Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Canadian Guide Dog Walk

The day at the Canadian Guide Dog Walk last Sunday, couldn't have been more perfect of a day. The weather was just perfect for the walk, neither too hot nor too cold. A friend of mine, Lindy drove us along with one of her three dogs. Both her Mom and Dad were involved in organizing the walk and it was the first time for me to meet them. That's probably why, she seemed to know just about everybody we came across. LOL
At 11 AM we registered and received our t-shirts, number and poopie bags. LOL That gave us an hour before the walk which started at noon to mingle and naturally I took pictures. The walk was 2 K and we all had a great time with plenty of water stations along the way. The path took as along the Thames River and with all the trees along it, gave us a mixture of shade and sun. There were the Lions Club Members in full uniform and a big smile to make sure we crossed the roads safely as on to another path.
As we crossed the finish line we were greeted by another member giving us goody bags for both the walkers and their dogs. It was just like Christmas only warmer. *giggle*
Shasta and I couldn't have had a better time and as usual, she drew a lot of POSITIVE attention to herself. People were even telling others that she was a pit bull...meaning like, see these are the ones you don't read about in the papers. She was the only full pittie there and she minded all of her manners and behaved like the angel she is. The President of the club complimented me on my training of her, her manner and her calmness. He couldn't believe just how calm she was and he was the one telling people that she is a pit bull.
We were called to gather around the huge stage and we had some doggie contests. Lindy's dog won a prize for the best trick. She said, "Bang! Bang!" and her dog played dead. It was just tooo funny! There were other contests too, like who could bark the loudest and other simple but fun things like that.
They also had door prizes as that was the reason for our numbers. I thought it was to keep track of us. LOL When my number was called and Shasta and I went up for a prize, I picked out this Shephard statue, very detailed with a welcome sign hanging from his mouth. Shasta was given a little brownish, red stuffed puppy that looked a lot like her. *giggle*
I'm happy to say, I was amongst some of the best trained dogs in Canada, and you wouldn't have known Shasta wasn't one of them except she didn't wear a full body vest and harness like they did, that she wasn't trained by them. The only difference was when we were all relaxing and listening to speakers, she sat on my lap on the grass while I hugged her and she would occasionally slip me a cute little kiss, whch I would do the same to her. Nobody can deny we certainy love each other and together we are one. I think that's why the President gave Shasta that little stuffed puppy as a gesture of being such a good girl.
There weren't all the walkers out that I had expected, but there was also a Run for Breast Cancer on at Victoria Park, but The Canadian Guide Dog Association assured us these walks were taking place all across Canada, so it would be a huge suceess.
Half the time you were standing or talking to someone, you didn't even realize them as a disabled person until you spotted their dog and the vest it was wearing along with the halter. But then again, with me, my disabilities are not outward neither.
We were told right from the beginning not to go pat these peoples dogs as they were working and not to be distracted unless the owner gave you the ok. I noticed mostly labs, but there were also collies and even a large standard poodle that a visually impaired woman had.
An elderly gent told us his story up on the stage. Prior to his dog, his life was pretty bleak. He needed assistance in everything and didn't feel good about himself. Someone told him about the Canadian Guide Dogs and he told them he was going to find himself a blond female. LOL
As things turned out, he didn't get his blond, nor female, instead he got his new pair of eyes that happened to be a male, black lab. The training between the two is so extensive. When he tells his dog he needs to go to the bank, the dog takes him. If it's the grocery store, the dog takes him. He even opens the door for him when needed.
You could tell by the people that with their dogs, they had found the missing part of them. I can fully relate as Shasta is that part to me. Without her, I couldn't do nearly all the things I do.
It was comical though, when the man said, "If only I could teach him how to grocery shop. I can't tell a can of beans from a tin of soup." I saw humour in all of them. Their dogs gave them back their independance that they had formally lost.
Whether it was a service dog or a visually or hearing impaired dog, they all had different collar full bodied vest with the words of what type of service they provided. They also had special harnesses with the visually impaired being more of a long buggy handle.
The people were more than willing to talk and explain how their dogs helped them in different situations. It's pretty extonishing the tasks these dogs were trained to do. I was very impressed and happy to be amongst such a happy crowd gathered for such a worthy cause.
There was also a canine officer there that talked to us about the extensive training of their dogs and what some of the amazing tasks they do. There are also some trained specifically for drug enforcement with undercover police and he told us about how these dogs use their amazing abilities.
Very rarely will you ever see a female police dog and all the dogs are imported from Argentenia, if I remember properly. I forget the worth of each dog, but it is in the thouands of dollars.
He put on a simple demonstration of how him and his dog worked together. It was total obedience plus! Even when he had his dog relax by his side, you could see that he was always alert to respond at a given notice. The most comical part was when the officer gave him his handled kong to give him some play for a job well done. As they walked off the stage together, the dog unleashed by his side carrying his toy, they looked no different than a man with his dog other than the officer had his uniform on.
We were asked if we had any questions and I wanted to know how long a dog worked before he was retired and then did the officer keep him after that. After they have completed their training, they give at least 5 years to the sevice, but some have worked much longer before retireing, and the bond between them is so great, that the dog remains with the officer and his family as a pet for the rest of his days. I was so happy to hear that response.
So in everything I learnt that day, is in every case and situation, all the people there relied on their dogs as a part of them. I realized that I wasn't absessed with Shasta as so many people think, she is the lost part of me that together we are whole. Now, I even understand my own feelings.
The whole day was filled with fun, relaxation and education. The Lions Club did a great job of hosting the walk and the many sponsors, such as Molly Maid, Purina, the Lions Foundation and others such as the London Dog Owners Association with their information tent. There was drinks and food, but I was so engrossed with the speakers, I wasn't thinking of my stomach. Shasta and I had my CamelBac filled with iced water, so there was no need to go for drinks. It was very excillerating.
Every part of my body killed afterwards, but it's worth all the pain and tiredness, as if we had to do it all over again...we WOULD!


