Author Archives: Angel

Twenty Six Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 33 weeks old and he weighed a whopping 33.4kg on the vet scale!

We continue to work on the lessons from our weekly clicker class at home (I will try and get pictures at home), and these are so much fun!
SIT                    STAY                   DOWN
UP SIT                   STAND                   WATCH
TOUCH (Riggs loves this one)                   STOP
ROLL OVER                   CRAWL                   THROUGH
STEADY (slow down)                   HUP HUP (go faster)
SIT PRETTY (sitting up with his front feet raised)
UP (stepping up onto a box with his front feet)
Loose Leash Walking                   Recall

We had a few outings with Riggs besides our usual shopping trips – one night we went to RocoMamas for supper and Riggs went straight to sleep.

We were also at GDA for a graduation ceremony – Service Dog Zorro and our friend Kelby (check out My Hero Has Paws), and then a long car ride to spend the afternoon with family. Here he is on his towel at GDA and at my inlaws house.

Last week at GDA there was an Open Day – the Puppy Raising Supervisors set up stations at their training centre where the pups and puppy raisers are faced with different challenges and obstacles, and the Puppy Raising Supervisors and Trainers observe the pups in each situation, and provide assistance for how to move forward in a pup’s learning. Before the training started, Riggs and Lyric (she’s a bit older than Riggs and much faster) had a few minutes to play in one of the free-run areas.
One of the challenges was for the pups to get into and out of the van used by the trainers when they take their dogs out every day. Riggs happily jumped into and out of the van, calmly waited while the door was closed, and then did a beautiful SIT STAY while the truck idled.  Then he hopped back in when the exercise was over to check if there were more treats to be had!  They also had ponies in one area for the pups to see and smell! This challenge is not for the pups to interact with the ponies, but to be able to see them and calmly walk past them – at a fair distance. Riggs has seen horses before, and they made him a little jumpy – but he did well enough yesterday to please our Supervisor. 

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Twenty Five Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 32 weeks old!
He loves to sleep with the top of his head pressed against a wall or the side of his crate. He loves to play and will fetch a toy and try to get me or the other dogs to try and take it from him.
He loves his food and his training treats.

We’re still attending a weekly clicker class with an instructor at GDA, and these are so much fun! Each week is different, and really tiring – for me and for Riggs! Riggs is doing really well. He loves to learn, and we do a lot of SIT-STAY and DOWN-STAY work (Guide Dog puppies have to master a 5 minute STAY when they get to their formal training). We continue to work on the cues we have already learned:
SIT                    STAY
DOWN                    UP SIT
STAND                    WATCH
TOUCH (Riggs loves this one)                    STOP
loose leash walking                    recall
STEADY (slow down)                    HUP HUP (go faster)
We also have several other cues we practise to build our dog’s confidence and focus, and eagerness to train, so we now include:
ROLL OVER                    CRAWL
SIT PRETTY (sitting up with his front feet raised)
UP (stepping up onto a box with his front feet)
We combine the cues with physical obstacles – using a hula hoop in combination with the THROUGH cue, and using cones with the WATCH cue to walk our pup off-lead. It is challenging and SO rewarding!

Riggs and his brother Ringo had their first full-day kennel stay together at GDA last week – 9am to 4pm. They did so well, happily playing and napping.

We were away last weekend, so Riggs went home with his brother Ringo for a few days. Riggs was quite worn out when he came home from his 5-day stay with two other Labs and a Beagle! Thank you to Ringo’s mommy for the care and the photos!

On Tuesday morning Riggs and I had a training outing with our Puppy Raising Supervisor at Bartlett Park. I’d never been there before, but the place is full of bunnies, dassies, and guinea fowl, and a real challenge for a dog. Riggs did so well – I was so proud! We walked up and down the road with cars, bikes and people passing by, and we walked up and down heading towards the area where the bunnies and dassies are concentrated. There’s lots of poop, and interesting smells, and the dassies dart about whilst the bunnies tend to lie in the shade. Riggs did all his obedience cues when told to, and whilst he saw the bunnies and the dassies, and a guinea fowl, he didn’t try to chase any of them!
It was super hot in the car today though, so as soon as he had a good long drink of cold water I turned the aircon up full blast and we went straight home!

