s still really rare to find a breeder who doesn’t dock the tails. The lack of doggy ears and tails contribute to the already bear-like appearance of many bouvs.
  2. Her movement. Jersey tended to shamble along, with lowered head, which, again, leant a certain ursine quality to her appearance. This gait is a bouv trait, but Jersey was particularly prone to it.
  3. Her lack of movement. Jersey was an accomplished power-napper. (Another bouv trait.) When she was in a down-stay, she went into all-out “holding-down-the-floor” mode.
  4. As with all my bouvs, I let her hair grow in the winter. This makes them look very shaggy and about twice their actual size. This means that . . .

Bouviers get mistaken for bears a lot.

I know it’s not just me, because I have met a number of people online whose bouvs are named Bear or Teddy or something along those lines.

Also, when I joined the bouvier group on Dogster, the first discussion topic bore the title, “Is that a bear?! Non, c’est un bouvier des Flandres!”

Since I live in an area where black bear sightings are not uncommon, it is both more and less understandable that people would think bouvs are bears. More understandable, because people know there are bears around, so there is more “bear awareness.” Less understandable because, when you actually are used to seeing bears (I had a recurring problem with bears invading my porch and compost bin at my previous home), you see that there are many important distinguishing features between the species, particularly size. A black bear weighs hundreds of pounds, whereas a bouv usually tops out at 100 pounds or so. All of mine have been 75 pounds or less.

The first time I experienced “the bear phenomenon” was when my roommate and I were walking down the main street of Northampton to go to Gay Pride. I was wearing skimpy, slutty black clothes because it was Pride, and that was my tradition (striking a blow against disability stereotypes and feeding my exhibitionist streak at the same time. [I was younger and cuter then; I could carry it off.])

Anyway, a carload of guys, probably college students, went by, and we heard yelling and calling, and Laurel  and I rolled our eyes  at each other, thinking it was just the usual harassment. But then, we heard what one of them actually yelled, which was, “Oh my god! Those people have a BEAR on a LEASH!”

Gotta love living in the five-colleges area. Higher education at work (probably combined with several beers.)

Another time, I was at the grocery store, at one end of the frozen food section. A small child was with her mom near the other end, moving toward us. The little girl kept saying, “Mom, is that a bear or a dog? Is that a bear or a dog?”

The mom was not answering. I’m not sure if she was busy or distracted or embarrassed that her child was pointing out the existence of the disabled woman, probably a combination.

Finally, the mother, exasperated, said, “What do you think it is?”

The little girl contemplated Jersey and me for a bit and then said, “I think it’s a bear.”

Then, there are the times it happens in reverse — to those of us with bouv-on-the-brain. One night, driving home late, Betsy was very tired. In the street ahead she saw a shape, and her first thought was,”Why is there a bouvier in the road?”

Of course, when she got closer, she realized it was a bear.

But it’s not just bears. . . .

Another fun story of a young child still “learning their animals” occurred at the same grocery store as the little girl who thought Jersey was a bear. In this case, I had Gadget with me.

I was in the produce area, which is big and hectic and teeming. I usually try to get out of there as fast as possible, because the store tends to put displays of fruit on little rickety tables at the ends of aisles, which are easy to knock into.

So, Gadget and I were making our way along when I saw a very familiar scene begin to unfold. A little boy, maybe about five years old, was shopping with his two moms. He saw me and started bouncing excitedly, pointing and jabbering to his moms.

One of them said, “Okay, but you have to ask first.”

I was all prepared with my little speech I give to children about how this is a working dog who needs to be able to focus on helping me, and that, therefore, while I appreciate very much that he was asking first — and that it’s always important to ask before you pet any dog — I was sorry but he couldn’t pet my dog.

That’s not what happened.

The boy rushed over to me, and said very sweetly and earnestly, “Can I pet your cat?”

I was so surprised that I just said, “Sure.”

Given that he lives in Northampton and has lesbian parents, I cut him some slack that he thought my animal companion must be a cat. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, think of all the lesbians you know, and tally the number that have cats.  If some don’t, there is likely a cat allergy involved.)

I’ll end with one last Jersey story.

A friend and I were at my town’s Fall Festival, where people from the town, as well as people from the surrounding area and a lot of tourists, come to eat maple sugar products, buy or sell crafts, and watch or participate in Pumpkin Games, such as relay races where little kids try to carry as many pumpkins as possible over a finish line.

