Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year Update

I am happy to see the end of the year!  It wasn't a horrible year by any means, it's just that I am looking SO forward to what 2013 is going to bring on.  To start things off, Asia is finally feeling better.  Once the swelling in her brain went down so did her dizziness.  She is slowly getting back to herself but will need a little work catching back up to where she was in homeschool.
I am happy to say that we will be starting off 2013 with good health.  The kids have won their battle against the cold and flu bugs that they had and there have been no more seizures! That's worth celebrating!

2013 is the year of learning for Griffin and Jedi.  They have had a great start already but now that they are 14 weeks old they will be doing regular training exercises.  The first part of their training has been getting them introduced to our home and routines.  They have bonded with each person in the family and get along with everyone, including the cats.  
They know what is expected of them and what is not allowed.  They are both very smart and this is why I need to make sure I keep them on track.  Both have a bad habit.  Griffin can get up on the kitchen table.  I have had to move the fruit bowl so this clown will stay out of the fruit.  He's like a toddler, taking one bite of each apple. Grrrr.  Jedi can open baby gates.  I have no idea how she does it but she can.  I hear the gate open and then I hear her big feet climbing up the stairs.  She always comes right to me, perhaps wanting some praise for being so smart.  Both dogs have learned how to hold the bottom piece of toilet paper just right and then run, unrolling the entire roll of paper.  Oh the fun these two clowns bring!  The toilet paper in our main floor bathroom is hidden now.  If you come for a visit and promise not to tell the pups where it is, I'll tell you where it is hidden. 

We recently found a local supplier for training treats.  Wheat-free treats and dehydrated liver treats.  I am looking forward to working with this company and supporting local businesses.  Jedi, River, and Griffin will get to sample the treats tomorrow...New Years Day.  What a perfect way to start the year from a dog's point of view! 

Happy New Year to all of our readers!  We hope that you will visit us often in 2013.  This is the year of awesomeness! The year I will graduate from Animal Behavior College, the year Griffin and Jedi will become full service dogs, and the year of awesome change! Many Blessings and good health to all of you.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Bad and the Good

Wow, our family has been on a crazy ride for the last few days.  It started with a nasty virus that had me down at the emergency department with 2 of my daughters on Friday night.  (Asthma and ear infections)  I spent a number of hours down there with the girls while my husband took care of things at home.  Once we were done at the hospital I called Brian to tell him that I was on my way home.  He answered the phone yelling "Help! Help! Call 911, Asia is having a seizure".  So here I am, down at the hospital with my 2 daughters and Asia is at least a 20 minute drive away.  The seizure was short so I stayed on the phone with Brian and made my way home.

  When I got home Asia was terrified.  She had temporarily lost her vision because of the seizure and was just so afraid. The seizure was short so I didn't take her to the hospital because normally she doesn't seize twice in a row and the shorter seizures are not as dangerous.
  I was wrong.  Asia did end up at the hospital and she did end up seizing again...12 times in a row!!  I was totally out of my comfort zone with this because it was not her usual seizure pattern.  It was so scary watching my daughter go through this.  She'd feel the seizure coming, River was alerting and she kept crying and telling me she was afraid she was going to die.
  As we were leaving to go to the hospital another seizure hit.  The good news is that Griffin showed us that he is able to smell the pheromones that she gives off when having seizures.  This is incredible news because Griffin went right up to Asia and frantically sniffed her.  He was so worried that he actually pee'd on the floor.  He then pawed at Asia with his front paws as she was having her seizure.
   This behaviour from Griffin was amazing.  He is only 12 weeks and already can do this. We now need to work on him coming and telling us when he senses the pheromones.  What an awesome dog!  I didn't get a reaction from Jedi but I think she was outside at that time.
   Asia is home now but still quite unwell.  We aren't sure about the amount of damage she may have sustained from all of the seizures or whether there has been any regression at all.  She has been sleeping the whole thing off with extra Ativan on board.