I’m bragging a little here – this is proof positive of our puppy learning that human food is not for him!

Riggs is a pretzel-sleeper, just like his mommy!

Five minutes before we had to leave for class – he came in from playing outside and he was filthy and so pleased with himself! 😀

Lyric and Riggs has a run around in a free-run at GDA after clicker class last week. 🙂

My new favourite picture of our Riggs! ❤

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Twenty Three Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Our gorgeous Riggs is 30 weeks old and he weighed in at 31.75kg on the vet’s scale on Friday.
He’s a big boy with a big bone structure – isn’t he gorgeous!

We’ve been attending clicker classes with an instructor at GDA, which are great fun and super tiring – for me and for Riggs! 😀 Our trainer is very strict on having the right attitude and the right shoes and being present in class – for you and for your dog – and its strictly no phones, so no pictures! 😛 Riggs is doing so well too. He loves to learn, and we do a lot of SIT STAY and DOWN STAY work (Guide Dog puppies have to master a 5 minute STAY when they get to their formal training). We work on the cues we have already learned – SIT, STAY, DOWN, UP SIT, STAND, TOUCH, WATCH, loose leash walking, and recall, and we also have several other cues we practise to build our dog’s confidence and focus, so we now include ROLL OVER, SIT PRETTY (sitting up on his bum with his front feet up – he’s not quite sure of this one but we’re getting there), CRAWL, and UP. The classes are great for the pups as the other pups in class serve as a distraction they have to learn to ignore.

Last weekend, my husband and I and Riggs went through to the other side of Pretoria for a Cake Decorating Contest.
It was a good 40 minute drive to get there, and we were there all day! Riggs was an absolute superstar! There were lots of people, several children, we were seated in rows of chairs so we had to walk between people, and there was applause and music, and loads of people greeted and spoke to him through the day, and Riggs didn’t bark or whine once! He even watched the kids jumping on a jumping castle and ignored them!

Riggs and his brother Ringo have also had a couple of four-hour kennels stays together at GDA, we are slowly building up to a full day visit and then an overnight stay or two, so that when he goes in to be castrated, and has to stay till his stitches come out, he won’t be stressed and unhappy. As always they had a ball (thanks to Ringo’s mom for the picture of the two of them). When we drop the pups off we don’t say goodbye or make a fuss, and we go back and spy on them to see how they are doing without us. Riggs doesn’t even get particularly excited to see me when I fetch him which is great! The other picture is on our way to kennels, his head was on the back of my chair and I could feel his breath on my neck! 😀

Isn’t he just the cutest puppy ever! When he’s been napping and he’s wants to play, or he gets bored, he brings me a toy, wagging his tail furiously and nose-bumping me! 😀 Here he is chilling after a clicker training session at home, and a run around the garden.

What happened to our little puppy! He’s such a grown up dog!

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Twenty One Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 28 weeks old and he weighed in at 30.5kg on the vet’s scale.

He’s such a gorgeous dog!
We’ve had a few outings, as usual, but we had no clicker class this week as Riggs had a bit of kennel cough – so we can’t join other puppy groups until he is completely well.

Riggs has become a regular member of the upside down club!

Isn’t he just the cutest puppy ever! Look at those puppy eyes! When he’s been napping and he’s wants to play, or he gets bored, he brings me a toy, wagging his tail furiously and nose-bumping me! 😀


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Twenty Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 27 weeks old and he weighed in at 30.15kg on the vet’s scale! Isn’t he just too gorgeous!

He’s six months old now, so he no longer gets a puppy lunch. It took him a few days to get used to the new routine – but he gets plenty of treats during the day with his training sessions.