My friend and I had just bought lunch and were sitting on the porch of the country store. Jersey, wearing her green pack, lay on the deck beside me.

A man walked by, nodded and smiled at us, glanced at Jersey, then, after taking another couple of steps, did a double-take and screeched to a stop.

“Oh my god!” He said. “I thought that was a stuffed animal, and then I saw it move!”

We all had a chuckle, and I told him that Jersey was, indeed, doing her rock impression. To his credit, the man had thought Jersey was a toy dog, as opposed to a massive teddy bear.

Of course he followed up with,”What kind of dog is that?”

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I was gray, so nobody thought I was a bear), the spirit of Jersey (Call me anything, just don’t call me late for dinner), and Barnum, SDiT and non-poodle

P.S. Remember to go to The Trouble Is… to read the other great ADBC posts!

For information on future carnivals, visit the ADBC page here.

Barnum Officially Proclaimed Awesome

It’s official. Not only do I think Barnum is awesome, but so do Carin and Trixie at VomitComet and Brooke and Cessna at Ruled by Paws!

Awesome Blog Award

It's official. We're awesome.

[Image description: Square with black edges and a pale gray-striped interior. In the upper left, inside a hot pink rectangle, it says, “This blog has been given a…” Below that, on the regular background, it says, “Awesome Blog Award!” There is a horizontal straight-line ribbon graphic with the words “AWESOME” repeated over and over as form of wallpaper, with a black seal-of-approval on the lower right, inside which it says in hot-pink and white letters, “Nominated for being so damn Awesome.“]

It’s nice to get some recognition from your peers, isn’t it? Especially all the fabulous things that Carin said about After Gadget.

Barnum is already told on an almost hourly basis how wonderful he is by anyone in his presence, so I don’t think he thinks this is anything new. I, on the other hand, have been having a rough time, emotionally, lately, and will take all the ego-boosting I can!

To read who else is awesome and get some inside dirt on Trixie and Cessna, visit VomitComit’s Somebody Else Thinks We’re Awesome post and Ruled by Paws’ Awesome Blog Award post.

To accept this award, we have to reveal seven unknown fascinating tidbits about ourselves, and we have to choose 15 other blogs upon whom to bestow the honor.

I’m going to write the seven revelations about me, because you probably already know almost all there is to know about Barnum!

Sharon’s Secrets, Revealed!

1. I love to dance. Before I became disabled, I learned swing and ballroom, a little bit of modern, and whatever else I could. As a kid I took jazz and tap. I sucked at jazz and didn’t like it. I really liked tap, but none of the other girls did, and I had no self-esteem, so I didn’t pursue it because it wasn’t cool. Sigh. Once I was old enough (actually, thanks to a fake ID, well before I was old enough), I went out clubbing as often as I could. I even did some go-go dancing. After I got sick, I occasionally tried to do some wheelchair dancing for special events. Of all the things I miss about being able to move my body however I want, I miss dancing the most.

2. I was the graduation speaker for my class at my commencement at Tufts University. I won this honor by being awarded the Wendell Phillips Award, which is given to one student every year at both Tufts and Harvard University who display oratory skill and community leadership. The award is named after the abolitionist preacher. The president of the university tried to find a way to prevent me from speaking, because he was afraid of my scary radical militant lesbian ways. [Eye roll.] The irony is that, because he tried to silence me, I revealed his dirty deed in my remarks. I played Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” on a boom box at the end of the speech and got a standing ovation.

3. I have paradoxical reactions to many medications, including antihistamines and tranquilizers, such as Sudafed or Valium. Instead of making me sleepy, they make me shaky, anxious, sweaty, and wiiiiiiide awake.

4. I used to have a pet snake named Falstaff. She was a garter snake. She liked to curl up in my hair on the top of my head. She ate live goldfish for her meals. I discovered she hunted by smell when she twice bit my thumb after I’d poured the goldfish into her bowl. After that, I always washed my hands after touching the goldfish, and she never bit me again.

5. I am a total Harry Potter fanatic. When I am going through a hard time, I listen to the entire set of CDs over and over. I have most of the books memorized by now. I wish I didn’t feel so compelled to watch the movies, because they have messed up my previously well-established imaginings about exactly what each character looks and sounds like.

6. Some day, when I am well enough, I would like to foster and train hypoallergenic rescues as assistance dogs for other PWDs who have dog allergies and don’t have the fanatacism interest or ability to train their own assistance dogs. Or, even better, I’d like to work with people to train their dogs, themselves.

