Down by the river

Kids learn about traffic in work-zones. Bear not interested.

It would have been a nice walking field trip.  Bear can handle walking with a group of kids, though he pulls on the leash in the beginning with kids running around.  He settles in pretty quick.

I thought the walk to school would take the edge off, settling him down.  Though he is able to sleep through nearly the entire day, I learned Bear has been saving his energy.  We left before eight, and returned at noon, a time that normally would be filled with a three and a half hour nap, which you could actually say about any four-hour chunk of the day for Bear.  Whether from the children surrounding us, or from the destination, Bear was on high alert the entire trip.

Waiting outside the class to depart, each kid greeted Bear as they took turns going to the bathroom.  Bear was settling into nice walking with the class soon after we left.  However, as we neared the park he began tugging on the leash.  Though I would have normally been correcting him by changing direction, crossing the street a few times, and going through some other obedience commands, I refrained since we were on a field trip.  I had to make due with smaller corrections and letting him roam more in the “party” right hand walk.

To be fair to Bear, we were going to the park that he identifies with being off-leash, playing with whoever is present.  We first had to walk through the park that I let him run off-leash.  Then we descended to the dog-park by the river, which was the destination of the trip.  Because the Sellwood Bridge is falling down, they are finally beginning to replace it, including making a detour bridge.  This trip included three interactive stations around the dog park.  Students learned how the old bridge was going to slide over to make the detour bridge; Engineers explained about the layers of the soil and having to drill down to rock; and they learned about challenges of directing traffic around work zones.

While the class learned about moving the bridge, Bear watched (mostly) quietly while other dogs played.

I began to feel a bit like the dungeon master, drinking a hot coffee on a couch while the prisoners shivered on the cold hard stone, restricting Bear to the group of non-fun, non-four-legged, non-furry animals.  As much for Bear’s sake as for mine, we departed from the presentations and demonstrations to wreak havoc with some dogs.

First in the grassy part and later on the beach, Bear ran free, demonstrating so well how he can ignore me when I call him to return.  He is so adept at this.  He actually stops, looks at me, scans the field for something better than the treat he knows I’m holding in my hand, and sprints to the muddy spaniel retrieving a soggy tennis ball.


Bear enjoys himself on the beach with a border collie in close pursuit.

Even after gathering Bear back on the leash, I allowed him back off at the beach.  Students learned about landslides with sandpaper, bricks, plywood, and a protractor.  Bear stared out at the river, occasionally whining at the dogs running free.  I felt the students were in good hands with the other four chaperones, so Bear and I went absent again.

Though there were three people with diabetes on the trip (teacher and two students), Bear did not signal any lows other than the scent samples I pulled out of my pocket occasionally.

What I learned:

  • Bear has some work on behaving on the leash.
  • People quickly get used to having a dog with them.
  • There is always one or two dogs that begin to get aggressive with Bear and wonder if it is because he is “intact” still.
  • Bear doesn’t have to sleep seven out of every eight hours.

Rivaling best hair on boys: Dec’s mop and classmate’s well-kept hair. Dec attempted to stay warm with his long sleeve T-shirt in the 42 degree air with a bit of rain.


Special Friend Day at Sellwood Middle School

After making fourteen phone calls to all of her uncles, aunts, and cousins that could have possibly attended special friends day, Maggie called me.  It was 905 in the morning.  She called from the office, minutes  before the tardy bell.

“Can you come to school at ten for the special friends assembly?”  Maggie asked, winded from running from her locker when she remembered that I was the only one left.  She caught me just in time.  I had just geared up for a long walk with Bear.  I was ready to head to the dog park: clicker on wrist, treat bag (not a fanny pack) clicked on, poop bags hanging from the treat bag, scent sample in right pocket, “no scent” sample in left pocket, low-value treats, and high-value treats.  I only had to harness up Bear and clip on his “Service Dog” vest.

So when Maggie asked if I could come for special friends day, I was first inclined to drop her softly, but then I realized that Bear would be Maggie’s special friend.  Instead of declining the invitation, giving Maggie her fifteenth negative response, I told her that I’d bring Bear, her truly special friend.