We’ve had a few outings, of course, he goes wherever I go!
We went on a training outing with his brother Ringo to Montecasino, starting with a walk across the road from the Pineslopes Shopping Centre. Both pups were so well behaved, walking quietly alongside each other and through the mall, which was nice and quiet on a Wednesday morning. We chatted to a few people along the way, checked out the bowling alley and the arcade, had a good look at a fountain and encountered statues and bicycles and motorcycles all over the place, and although both pups were a little spooked by a bright yellow “wet floor” sign when we arrived, we were able to get them to approach the board and see that it wasn’t scary – and when we came across LOADS more of them inside the mall they completely ignored them. We chatted to security guards, and climbed a few different kinds of staircases, and got to experience some road traffic with our walk to and from Monte from Pineslopes.

We had a bit of a rocky start to our recent Mall of Africa visit. Despite Riggs wearing his jacket, and we Puppy Raisers having pre-arranged access for Guide Dog puppies with the mall management (since it opened), Riggs and I were still escorted to the security office because DOGS AREN’T ALLOWED! I admit – I got VERY annoyed. The rest of our visit was pleasant. Riggs was good as gold in the lifts, and snoozed under the table in the Spur. There was an antiques fair on too, and we walked around the stalls – not going in to any of them so as not to risk accidentally knocking over some expensive knickknack. 


Our recent visit to OR Tambo was amazing – we were waiting for our son to come home and his plane was delayed by almost three hours! Riggs was a total super star! We practised his SIT-STAY in front of the international arrival gate, and he napped under my chair.  We found a lovely little lawn and flowerbeds across the street outside the arrivals where Riggs could go for a busy. And we walked around the parking lot, rode some elevators, climbed some stairs, and saw lots of strange people. He did so well with the noises and the crowds!
It always amazes me that we can visit ORT with a Guide Dog puppy any time, without any drama, but a supermarket or a mall won’t let us in! 



Here are some pictures for you of a sleeping Riggs! In our car on the backseat he has a doggy-hammock. Recently, in a friends’ car, he fell asleep sitting up and didn’t even wake when the dog food bags fell over on him when we turned a corner! Lately he has taken to sleeping on his back occasionally, too. 🙂


We are attending a clicker class at GDA once a week (sometimes twice), and before class the pups get to have a free-run for 5 minutes – we don’t want them worn out, we just want them to burn off some energy. They have so much fun! And the clicker class wears them out too!


Riggs loves his toys!

Isn’t he just the cutest puppy ever! Look at those puppy eyes!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Seventeen Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 24 weeks old and he weighed a whopping 26.6kg on the vet’s scale! Isn’t he gorgeous!
He’s now getting 240g Bob Martin puppy kibble three times a day – but as soon as he is 6 months old he will only be fed twice a day. He’s going to miss his lunches! 😛


We’ve had a few outings, of course – he goes wherever I go! 🙂 The first two pictures are from a GDA fundraising outing to The Square at Sunninghill where Riggs was so well behaved. The bottom picture was from a little coffee shop called Lulu where we had breakfast. We had such a lovely outing to Fourways Crossing on Wednesday morning with puppies-in-training Usko (16 weeks) and Lyric (10 months) and I didn’t take any pictures!!  We also attended a clicker class and added a few things to our clicker training to keep Riggs in top form. 🙂


Just look how Riggs has grown! Thats the same cushion and the same blanket in the first picture!

Riggs is so funny! He’s not allowed on the furniture, but every now and then he will try his luck like this – with his front legs and chest on the bed as he chews on a toy – until someone sees him and says “OFF”.

Riggs and his “big brother” Riddick play so nicely together – with typical Labbie wrestling and “bitey face”. And if Riddick is tired Riggs literally chews a toy on top of him!

Isn’t he a gorgeous boy!
He walks so beautifully on lead when we are out, and he knows the obedience cues he has been taught. He is so clever and he loves to learn.

Here’s Riggs (in the middle) with “big sister” Penny on the left and “big brother” Riddick on the right, waiting for yummy treats!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

He Swallows What He Chews On!