7. I  have several books in my head or on my computer that I hope to polish and publish eventually. They range from poetry for children, to a compilation of my Sick Humor essays, to an anthology of disability erotica, and more. I have ideas for three dog-related books, too.

I’m supposed to list fifteen other blogs I think are awesome. I’ve decided to include some non-blogs, as well, mostly youtube channels, because 15 is a lot, and I already passed on the One Lovely Blog Award to a bunch of blogs, previously.

I’m focusing my list on blogs and sites that are either new to me (and may have nothing to do with disability, dogs, or training) and/or blogs that are related to the themes of After Gadget. These are in no particular order.

1. Adoption Paradox. This is one of the blogs I stumbled across when dealing recently with “the unpleasantness,” and then I just happened to get sucked into it. Why? It’s extremely well-written and compelling, and if you are new to the issues adoptees face, and the social-justice implications of adoption, it will be an education.

2. Through a Guide’s Eyes. This is a relatively new blog by my long-time friend, Karyn. Karyn was my mentor when I started training Jersey, and over the years, we have both experienced great changes in our disabilities and lives (and have gone through the process of loss and training of successor dogs). Karyn’s posts are impressively frequent and packed with information. Almost everyone can learn something from Karyn’s perspective, as she is in the unique role being a handler/trainer of combo dogs who act as guide, hearing, and service dogs.

3. this ain’t livin’. This is the personal blog of writer s.e. smith (aka Meloukhia), one of the founders of my favorite blog ever, FWD/Forward. Meloukhia posts at least daily, on subjects ranging from pop culture (especially Glee!), class, feminism, book reviews, disability, food, and uh, lots of interesting stuff. It sort of  defies definition. If you don’t want to think, don’t read this blog, cuz you might be forced to think.

4. Remembering Niko. One of the loveliest people I met online due to Gadget’s lymphoma diagnosis is Bettina, who lost her (pet) dog Niko to canine lymphoma. Her site has terrific resources, support, and information on pet loss, including pages on anticipatory grief, what to expect from euthanasia, and common symptoms and signs of grief. I’m still working on my grief support pages, but if you are grieving a dog (or other animal), you will find much you can relate to at Remembering Niko. Reading the story of Bettina and Niko’s life together is also quite remarkable and touching.

5. & 6. BZ Training. This delightful blog is well-written, humorous, and has great photos. Kathleen is another Training Levels fanatic, so she writes a lot about the Levels, but even if you’re not interested in clicker training, golden retrievers, or dog photography, her writing is natural and compelling. She gets two slots, because her clicker videos, username, BZFischer, are outstanding! If you want to learn how to shape a training enthusiast, check out her youtubes. Yes, I am jealous of her. She’s so damn good.

7. & 8. Here’s another woman who’s so talented, she earns two slots. Her awesome blog, Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs has been on my blogroll since the beginning. VIAD teaches people with disabilities to train their own assistance dogs. It is an informational/instructional blog. Even better than the blog are Donna’s videos; find her on youtube as supernaturalbc2008. They are captioned, and some also have voice narration. She breaks things down into easy-to-understand steps and concepts. Some of the best clicker videos ever made are her “9 Habits of Highly Effective Clicker Trainers” series. She covers foundation behaviors, mobility assistance, hearing alert, diabetes alert, and more. (Again, totally jealous.)

9. The Angry Black Woman. This is actually a blog with three contributors (but don’t worry, they all identify as angry, black, and women), but I like ABW’s posts best. The blog’s subtitle is “Race, Politics, Gender, Sexuality, Anger,” and it does contain all of that, as well as a lot on speculative fiction (SF/F), writers/writing, and dealing with People Who Don’t Get It in a refreshingly straightforward, enjoyably angry manner. I came across ABW when I was looking for links I could put up for some commenters here who Didn’t Get It, and I felt all my knotted-up muscles relax when I started reading ABW, especially The BINGO Project and its comments.

10. Marge and her Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Terrific videos of the happiest-looking dogs you’ll ever see. Oh, and thy just happen to be rescues with awful pasts. Oh, and they just happen to be doing fabulous, often funny skills, like “Ridgeback Cleaning Service,” or holding a raw egg in their mouths, or sitting on their person’s head (on cue).