  We are so very sad about everything Asia has gone through this weekend, especially at a time of year when kids are supposed to be having fun.  Our heart breaks a little more with each and every seizure she has.  We are now hoping for a nice quiet holiday with no more scary stuff.  We are not out of the woods yet because Asia is still a very sick little girl.  We just hope the seizures stay away but I have our hospital bags packed just incase we have to rush down to the hospital again.  I really hope not!  OUr family just can't handle anymore right now.

Hug your loved ones.  Nobody knows how long they will be here.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Random Act of Kindness Contest

We are starting something new here at Service Dog for Sienna.  Every Friday we encourage everyone to do 1 Random Act of Kindness.  Bless a stranger, a friend, whoever needs a good deed.  Then, send us your story at to be entered into our monthly draw.  A name will be chosen and a really cool prize will be shipped your way.  This is open to anyone in Canada or the United States.  We have been blessed so many times and we are only at the beginning of our journey with Griffin and Jedi.  This world NEEDS this.  Please join us!  Friday is coming up soon.  What will your RAK (random act of kindness)be?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Update Time!

The pups have grown!  I can't believe how big they have gotten since last week.  Their abilities continue to grow and I am ready to start challenging them even more.  I have taken 12 days off work so I can focus on the training and really challenge these little  big pups.
Both puppies enjoy their walks and are being to trained to sit at each curb and cross the street only on command.  They sit and get their feet wiped after their walk and we are working hard with all obedience commands now.  I plan on setting up some mazes to help their problem solving skills.  This will start with the weave poles and tunnels.  Just like children, the brain develops very quickly in the first years and I want to give these two the very best start they can have.  So far, no challenge I have given has defeated them.  They are smart and problem solve so well.
I was in our favourite store the other day (Urban Paws, Kingston) and noticed that they are now selling dog puzzles/games.  They are whimsical little wooden problem solving games for dogs that encourage brain development and problem solving.  I am going to buy a couple of these games sometime in the New Year to help encourage these little munchkins even more.  Both dogs thrive on a good strong schedule, lots of interactive toys, and a load of love.  
 Have a wonderful Holiday Season full of lots of loving family, yummy treats, and wet kisses.

Samantha and Brian

Friday, 7 December 2012

Sponsorship News and a HUGE Thank You!!

Today I had the privilege of meeting Jedi's sponsor, Mr. Ron Cotton from Kingston Nissan.  This very kind man had read our story in the newspaper and decided to come forward and sponsor Sienna's dog Jedi.  We are SO thankful for his sponsorship and his incredible kindness!

Jedi showered Mr. Cotton with kisses and also really enjoyed meeting the rest of the Kingston Nissan staff.  We were given a terrific badge to sew onto Jedi's jacket which Jedi will proudly wear for the duration of her service work.  

Mr. Cotton presented us with the badge for the jacket for Jedi and then he offered me another badge for Griffin as well as another sponsorship check!  CarOne is Kingston Nissan's used car lot and they are now Griffin's sponsor. We are SO incredibly thankful to this kind man for his help, his love of dogs, and the encouragement he has given us.  

Thank you Mr. Ron Cotton from Kingston Nissan for your wonderful gifts.  We were so happy to meet you and am sorry that Griffin was unable to come and meet you.  Once Asia is back on her feet we will bring her in and her special dog Griffin.  We look forward to bringing the dogs in often so you can see how they are doing.  Thank you form the bottom of our hearts!

Brian and Samantha Knapp

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Borrowing River...again

We have had a bit of a rough week over here with Sienna's seizures.  This has made it difficult for me to update this blog so I apologize for not having a new post sooner.  We also had a few problems with River.  She got sick and needed an emergency vet trip and almost had to have surgery.  She had a hematoma on her ear, a very large one, and her wonderful vet helped us clear it all up.  She is now feeling better and is back to work.

The fact that River was out of commission and Sienna and Asia both needed her really helped me realize how good it is that we have Jedi and Griffin.  River is 10 years old now and with age comes the odd medial problem.  Many service dogs retire by 10 years of age but here is River, working for 2 very intense children.  