He’s only 5 and a bit… But I swear I could write a book about our Riddick! :D If Riddick is chewing on something, he swallows it while he’s busy. He clearly has no gag reflex!
When he was a puppy, I was often woken in the wee hours of the morning by him puking up a sock. And I can’t tell you how many times he pooped a sock. I was baffled! I did everything I could to make sure we left no clothing lying around, but still it continued and I was terrified a sock was going to get stuck!
I made it my mission to work it out and discovered that one of my cats would “hunt” socks out of our cupboards, drawers, and washing baskets, and leave them lying around the house, where Riddick would find them and chew on them, swallowing as he did so! We managed to put a stop to it without a sock getting stuck!
He also ate and puked or pooped out plastic packets, a couple of dishtowels, the drawstring from a pair of my husband’s shorts, and a couple of pairs of my knickers.
And he’s FAST!
Before he was 5 months old (2012), I had to take him to the vet when he threw up paintballs! You know the ones used in the shooting game? He’d found them in my son’s bedroom and swallowed a whole lot! He threw up a few times and I counted about 50 paintballs when I phoned the vet, who assured me that paintballs are non-toxic and that if he’d thrown them all up he’d have an upset stomach but should be fine. I told them I was a little worried about his ever expanding stomach and how much water he was drinking and that I didn’t know how many paintballs he swallowed! They suggested I take him in and off we went. Riddick was very uncomfortable and whiny, and once we were there the vet agreed that he looked like he’d swallowed a basket ball and they’d best help him out. They gave him a shot to make him throw up and about half an hour later they figured he was “empty”, and gave him another shot to stop him puking. Seems he swallowed 100 to 150 paintballs! He was exhausted! The vet was confident he’d be fine and said I must keep his food and water intake to a minimum to avoid more puking, and that he would have a very runny tummy for a day or so.
The next morning he was a hundred percent back to normal thank goodness, and his adventure earned him a spot on! :D
About a year later (2013), we had moved to a different house, and it was like the previous tenants had used the garden as a tip and I was working daily to pick up rubbish, and the dogs kept unearthing more!
One Monday morning Riddick started throwing up, but it was like he had no control – he didn’t even retch, it just came pouring out of his mouth and he was restless and pacing. We headed to the vet immediately. They kept him overnight and could find nothing on the xrays, but bloodtests showed he wasn’t sick, so on the Tuesday they did surgery to look for an obstruction. They found a ball of disgusting old rag about the size of a grapefruit at the point where the large and small intestine meet, with a wad of grass and leaves he’d been eating because he wasn’t feeling well. Thankfully they managed to gently move the blockage down his large intestine without actually cutting it open, but he had a long cut down the length of his tummy. Parts of his small intestine were inflamed by the passage of the rag, but not necrotic so not needing to be removed. They kept him for 48 hours to make sure the inflammation didn’t become infected and to make sure he could eat and busy before we could bring him home.
It goes without saying that I have watched him very closely ever since! His latest adventure though, took him less than 5 minutes!
I took Riddick to the vet – he’s stronger every day but his sugar is wrong and he’s lost weight. Guide Dog Puppy Riggs went with me. I put both of them back in the car afterwards, with their leads still on (I usually unclip them) and went back inside to pay. Took maybe 5 minutes. I got home, and this is all I could find of Riddick’s lead.  I wasn’t sure which one of them ate it, but it was probably Riddick, and I couldn’t go back to the vet ‘coz the car packed in as I got home. I spent the next few days watching and waiting for them to pass it and praying for no obstruction!
Riddick pooped it out in bits and I am pretty sure its all out, and he’s completely normal.
Stomachs of iron indeed.

Sixteen Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 23 weeks old already (I forgot to do his 22 week update post)!
This morning he weighed a whopping 25.6kg on the vet’s scale – he’s going to be a big dog!

Isn’t he gorgeous!

Riggs and I got this really cool certificate from GDA for finishing Puppy Club!


It looks like all his baby teeth have gone and his grown up teeth are growing fast. I must be honest – he has a “hard mouth” (he snatches) and I have to tell him to take things gently, and I will not miss those puppy needles!