“No you can’t.  You better not.” I could hear her brain narrowing in on the best reason.  “The principal prohibits dogs in school.  She won’t let you inside.  She has already kicked out other people’s dogs.”

I have to give it to Maggie; she can really be convincing.  And had I not been briefed about where service dogs can and cannot go, I may have left Bear at home (or left Maggie at school alone, and taken Bear for a walk.  I mean, do middle schooler’s need a grandparent coming in to visit?).  But I knew better.  I knew that Bear could go anywhere without explicit permission, save for religious institutions.

And so I clipped leash to harness and headed out.

Visiting the school allowed Bear to practice sitting in a small space and being in large crowds.  The marimba band banged out a few songs, students gave some announcements, people walked by our chair, the jazz band blared out a medley of Les Miserables, and Bear stayed under the chair with the help of my foot on his leash.  Bear struggled at first, attempting to lick the shoes traveling by nose-level, but he soon settled down.

After the assembly we walked the halls with all the other special friends.  With no shortage of distractions, my hand was full of treats, doling them out at a constant stream.  The vest kept everyone from approaching Bear.  A few people could not help themselves, and asked nicely if they could pet Bear.  After a quick explanation that he needed to be sitting and stay sitting, they got their wish of a few pets as Bear slobbered over their fingers.  One person that could not help herself was the principal.  So much for being kicked out of school.  In fact, she had recently had to put down her yellow lab of fifteen years, and immediately created a strong bond with Bear.

Leigh and Maggie strike a pose. Bear not impressed.

Because part of Maggie’s evil plan involved going out to lunch after the assembly and tour of school (“It’s part of special friends day,” she said), we had to go be her friend Ashley’s block class and silently confer about if she was coming to lunch.  You remember silently communicating with friends across the room in school.  It’s pretty obvious to everyone.  I conspicuously stood in the doorway as Maggie attempted to pull me to the stairwell, terrified that the teacher would invite us in to his class.  Fiona had this teacher two years ago, and he knows that I am taking a year off to train Bear (among other things…hopefully).

Sure enough he spotted us and invited us in at which point Maggie disappeared.  So Bear and I went without Maggie.  I answered questions about what he was being trained for and other parts of training.  We demonstrated signalling a low-scent.  One of the students who sat in our row at the assembly said he didn’t even realize Bear was under my seat at the assembly.

We left the class, left the school and went to Killer Burgers for lunch, where Bear laid quietly beside our table with the help of my foot on his leash.  I can’t help but feel a little cruel taking Bear to a hamburger joint and forcing him to silently lay beside us.  Most of Bear’s world is through smells.  It would be like taking a recovering alcoholic to an all-you-can-drink party and not giving them a cup.

Bear did great.  Though not totally under control, he never completely lost it.  More trips are planned.  In fact, today we went to Costco.  Tomorrow we go on a field trip with Declan’s class to the Sellwood Bridge.  This will be very challenging as it is right next to the dog park.  Maybe we will steal away for a little bit of free time.

I continue to be concerned that Bear is smelling the plastic or the cotton swab when I present the low-scent sample.  I remain nervous each time I present the “no-scent” sample that he will signal for a low-scent.

On day one, before Bear pooped in Maggie’s room, she loved him (I think she still does), and he was a bit afraid.

Dog park

Bear is needing interaction with animals other than our cats.

Now that Bear has all of his vaccinations and has survived a bout with parvo, I took him to the dog park.  There is one walking distance from our house, down by the river.  It is a bit of a walk, and I thought it might wear Bear out a bit, but he was raring to play when we got there.

Our previous dog was one of those annoying dog-park dogs.  The one that found a dog to pester.  She wouldn’t fight at all; she would just bark at one dog.  I am not sure how she chose the dog, but she would stay with that dog until we left, which was usually soon after she found that dog.