Jedi and Griffin are doing very well.  The only problem we are having is that they have really bonded with us and don't like being in their crate at night.  This is causing lack of sleep for all of us.  The fact that they have bonded so well is great but I wonder why they have had a hard time for the last 5 nights. Could it be that they just miss us, or could it be that the last 5 days have been the days that Sienna has not been well?  Hummm, are these two sweeties noticing "something".  I certainly hope so.  My current task is to stop Sienna's seizures and an increase in meds should help her.  I am keeping a notebook of Sienna's bad days and the nights that the pups won't settle.  There most certainly could be a connection and if there is I will be SO thrilled. We are off to CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) in Ottawa.  Have a great Sunday!  We are now off to the Autism Ontario Christmas Party.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Thank You Kingston Nissan

Last week we received a call from the Kingston This Week Reporter who wrote our story.  She had great news for us!  She had a check for $500 from Mr. Ron Cotton, owner of Kingston Nissan.  We would like to thank Mr. Cotton from the bottom of our heart for sponsoring little Jedi.  The money is going towards her training and she will have a very cool Kingston Nissan logo on her jacket. (see above picture) 

If you are local and are going into Kingston Nissan please thank them for being Jedi's sponsor.  Mr. Cotton is a huge lab lover and our story really made him want to help.  He sent us the $500 without even realizing that was the cost of a sponsorship.  When we offered to put his logo on the jacket he was quite pleased.  It's a great partnership since Jedi will be wearing a red jacket that matches the logo really well.  As soon as Jedi is big enough to wear her jacket she will proudly advertise Kingston Nissan for giving from the heart to help a little girl and her service dog.

Thank You Kingston Nissan

Please visit the Kingston Nissan web site at Kingston Nissan 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Mastering "sit", "stay", "off" and "take it"

We have had the puppies for 1 week now and they are doing incredibly well.  Both are full of personality and love.  Jedi is the easiest of the two to train, but only because Griffin has that "goofy love" kind of personality.  Both pups are doing very well and even with the "goofy love" personality Griffin has already learned some commands.
  I started the pups off with the command "sit", which they mastered incredibly fast.  They are now expected to sit and stay before they get their treat.  They have been taught the "off" command which simply means "don't touch".  They are not allowed to take their training treats without the command "take it".  This helps them to understand that it is not ok to pick up food they might see on the floor of a store,  I remember when River was a puppy and I was doing some training with her in Costco.  There was a man there who tried to slip her a piece of pizza and because River wasn't given the "take it" command the pizza fell on the floor.  (I was so proud of her that day)  Seriously, people don't always understand how wrong it is to bother, tease, or offer a working dog something.  Thanks to the command "take it" River had learned that nothing is eaten without that command.

Both puppies are starting to work on the "wait" command.  This is used when their food dish is put down.  They "wait", and are told "Off", and when they hear the "take it" command they are free to eat.  Both are doing so well.

I will continue to build on the commands they are learning and am taking baby steps as I introduce the new words to them.  I do 3, 15 minute sessions of training with each puppy daily at this time.  2 of the sessions are with the puppies together. 
Here they are practising the "off" command.  They no longer jump up at the food and just wait until they hear "take it" and then they gently take the food from me.

Jedi is so alert during her training and uses incredible eye contact.  She listens very well and waits for me to tell her when she can "take it".

Sunday, 18 November 2012

..and the training begins

We have had the puppies for a total of 4 days and they are both doing incredibly well. Griffin is coming when called and Jedi has gone out on her first trip into the community. We are so pleased with the abilities these dogs have at such a young age already. Here is a video of Griffin coming when called.  He is even doing this with the distraction of Jedi playing with him.  This is so exciting for us!

Today Jedi went on her fist public outing.  We chose a place where there were no other dogs because she has only had her first set of shots.  She attended Autism Ontario's Potential Program, a program for children on the spectrum to practise their social skills while enjoying various activities.  Today's activity was music hosted by Music Mates.

Jedi made new friends at the beginning and then she sat so nicely and watched the wonderful music class.  The drums were loud and the kids were busy.  There was a big parachute that was going up in the air and rubber balls flying all over the place.  Jedi sat so well and was never concerned about anything.  She is a care-free dog which is just perfect for what we need in a service dog.  Her personality matched River's almost identically.


Here she is lying down with her back to all of the action.  She didn't get hyper and she didn't bark even once. 