11. Eileen is another clicker trainer who has a lot to teach humans. She’s been very generous with her advice to me and posts here. Helpful, kindly, and humble, she has some great videos (included in my previous blog) on why dogs may fail to understand cues (commands) that you think they should. She also has Levels videos and various other good dog training fun stuff. Her youtube channel is eileenanddogs

12. Writer in a Wheelchair. I just discovered this British blogger thanks to the latest disability blog carnival. Disability rights activism, humor, culture, and general life-about-town as a person with a disability. Good politics, and informative for me about life with disability on the other side of the pond.

13. Ham Blog/Annaham. Annaham is another one of the founders of the blog formerly known as FWD/Forward. At its previous locale, Ham.Blog had the best subtitle, ever: “Ruining feminism, one pain pill at a time.” The new subtitle is “Promoting disability since 2008 or so.” It should be obvious that this blog includes humor, disability, and feminism. There are also various social justice themes, but mostly, lately, she’s doing cartoons, drawings, and other artwork, often related to chronic pain, but not necessarily. Another one that sort of defies description. What can I say? She’s good. I like her.

14. Wheelie catholic. This is a great blog that I often forget to read, and then, when I do, I think, “Yeah! OMG! I’m dealing with just that same thing!” It’s well-written, thoughtful, and real.

15. The Fibrochondriac. Another friend of the blog! (Hi, Kathy!) Kathy was on of the first bloggers I “met” online, and she helped me believe I could do this blogging thing. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the name of her blog, I thought two things: 1. “That’s witty and clever!” 2. “Uh-oh.” I mean, I knew she didn’t discount the reality of fibro or other chronic illnesses, but I didn’t know if her take on fibro would be some sort of falsely peppy, cheerleaderish sort of roses-and-sunshine blog (which seems to be popular among women blogging about chronic illness) that would downplay the realness of her illness. But no, her blog is very real and readable and fun. She’s got backbone! (Which probably aches.)

Whew! It took me a long time to put this together!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum (SDiT with one actual service skill in place! Will try to video and post eventually!)

Should the ADBC Go Bimonthly?

The first two Assistance Dog Blog Carnivals have been huge successes — accent on huge.

The first carnival, here at After Gadget, had a dozen contributing bloggers. The second one, recently at Dog’s Eye View, had more than twice that number!

I’ve also heard from people who wrote posts for one or the other blog, but weren’t able to get the links in on time. (Don’t despair, bloggers. Submit them to a future carnival. I’m sure themes will overlap.)

Now that I have an official ADBC page and have put out the call for future hosts, we have hosts scheduled through July 2012!

I have started to wonder, and others have asked, if we should hold the carnival more often.

I’d consider going bimonthly (six times a year). Please weigh in!

Having several chronic illnesses that cause pain, exhaustion, and unpredictable symptoms and limited function, I have learned that it is better to set attainable goals (my motto: “Aim Low!”)  than to try to overextend.

With this in mind, readers, bloggers, other interested parties — whomever you may be, I ask that you consider the following factors in helping me decide whether to change the ABDC schedule.

If the carnival were held every other month, how likely would you be to . . .

  • Read all or most of the posts? (Readers are the most important people! Without people reading the blogs, there’s little point in writing them.)
  • Submit/contribute a post that you’ve written?
  • Volunteer to host a carnival (including reading, collecting, and soliciting posts, as well as writing the carnival post with all the correct links, and ideally, whipping up publicity before and after it goes up)?
  • Encourage others to visit the carnival (by posting links to it on your blog, announcing it on Facebook, tweeting it on Twitter, etc.)?

I really value your feedback! This is an important decision.

The carnival is going so well, it seems like a good time to capitalize on the momentum. On the other hand, maybe it’s best not to mess with success?

You can post your comments publicly, below. If you want your comments to be private, and just go to me, please use the new contact form I’ve set up.

Lastly, in the spirit of making this a true community decision, please ask the question on your blogs or post (where appropriate) on assistance dog lists, etc. You can either post about it yourself and direct me to the comments you get, or you can ask readers to come here and comment on this post. (The latter is easier for me, but I’ll skip around the net, if needs be.)

Thanks so much!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum (snow-ball-covered SDiT)

Quickpress Reminder: Blog Carnival (+ Barnum Passes Another Test!)

I have really been enjoying reading and compiling all the submissions that are coming in for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. For information or details about the carnival (what, when, where, how, etc.), also see the carnival announcement post.

Please remember to post the link and title of your submission in the comments section of the Announcement. Posts must be up and your link submitted by 11:59 PM (of whatever time zone you’re in) on Tuesday, October 19.