Amstaffie said...

Such a great adventure! See, it's times like this, that educate people on pit bulls and their owners. You can tell a responsible owner with a pit compared to an irresponsible owner.

Just as the time I went to a pit show when Storm was just a couple months old, I could tell who wanted them for their companionship and who wanted them because they were "big & bad".

Maybe Shasta's positive attention will make the people who train service dogs think twice when they overlook a pittie, just because it's a pit.

Conners said...

It's not because of them, they know with responsible ownership comes a well adjusted and happy, loyal dog. It's the general publics view they need to be concerned with. If one of their clients were to have a problem with the public because of their breed of dog, it would cause undo stress on the client as well.
Remember, the people that need the Service Dogs, or Seeing Eye or Hearing Dogs need their dogs to be working for them and not distracted. If someone was to distract the dog by making a big public display, how will that effect the dog and the client. I understand what they are saying.
An example for me would be travelling on the bus. I already have a very bad phobia about that and if someone was to attack me and Shasta, even verbally on the bus that could lead to panic attack or passing out. Shasta would get confused with the man yelling at me, so her attention would be taken off of me for that time as she would be watching the man in case I need to be protected. See what I mean? The man gave me a few other examples such as in a restaurant, etc.
Under 'normal' circumstances I can hold my own, but in certain situations where I really need Shasta to work for me, there can't be any conflict and the media certainly has ruined that for us.
But this isn't the only association available and I have several other people seeking help for me too as they know now of my problems and they have met Shasta and still don't want me to lose hope. I'm talking Dog People that have clout in the community. They know I definitely need help (and deserve it) and Shasta and I have already proved she is capable of being a Woking Dog and that together we are a team. She has already been trained to work doing things I can't and LOVES to work.
It's just too bad I ddn't know all this when she was a puppy and tere was no threat of Pit bulls at the time. I don't think they could have pulled her certification away from her even with all the BS going on.
But I wasn't getting out to City Hall meeting and amongst these knowing people until we were fighting or our dogs 2 years later, so I only found out about this through the city hall meetings.
Now that I realise I could be doing so much more, it hurts worse than when I didn't know. Maybe that's why they say ignorance is bliss.