Here she is very curious about what was going on.  Just watching and being ever-so quiet.

This picture was taken while the drums were going.  They were loud and she loved them.  She watched the kids drum and seemed quite entertained. I think we have a really great dog here and so far after having her for 4 days she is already amazing me.

Commands we are working on...

Right now we are working with both dogs so they get to know their names, and we are giving them time away from each other so we can train individually as well as together.  They are learning "sit", "come", "do busys (for elimination), "Off", and "take it".  Both are doing incredibly well.  Next Sunday Griffin gets his turn to go to music class. 

Oh, and on a different note... a dear friend of ours has tickets for Brian and I to see The Dog Whisperer!  We are looking forward to this even know I have heard mixed reviews on this trainer. It will be a great evening to learn from a professional. :) Thank you Brad and Tanya!


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Welcome Home Jedi and Griffin

We are so thrilled that our family has grown by two more furry friends.  Everyone is settling in beautifully and I have to say that these pups have amazing personalities!  Here they are..

Masonridge's Jedi Spirit

Masonridge's Griffin Forest

Both puppies are doing incredibly well.  They had their first set of shots on Monday and today they finished their final deworming medication.  River is adjusting to them very well and only barks when they try to nurse on her.  LOL  The puppies are getting to understand that River doesn't have milk. 

One picture that I took just melts my heart.  It is a picture of Jedi giving Sienna wonderful eye contact at the same time as kisses.  It melts my heart and will be a "must have" picture in the book I am writing.  Here it is...

Our journey begins now...let the training begin.  These little sweeties are very smart so I bet they will have some fun stuff to show each of you soon.

Thank you again for all of your support!  We appreciate all of you so much!

Samantha & Brian

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Thank You Doesn't Seem Like Enough...

I am at a loss for words.  I am sitting here still trying to figure out how in the world I can thank everyone who participated in our fundraiser last night.  It was amazing! I have no idea what we made with the fundraiser but I do have to say I am at a loss for words right now.  Not only did my friends show up but so many new faces came too.  I made new friends, my kids made new friends, and River even made a new canine friend.  I had strangers hugging me and petting River.  It was just so wonderful to have so much support.

I want to thank each and every person who showed up last night.  It means the world to me to know that so many people believe in my abilities to train service dogs.  I was given all kinds of encouragement, many many hugs, and strangers walked in off the street and handed me checks and cash.  It was unbelievable.  Thank you to each and everyone of you!  With just the money that was handed to me last night I will be paying the breeder our balance for Jedi today!  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
A special thank you to the staff at The Playtrium for helping us do this.  They were so kind and helpful and excited for us.  I was told that they were 4x busier than usual so this is great news for us and great news for them.

It is truly amazing how many people were touched by the newspaper articles and came to show support.  Thank you to Kingston This Week, The Whig Standard, and Snap for helping to spread the word about our fundraiser.  I am hoping that as our journey continues that people follow our blog and watch as the pups are trained.  I am excited to have people meet these wonderful puppies and get them both started on their training.
Through all of this I am most excited about the new friends I have made.  Our breeder Carol is like family to us and before this journey we didn't even know her.  What a blessing!  Other dog trainers have reached out and have shown so much support and caring as well.  Thank you Elizabeth for your words of wisdom.  

So, as you can see, it's really hard to find the right words to thank everyone.  Thank you just doesn't seem to be enough.  You have all helped us buy the pups and you have also given us so much more confidence just by caring.  We are so very excited that the puppies will be coming home on Thursday.  They will be coming home with the breeder paid in full thanks to all of you who have helped.