If you have written a post for the carnival, and you don’t post it at After Gadget, I won’t know about it, and I won’t be able to include it! (I stumbled across a post for the carnival that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about, and would have been sorry to exclude; I don’t want to miss any others!)

Now I have to write my own blog on “The First….” I’ve known what I want to write for many weeks, I just have to coordinate my weary body and mind to do it!

Barnum Training Update: We Passed L2 Stand-Stay!

I decided to test us on Level 2 stand-stay — 10 seconds, no more than two cues (I used a verbal and a hand cue) — and no leg/paw can move at all. I wasn’t wearing a watch, so I just guessed when to click/treat, but watching the video, I see we did 12 seconds! Hooray!

I’ve been very sick, plus trying to keep up with the carnival and squeeze in a few minutes of training now and then, so I haven’t been up to transcribing or captioning the video that I’m plopping in below. My apologies. In the future, I’ll round up several videos — including this one — and do the captions and transcripts.

This one starts with a funny bit where Barnum is offering me a behavior I didn’t expect (confusing “watch” with “bark,” then the stand-stay, then a tiny bit of LLW practice.

. . . Can Watch and LLW Be Far Behind?

We can now also do 10 or more seconds of eye contact on a pretty consistent basis (despite the funny confusion that occurs at the beginning of the video above), and I have also been able to add in our cue, “Watch,” without it distracting him anymore. So, I think we are finally almost done with the 16 behaviors on Sue Ailsby’s Training Level Two. When we pass the loose-leash walking and eye contact tests, there will be a PAR-TAY!

Eye Lock Day 10 + Vote for Gadg & Barnum! + New Service Skill?…

If you’re seeking info on the upcoming Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, please visit this earlier blog.

Today and yesterday I’ve been quite ill and migrainal almost all the time, so not much got done. However, I have managed to squeeze in some training here and there with Mr. Barnum.

Suddenly, we’re making Big Progress with eye contact, and I can now get us to 10 seconds pretty fast AND (drum roll, please) I have started to introduce our verbal cue (again). My voice hasn’t been working much the last couple days, so I’ve actually been whispering the cue, and I think that has made it less distracting for Mr. B.

We continue to work on our LLW, working walk, and stand-stay, which are the other skills we need to pass Level 2, as well as incorporating more zen, sit- and down-stays, etc. Two interesting new developments:

1. Barnum wants to train more now — more often — and seems more interested in offering behaviors and shaping. He seems to be gaining confidence and not feeling quite so much need to wait for me to tell him what to do. I’m trying to be patient and wait him out, make him think for himself. Sometimes when he seems to be cruising along and I think he really knows what we’re doing, he will suddenly go into “deflated” mode and — after offering a sit or stare — will just lie down and wait. Then I wait for something clickable. Or eventually I give him something else to do to move him around, like a hand target, and wait for an accidental behavior to click.

2. Today, pretty much by accident (looooong story), Betsy ended up taking Barnum for an extremely long run/walk (because I was too sick to walk him), and when he got home, instead of being tired, he was begging for training! Further support for my theory that maturity, hunger/growth spurts, and more exercise makes him more eager to train. I am taking advantage of that as much as possible! I hope I bounce back from this crash lately so I can give him more exercise again.

In fact, we have started working on our first real service skill! It’s an easy one, and one I feel relaxed about, so we can just have fun and go at our own pace. I’m very excited about how well it’s going! I’m actually starting to consider him a service dog in training (SDiT), as opposed to a “hopefully-maybe-potential SDiT candidate”!

Please Vote for Barnum and Gadget in the Dogster Photo Contests!

Please vote for my boys! It’s fast, easy and fun. Just click on the links/logos or the three pics below to take you to each of their pages. (Barnum has two pages because of a technical glitch, Gadget has one.)

Here is Barnum’s entry for “Smiles and Grins.”

Vote for Barnum in the World’s Coolest Dog Contest.

dog photo contest

Clicking on the pic above will also take you to Barnum’s entries for “Ball or Frisbee Player”; “Naughtiest Dog”; “Sleeper”; and “Jumper.”

VOTE for Barnum in The 6th Annual World’s Coolest Dog & Cat Show!

Here’s Barnum’s entry for “Tongue/Slobber”:

Please vote for Me at The 6th Annual World’s Coolest Dog & Cat Show

Here’s Gadget’s entry for “Working Dog.”