We’ve had a few outings, of course – he goes wherever I go! These pictures are from a GDA fundraising outing to Keith Kirsten, and a trip to Makro where Riggs was a STAR in the long queue!  And our Riddick and Riggs went with us when we went to visit family for a birthday party, and this time I remembered to take their beds with us! It makes such a difference to help them settle somewhere if they have something of their own.

This is Riggs’s new favourite nap spot when he’s not in his crate – next to my bed.



Riggs is such a pretzel puppy! He rarely sleeps on his back like most of my labs have done, but he loves twisting himself into strange positions when he sleeps, and he loves to squish his head into a corner!



Riggs is too funny – he tries very hard to get Riddick to play with him, and if he doesn’t, he literally chews a toy on top of him! And if Riddick is on my bed (he’s allowed), he will chew a toy on my foot instead! 😀 And he does love to play! He loves to bring you a toy and as soon as you try to take it he dodges you, and he does love to play a version of “fetch” where you throw the toy once he has decided to let go. 🙂 He also loves to carry and chew on the 4eva ball – but we don’t throw it for him as Guide Dog pups are not permitted to chase a ball or a frisbee. 😛


Lessons a Guide Dog pup needs to learn – not to go barreling through a door as soon as it is opened (in or out), and not to go flying out of the car until the LETS GO cue is given! 😀


And just ‘coz he’s so gorgeous, here are a couple of pictures of our beautiful boy!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising

Our Dog Has Epilepsy

Our dog is epileptic. This is not news to us.

Our five year old Labrador, Riddick, was diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy a little over a year ago.
This is also not the first time we’ve had an epileptic dog – our mixed breed rescue, Louise, crossed the rainbow bridge just over a year ago due to cancer, but she was medicated for epilepsy for a few years before she died. She was fairly stable, with occasional general seizures, but she picked up weight – a common side effect – and we had to put her on a strict diet.

Thankfully Riddick did not gain weight on the Phenobarbitone medication (AKA Phenobarbital, Pb), but he did experience a few of the other side-effects of the AED – lethargy, sedation, loss of coordination, increased thirst, a bigger appetite, and an increase in urination. Long-term use of Pb can also affect the liver, and this concerned me as he was only four years old when he started on the meds, but we monitored the levels of Pb in his system with blood tests.

The “fun” part about treating our Riddick (he’s diabetic as well) is that he doesn’t EVER react to meds the way the vet expects him to! He even has professors baffled! This means we have got to know our vets very well, and Riddick loves them.
Riddick hit an especially rough patch last month, where he seemed to develop a rare sensitivity to the Pb that severely affected his mobility – it made his hind end completely weak and it was about two weeks before he was strong enough to get up, walk, and busy on his own without assistance, and another two weeks or so before he was back to normal. We had to lift him and carry him as he got stronger every day, and during that time we weaned him off the Pb tablets (the only way to fix the hind end weakness) and started him on a new AED with fewer side effects, but it was really rough on all of us!
We are exhausted.

Living with an epileptic dog has proved to be really stressful, even when their epilepsy is relatively under control. If they hit a rough patch where their meds need to be changed or they are having seizures, it can be exhausting. And finding the right meds can be a challenge – especially if your dog is like Riddick! The majority of dogs are successfully treated for epilepsy with Phenobarbitone tablets (about 20c a pill), but as our Riddick has now shown he may have a sensitivity to the Pb, we have to switch to a new, imported option, Pexion, at R12 a tablet!

With the last month so difficult for our Riddick, it made us reluctant to leave him at home without someone to watch over him. And I find myself watching Riddick’s every move to look for his “aura” – the little signs he shows when a seizure is pending. I don’t sleep too deeply because I am listening for him… And as he can’t go everywhere with us, we have become a little home-bound…

Yes, I know – he’s a dog, not a child – but he’s my dog, and I love him very much.