Most importantly, Sienna had a terrific time.  She was full of incredible energy and her respite worker, Cassie got a great work-out running after her all night.  The smiles on Sienna's face were full of sunshine!  A HUGE thank you to Cassie for keeping Sienna safe while I talked to people.  You really do have wings my friend and you are incredible at your job.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Guard dogs of a different type

The second article is now up!  This is so exciting!  I really hope we have a big turnout on Friday.  Even better...they both mention the disorder Pyridoxine Dependency.  It's rare and many have never heard of it.  If these articles educate just one person on this disorder it just might save lives for somebody else's child.
Guard dogs of a different type | Local | News | The Kingston Whig-Standard

Parents to host fundraiser | Local | News | Kingston This Week

Our first newspaper article is out.  Take a peek! :o)

Parents to host fundraiser | Local | News | Kingston This Week

Looking forward to the next one!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Training for Seizure alert

This has to be one of the biggest questions I get.  I could be walking through the store with River, somebody reads her jacket, and then the questions start.  "How did you train your dog to alert for seizures?"  It's a big question and I can never explain it in just a few minutes.  Training comes in steps and so this makes the answer difficult to give while standing in the bread aisle of the store.  I will try to explain how we trained River for this amazing work...

In our home seizures can occur quite often so River got quite a bit of practise before starting to alert on her own.  The first thing we taught River to do was bark.  Yes, you read that correctly... we taught her to bark on command.  We then taught her the "quiet" command.  When she barked on command she was given a pat on the head and verbal praise.  When one of my daughters started a seizure, River was taught to bark and bark like crazy and was given a really special food treat while the seizure was happening.  She'd bark as Brian or I tended to the seizing child and we'd toss these special treats to her. Once things were under control we'd give the "quiet" command, followed by the rest of the bag of treats. (yes, she deserved them)

So, River learned that when Asia was seizing she'd get treats for barking.  It's quite simple actually..River could see the seizure happening, could hear the sounds a child makes while it is happening, but she could also smell a seizure.  Studies have suggested that a person gives off a pheromone before a seizure starts.  When River was only 6 months old she alerted for the first time on her own.  She started her barking pattern without a command.  At first it confused us as to why she was doing this without us asking.  At first we thought she had taken a step back in her training since she was only 6 months old.

What River had learned was to anticipate those special treats.  She knew the commands, the sounds, and the sight of a seizure...but no seizure had started yet.  She knew though, that before the "bark" command she would smell those pheromones and so she started to bark at the scent.  River was alerting for a seizure BEFORE it even happened.  Asia seized 10 minutes after she started barking.  So, to train a dog for seizure work you are actually training them to anticipate a situation.  River is such a gift and has alerted for hundreds and hundreds of seizures.  I honestly believe that if we didn't have her, we wouldn't have Asia here either.  Asia still has seizures but we are able to manage  them so much better now.  We give oral Pyridoxine when River "tells us to" and this reduces the severity of the seizure or even prevents it totally.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Most Beautiful Gift....

Today our mailbox was stuffed with a big, beautiful package.  It was pink with all kinds of hearts on it and it flew all the way from Seattle, Washington to Sienna.  Inside was the most beautiful dog leash for Jedi.

Donated by a wonderful home-based business called Cay's Knotty Things this wonderful leash is just beautiful.  It is lovingly hand-made with top quality materials.  We got to choose the colours and Cayleigh Wells, owner of Cay's Knotty Things got it out to us incredibly fast.  If you are looking for a leash or even a collar please check out this fabulous company!  You won't be disappointed.   They also make really awesome items like belts, bracelets, and key tabs.  Huge tail wags go out to Cay's Knotty Things for donating this awesome dog leash.  Sienna will be bring this with us on November 15th to pick up Jedi.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Breeder vs. Shelter Dog

I had an email from one of my readers who was concerned that we are getting our puppies from a breeder.  The reader was obviously a huge animal lover as well as an animal activist.  I was asked why would I get the dogs from a breeder when there are numerous shelter dogs that could be used.  What an EXCELLENT question.  I want to explain so that everyone can read my answer.

We chose to use a breeder instead of a shelter because with a reputable breeder we have a better idea of the health of the dog.  Before we chose our breeder, and believe me...we did our research, we interviewed, asked multiple questions, and made sure we got clear answers.  We decided on a breeder who allowed us to visit their facilities rather than those breeders who meet you at the nearest coffee shop.  (believe me, they are out there)

We chose a breeder who stands by her dogs and breeds responsibly.  Another BIG reason we chose Masonridge Kennels is because the breeder knew River's breeder and the litter of puppies we chose from was actually related to River.  Even though the relation isn't direct, it is a comfort to know that they share a similar pedigree. 

