It occurs to me that, since I began my sabbatical in March, I have not been posting about my recreational reading. I am still reading for fun, but much less than I did when in the normal run of things. The difference is shocking!

While off, I have been indulging in my desire to learn Python programming for data munging, and also Web stuff like HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, and various volunteer web-development projects. Stuff like that with which I will not bore you now.

However, one very exciting project – with which I do plan to bore you – is that, since February, I have been training a service dog to help me cope with my vision-loss. Now, in Canada, it is well-nigh impossible to find out anything about doing that, about how to do it or even about what the requirements are for a trained dog. I’m not really sure why it’s such a state secret, other than that agencies who do train service dogs guard their territory jealously (and will not even return phone calls!). But, for whatever reason, it’s been quite a long struggle.

The closest I could come was to watch several Service Dog Certification tests in the US on YouTube and to backwards engineer how to teach a dog to do that stuff. (Only BC and Alberta have certification tests in Canada.) I also took a Guide Dog course through the wonderful Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an online distance-education organisation through which I am learning Braille, and how to use raised dots to make my life easier, etc. Important coping skills.

In July, though, the owner of my local dog-training school put me on to Donna Hill’s Service Dog Training Institute (SDTI), an online school to help Canadians train their own service dogs.  What a wonderful thing! She is working to the BC standard for certification. Thank you, Donna!

My dog Laddie will turn 8 months old this week. He is a Standard Poodle, due to allergies in the household, and he is as sweet as the day is long. He is also quite energetic and easily aroused, so we spend a lot of time on calming behaviour, in addition to general obedience training.

Like all “kids these days”, he has his own Instagram feed, @Laddiethedog. Check it out if you want to see desperately cute pictures of a (mostly sleeping) poodle puppy. The ones where he is not asleep he is generally just a blur, in case you are wondering about my esthetic choices.

We started Puppy School at the Toronto Centre for Canine Education when he was young to socialise him, but continued on to the Secondary School level because we liked the classes and the support was very, very welcome! Apart from that, I was making it up based on previous dog-training experience and on my years of training horses when I was young.

It’s a lot of work, and I have not been reading like I used to do. I will try to post about the books I have been reading (too many of them now are about dogs and dog-training), though, once I get back into blogging.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure no one actually reads this blog, but it makes me feel a bit less alone in this to have a one-sided conversation with myself in a blog…