Riddick’s epilepsy is also different to Louise’s. Where she would have a general seizure every other month or so, and be absolutely fine in between, Riddick typically has what is called a focal seizure. He is wobbly and disoriented, his head and front legs twitch, but he is still fairly aware, and this is when he paces and walks into things. These fits can last a few minutes and take him about an hour to recover from, or he can have a few of them in a row and they absolutely exhaust him.
Occasionally he has a general seizure, a grand mal seizure which is very scary to watch. He lies on the floor, thrashing and flailing, his jaws pulled wide in a grimace, and he pees himself. This kind of fit will exhaust him for half a day, and immediately after the fit he has no idea where he is, who I am, or how to navigate his house. This can last quite some time. At the same time he is super-hyper-excited, but also unsteady on his feet, and he wants water but he doesn’t know where the bowl is. He can be quite a handful until he is back to normal! And for several hours after this kind fit he is very insecure and will stay as close to me as he can get.
Hopefully his new medication will prevent him getting any fits at all.

With the help of many wonderful friends, we got a Holistic Vet disability harness for Riddick a few months ago, because when he is having a seizure – or recovering from a seizure – he tends to want to pace and walk around (also one of his “aura” signs). The worse he feels, the more he walks into things and falls over his own feet, so the harness helps us help him – we can stop him walking into things and I can keep him from losing his balance.
When he is having a seizure, the harness helps me pull him away from walls or furniture so he doesn’t hurt himself.
When we got the harness, we only needed the front half to steady him during and after a fit, but when we went through the days where he couldn’t walk on his own – the full harness proved invaluable in assisting our 35kg boy to walk and busy until he could stay on his own feet again.
I wish I could give each and every one of those dear people a big hug! I don’t know what we would have done without the harness!


So here’s my two cents if you have an epileptic dog.

Whether or not they are on medication, keep a careful log of their seizures as this can be invaluable to your vet – or to a new vet. I have found this is a great way for ME to stay calm and focused during a fit, and I guarantee you won’t be able to remember every detail and every date when you get to the vet!

Try to note the time and duration of the seizures, and what your dog does during the fit. Note how long it takes for your dog to recover and how they behave after the fit. Try to note whether your dog was playing or sleeping shortly before the fit, or if something else happened that may have triggered it – maybe they were surprised by a sudden noise or some such.

Also record changes to your dog’s diet or environment (new house, new dog, new baby), as well as vaccination dates, vet trips, whether you missed a medication dose, even weird weather!

Make sure you know your vet’s hours, as well as where your nearest 24-hour emergency vet is. And if you go to the vet, take your log book with you.

If possible, get copies of blood test results from your vet that you can take with you if you have to go to a different vet.

Be aware of your other dogs while your dog is seizing. If you have more than one dog, a seizure may trigger an instinctive “pack” reaction causing the other dogs to try and attack the “weaker” animal.

Fourteen Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 21 weeks old already! This morning he weighed a whopping 23.2kg on the vet’s scale!

I found one of his baby teeth when it fell out! Usually they get swallowed, so you don’t often find them. 🙂


On the weekend we were at OR Tambo to drop someone off, and Riggs was so well behaved! We climbed stairs, waited in queues, and popped in at BYTE Cafe & Restaurant where Riggs happily lay under the table and napped or chewed on a Nylabone.   He barked a little at the SAPS dogs, but I quickly got his attention and we did a little obedience work (WATCH, DOWN, SIT, STAY, etc) to get him focused on me again.

We had our last Puppy Club class with Riggs and his siblings at GDA today (there are 13)! It has been so much fun, and the time has flown by! It was a good class too, with the pups spending some time together in the kennels while we discussed how we will be continuing forward for the next six months or so. We fetched our pups from kennels and did some walking exercises with the STOP, DOWN, and SIT cues. Then headed into a free-run area where we practised the STAY cue and a recall where we were hiding from the pup.


And just ‘coz he’s so gorgeous, here are a couple of pictures of our beautiful boy!


You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Puppy Raising Facebook page: Proudly Puppy Raising