I have nothing against a shelter dog being trained for service work, in fact, I think it's a wonderful if you find the right dog.  In my case, with 6 kids, 3 with special needs, I feel the breeder is the best choice for our family.  I hope this clears up any questions you may have.  I would love to hear any stories from my readers who have trained a shelter dog for service work.  It warms my heart to see that that option in full swing.

As I advance on my dog training skills, I will be volunteering my services to our local shelter with the hope of helping difficult to place dogs get a better chance of a forever home.  A shelter dog with some obedience training is much more adoptable.  

Warm wags, 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Playtrium Fundraiser

Our first fundraiser is coming up!  It will be a really fun one too!  "Service Dog for Sienna" will receive 40% of the profits if we bring in at least 10 families, so we really need your help!  If you are local and would like to attend please see the details below.  It is going to be a really fun evening and a great way to have some quality family time!  We hope to see everyone there!

Where- The Playtrium
541 Days Road, The Atrium Mall, Kingston, Ontario
tel- (613) 389-5553

WHEN- Friday November 9th, 2012- drop in anytime between 3pm to 7:30pm

WHY- to help support Service Dog for Sienna and to have a fun-filled evening with your child(ren).

We have been told that the media will be there but I am not quite sure at this time.  Our whole family, including service dog "River" will be there.  Jedi and Griffin will NOT be there because they are still with the breeder and we need to raise some money to bring them home on November 15th.  We hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Some News to Share

We went to see the puppies again last week and they are doing so well.  They are all so friendly and they manage the noise and all the handling the got from the 5 girls beautifully.  Sienna was so happy to see Jedi again and Jedi seemed happy to see her.  Sienna was given lots of kisses and snuggles until Jedi fell asleep on her lap.

Yesterday Asia (Sienna's big sister who has River, our other service dog) had a really rough day.  We had gone to the park and when we got home River was was very upset.  Asia came outside and told me that River was acting "weird" and wouldn't leave her alone.  My first reaction was to give Asia meds so I insisted that she take 200mg of Pyridoxine. (the med of choice for her seizure control)  Asia insisted that it wasn't her she was alerting for but I was convinced because River wouldn't leave her alone.  She barked at her, followed her everywhere and wouldn't take her eyes off of her.  To make a long story short, River was right about what was going on.  She was able to sense the pheromones that are given off before a seizure.  So, thanks to River... Asia took her meds and about 10 minutes after she took them she was hit with a horrible seizure aura.  She got pain in her eyes, had trouble seeing, lost her balance and had horrible bouts of dizziness.  20 minutes after taking the extra pyridoxine the aura went away.  (the time it takes Pyridoxine to work is about 15 to 20 minutes)  Asia was still very unwell for the rest of the day but never had the seizure.  River saved the day once again.  We are so proud of this dog!
This is the type of work the Jedi will be trained to do for Sienna. Sienna suffers from the same seizure disorder that Asia has, but also suffers from autism.  As we visited with our Breeder Carol and the beautiful puppies we decided that since River is so important to Asia that we really can't be without the help she gives us, we are going to take a second puppy from Jedi's litter and train him for Asia.  Yes, I know...we already have River and she is doing a terrific why get a second...the answer can be given quite easily... River is 10 years old.  Sadly, she is getting older and there will be a point when she won't be able to work anymore.  So, we are going to train a new dog with the help of River.  By the time the new pup is ready to work River may need a break.

So, on November 15th we get to bring home Jedi and her brother Griffin.  Both pups will be welcomed into our family and River is going to be delighted to have them here.  We are doing the puppy raising at the same time so I am thankful that Asia wants to be a big part of this.  River was trained for Asia but I was the handler.  This time Asia is old enough to be the handler so I will be training Griffin for her.  The excitement around here is huge...2 new puppies, lots of love and high hopes.   River will never be retired since she is part of the family and always will be.  I can't just turn off her amazing skills and tell her that she gets to retire.  She is beautifully healthy and will hopefully be with us for many years.  The only difference is that if she doesn't want to go out and work in the community, tagging along while we do errands she won't have to. (especially in the winter months)  It will be a good 18 months before the puppies will be able to do that anyway so River is still working until SHE decides she wants a break.