Please vote for Me at The 6th Annual World’s Coolest Dog & Cat Show

Clicking on Gadget’s pic above will also take you to Gadget’s pic for “Car Dog”; “Water Dog”; “Patriot”; and “Costume.”

VOTE for Gadget in The 6th Annual World’s Coolest Dog & Cat Show!

Thank you!

Sharon, Barnum (SDiT??) and the muse of Gadget

Announcing the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!


The Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is now taking place! Read Assistance Dog Blog Carnival #1! Enjoy!

* * *

Woohoo! Thank you to everyone who commented on my idea to hold an AD Carnival! In response to your enthusiastic support, I’m announcing the first carnival topic and deadline, plus answering your questions about what a carnival is, how it works, and how you can participate!

What Is a Blog Carnival?

Wikipedia has a good general definition:

A blog carnival . . . is similar to a magazine, in that it is dedicated to a particular topic, and is published on a regular schedule. . . . Each edition of a blog carnival is in the form of a blog article that contains permalinks to other blog articles on the particular topic.

Carnival posts are generally collated by the author by soliciting relevant contributions. . . [S/he then] collects links to these submissions, edits and annotates them and publishes the resulting round-up. . . . Many carnivals have a . . . principal organizer, who lines up guest bloggers to host each edition. . . . The carnival travels, appearing on a different blog each time.

How Will the Assistance Dog Carnival Work?

Currently, the plan is to hold it quarterly, guest hosted by a different AD-related blog each time. (More details on this below.) I guess After Gadget will be the official home/principal organizer, until or unless someone else wants to take the job off my hands!

Who Can Submit Posts?

Anyone can submit a post. You need only have a blog, and your post must relate to the topic of guide, hearing, or service dogs (and fit that issue’s theme — see below about themes), even if your blog is not typically about assistance dogs.

Posts can be about puppy raising, SDiTs, programs/schools, retired SDs, perspectives on ADs from people with disabilities not partnered with ADs, or anything else relating to the topic of assistance dogs. You do not need to be an AD partner or trainer to submit. Posts from personal blogs as well as from AD organization blogs are welcome.

What Will the Assistance Dog Carnival Be About?

Topics will vary with each edition. The host for each edition will announce their theme at least a couple of weeks ahead of time (maybe more, if possible, to give us people with deadline issues a chance to get something in?), along with the deadline for submissions and expected publication date.

Examples of themes from the Disability Blog Carnival include identity, distance, and disability and work. In the Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival, there was “love or other four-letter-words” and “your most laugh-out-loud-illness-moment,” among others.

I tend to like themes that are broad and can be interpreted many different ways, because that gives bloggers creative freedom and makes for a diverse group of posts to read. On the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to know what you’ll be reading, thematically.

Who Is Hosting This Year’s Carnival?

The first host will be me, right here — theme and deadline announcement below! — and our delightful hosts for the next three carnivals are as follows:

Yay! Thank you for stepping up!

Future hosts and dates to be determined.

When Will the First Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Be Announced?

Right this very instant coffee.

The theme for the first carnival will be . . . “The First”!

The first . . . what? That’s up to the bloggers.

The first time you met your new guide, the first service dog you had, the first time your AD alerted to your medical condition, your first experience as a puppy raiser, how you dealt with your first access denial, the first thought that pops into your head when you see an AD team, the fear you had to get over first before you decided to partner with a canine assistant . . . the possibilities are endless!

The deadline for submission is Tuesday, October 19, by midnight of whatever time zone you’re in. The carnival will be published a few days later. (How fast I can put it together depends on  how many submissions I get and how functional and/or busy I am that week.)

Bloggers can submit posts any time between now and the 18th by commenting here, below, with the name of the blog, the name of the post, and the URL for that post. You can either write something new especially for the carnival (which is nice, but not required) or post a link to a blog you’ve already written that fulfills the theme. Just be sure the link is live and the post is already up when you submit it, so I can go read your submission when I’m putting together the carnival.

Making your blog as accessible as possible to people with as many different disabilities as possible is encouraged, although it is not required. Here is one resource for learning about some basic things you can do to make your blog more accessible.

I’ve tried to answer all possible questions, so that probably means I’ve forgotten something. Feel free to ask in the comments section.

I’m really excited that this is happening! Thanks to everyone who has commented, volunteered, and is otherwise contributing! And please, spread the word! Write about the carnival on your blog, post links, tweet, etc. Thank you!

Kisses from Barnum.

-Sharon and the muse of Gadget


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