The black lab in the picture is Asia's Griffin. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Looking for Jedi Sponsors

The cost of obtaining, training and maintaining a service dog can be a very pricey journey.  A dog trained as a working dog is not the same as a pet dog, even though the dog does fill the emotional needs that a pet fills as well.  We are now looking for a Sponsor for Jedi.  Here is a run-down of the costs for the first year...

Costs for Service Dogs

  •  it costs $22,000 to train and place a service dog with a disabled child..
  • Upon completion of training, service dogs are required to be re-certified annually
  • It costs about $1,500 – $2,000 to maintain a service dog each year…about $100 a month.
  • initial cost of dog $1100.00
  • 1st year of vaccinations $305.88
  • Spay done at 5-6 months of age $486.96
  • equipment costs (vest, service dog i.d tags and "in training" tags", training equipment,  approx. $500.00
  • monthly food cost, training treats, etc $100/monthly
So, as you can see, the cost of a specially trained dog is quite expensive.  We are cutting the cost drastically be training Jedi ourselves and by June I will be a certified trainer, so this helps off-set the cost as well.

How to Sponsor Jedi

If you are interested in sponsoring Jedi please email us at  If you are a business we can offer a badge with your business name put onto Jedi's jacket for all to see.  It would be a professionally embroidered patch sewn directly onto her vest. Your business would also be featured on this blog as well as on  

Sponsor spots (with badge on vest/banners on blog and are $500

sponsor spots (with banners on blog and $50

If you are unable to sponsor Sienna and her dog Jedi, you can also help tremendously by sharing our story.  Please share with your facebook friends, twitter, or any other social network you can.  This will help us eventually find our sponsor. 

Thank you in advance for all of your help

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Love at First Sight

Today we got to meet Jedi for the first time.  Sienna was so excited to be able to meet her.  We drove 45 minutes to a beautiful little town called Mallorytown to visit Masonridge Kennels.  The owners, Carol and Randy were so welcoming and encouraged the kids to handle the puppies.  Sienna went in first and immediately Carol put Jedi into her arms.  Sienna was so happy to be holding her pup.

The puppies were all very healthy, active and alert.  "Spirit" the mom was absolutely wonderful.  She didn't mind us visiting her beloved puppies.  The mom was such a gentle lab, full of love and sweetness.  She reminded me so much of River, Asia's service dog.

Sadly, Asia was not feeling very well today because of a night of seizure problems.  She was unable to visit with the puppies for long and hopes to do so another time.  Sienna, on the other hand, was healthy and happy today.  She made a card for Carol and Randy because she is so happy that they are taking care of her puppy.  
Jedi was very cuddly with each child that held her, which is a very good sign.  I don't know if they have ever seen kids but the 5 kids that went to visit didn't phase them at all.  All good signs.

We won't get Jedi until mid November.  It's hard for Sienna to wait but the puppy needs to be with her mama much longer.  Thank you Carol and Randy for opening you home up to us.  It was so nice to meet you both.
For anyone local, the black male lab is still available from Masonridge Kennels as well as the 4 year old mother "Spirit".

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Jedi is almost 4 weeks old

Our wonderful breeder sent us a beautiful picture of Jedi today.  Her eyes have finally opened.  They look a little wonky at the moment but they will look better as she matures a bit.  Sienna loved seeing the picture so much and even showed her piano teacher what her dog looks like.  Here is the most recent picture of Jedi. Enjoy!

We get Jedi on or around November 15, 2012.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Oct2012 VocalVibes Phoenix Rising

This our 12 year old daughter Raven and her little Phoenix.  We are so proud of Raven for everything she does for animals.  Take a peek. :)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Self Training vs. Agency Training

Answers to The Big Question

The big question that I am always asked when it comes to my desire to self-train a service dog for my daughter is Why don't you just get an agency dog already trained?
The answer to this question is very easy for me to answer.  I chose to train our own service dog because  of many reasons.  The first being the wait time that the agencies have to get a dog.  Right now, here in Canada you are on the wait list for an agency-trained dog for 18-24 months.  That's 2 years!  A lot can happen in two years and when I was training River for Asia I knew that we may not even have 2 years if I didn't act now.  The second reason was because I actually can train service dogs.  I have been training dogs for many years and have taught myself many things through books and workshops. 

When a family receives a dog from an agency they get an adult dog.  In my opinion, I think training a dog for seizure work should be started as a puppy.

How Did I Train River for Seizure Work?

This is another question I get a lot.  Even from other dog trainers. Below I have laid it out step-by-step for ease of understanding.
We got River as an 8 week old puppy.  The first thing we did was give everything a word.  For example, if she barked we'd say "Bark".  When she stopped barking we'd praise and say "good Quiet".  We did this for quite some time until she could bark and be quiet on command.  That was the very start.

1) train "bark" and "quiet"

2) When Asia was starting a seizure one of us would tell River to bark.  We'd encourage barking as loud as she could.  After a minute of barking we'd toss her a tiny piece of Roll-Over, a treat she'd ONLY get during a seizure. This was a huge treat for River. 

3) When I no longer needed the "bark" River would be told "quiet" and was rewarded with 2 large slices of Roll Over.  She knew that in ALL cases she would NOT get more Roll Over after she had received the two large slices.  Her job was to simply "bark" when there was a seizure.  At first we'd have to tell her to "bark" because she had no idea what Asia was doing.

4) At 6 months of age River surprised us all.  She had been training for 4 months almost daily as Asia seized. (yes, that is how bad it was)  Well, "something" caused River to bark like crazy just like she did when asked during a seizure.  We checked Asia and everything was we thought.  5 minutes after the barking started Asia seized.  This was the first time River had done this on her own and she had actually alerted BEFORE the seizure.  She had made the connection with the "pheromones" that a body gives off before and during a seizure.  Yes, she loved that Roll Over enough to get excited when she sensed the beginning of the Roll Over cycle...which was actually the beginning of Asia's seizure aura.

So, as you can see, training really can start sooner than 24 months.  Agency trained dogs are in puppy care first learning basic obedience, then they go into the training program.  For our family, it is the right decision to go with a self-trained dog.  We also get to enjoy those puppy years, the obedience classes, and all of the other fun that puppies bring.  This answers that big question for many and as I write in this blog I will be sharing my other reasons why self-training is right for our family.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Dog Property Laws

9 years ago (well almost 10) when we adopted River from a local breeder we were given a sheet of paper with a rules that a labrador would like a new owner to follow.  The beautiful lady that we got River from was a really funny lady and she quizzed us a few times just for fun.  She would ask us things like, "What will you do if River chews up your favourite shoe?"... the required answer was "Roll up a newspaper and hit yourself over the head with it for leaving the shoe out".  She always made us laugh and when we finally had sweet River in our arms she gave us a piece of paper with the following on it....

I will always think of Susan, the breeder when I read that.  It is sad that Susan died of cancer a few years back.  We will always remember her lovingly.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Jedi Puppy Picture and News

We were so blessed with a beautiful picture of the puppy we have on hold.  I am very optimistic that everything will work out well since we have chosen a very reputable breeder who raises puppies in her own home.  Being socialized early is very important.  If you are local and are interested in a high quality breeder please check out

Meet Masonridge's Jedi Spirit 

Having this picture will help us really get our fundraising going.  We need to raise $900 before November 12th.  We are about 1/3 of the way there already so I am thrilled about that. If anyone has any fundraising experience and wants to share some ideas with us please email me at  We need all the advice we can get at the moment. 

Now Some News...

I will just get to the point... I am going to become a certified dog trainer!  This means that I will be able to help other people with their companion or service dog.  It means that I will do the stuff I have always done with dogs but will actually be a certified trainer.  I spoke to a school yesterday and am excited to move forward with this.  Just imagine if I can help others train their own service dog for their child and avoid the long wait times within the agencies.  It's a win-win situation for everyone.  I will give more details as I have them.  The person I talked to at the school thinks I'd be great at this and seemed impressed with what I have already done with River. This will be a part-time hobby for me, but with certification! Yeah!