Early on with Bear, Kristin warned us about dog parks, that there might be some aggressive dogs at the park, and some timid owners to go along with those dogs.  I am of the belief that people who take their dogs to the park to play know the importance of dogs playing, and, thus, should be well-adjusted.

I got thinking about the dog-park after a walk to the football field that I let Bear roam off leash.  This time there were two other dogs there, and Bear levitated he was so excited to play.  The other dogs put up with the puppy and thoroughly wore him out.  Instead of leaving to chance to see another dog at the football field, I took him to the dog-park.  As it was by the river, it also allowed for a swim, which he hasn’t gotten to do at all.

We’ve been to the dog park twice.  The first time he sniffed the water, not getting in past his ankles, and he ran with a lot of dogs as they chased a ball.  Bear was oblivious to the game of fetch, assuming that it was chase they were playing.  Not accustomed to the constant running, Bear tried to keep up with the Herculean feat of keeping pace with these dogs that just kept running, putting to shame any ultra-marathoner.  Soon it became Bear jogging 30 feet behind the dog lunging for the ball, only to make a U-turn as the dog sprinted past him on his way back to their owner holding a Chuck-it stick.

The second time to the park I let Bear off leash and he sprinted to a cluster of three dogs.  I could see them playing as I approached.  The owner tossed a ball and the clump of dogs chased after the ball, Bear chasing the dogs.  One of the dogs got aggressive, leaning hard into Bear, bearing his teeth, and growling.  Only wanting to play, Bear flopped down to showing submissiveness.  The dog continued lunging at Bear.  As I approached the owner was able to get his dog, claiming that puppy play can be so loud.  I responded that that was not play, that was fighting.

As I redirected Bear to the river, the dog lunged a few more times, jerking his owner.  I secretly relished the thought of a small rotater-cuff injury to the owner’s shoulder.  Nothing big, like a full dislocation, but something to remind him not to bring a damn aggressive dog to the park.  No luck as the jerks from his dog didn’t even dislodge the cigarette hanging from his mouth.

We survived, though.  Maybe I’ll bring my tazer next time to neutralize any aggressive dogs next time.

Bike crash

So relaxing on the couch his jowls are creased. (Nothing to do with a bike crash, simply what Bear does most of the day)

I got home a bit after Sam and Dec got home from school on Friday.  I was picking up an espelier tree for our side yard.  With puffy cheeks and eyes, Declan told me he crashed his bike riding home from school.  He doesn’t remember how it happened, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Sam were attempting to ride around the piles of dirt in the vacant lot.  Apparently Dec lost control, went tumbling forward with bike, and then completed another roll without bike.

By the time I had gotten home, Dec had already cleaned up the worst wound, a giant scrape covering half of his forearm.  He had another good scrape on his knee and one by his ribs.  I really wanted to scrub the wounds down, but Declan gets hysterical with any pain associated with cleaning wounds.  He had a horrible ordeal a few years back with a giant splinter on his foot.  We had two aunts, both nurses, and his diabetes doctor,attempt to dig the thing out unsuccessfully.  In the end we went to the hospital where Declan had surgery, yes, surgery, under a general anesthesia, yes, completely unconscious  to get the splinter out.

Reacting to a splinter in this way is a side effect of type 1 diabetes.  Doctors are extremely cautious about infection in patients with diabetes.  So surgery under a general anesthesia extricated the splinter after three failed attempts.  So when I saw Declan with a good portion of his forearm exposed, I thought about the potential for infection.  I wanted to soak the exposed areas in hydrogen peroxide, letting them bubble over, cleaning all the filth from the street that embedded itself into his arm.

I had to settle for a quick pat of an alcohol swab and gobs of Neosporin.  (Incidentally, we have boxes of alcohol swabs because if we don’t clean Dec’s injection sites before we give the shot, he gets staph infections.  I’m still waiting for syringes to have a built-in alcohol swab.)

As we cleaned up the wounds, Bear made his way over, his long tail whipping around and an Ugg boot in his mouth.  He immediately dropped the boot and started “cleaning” the wound on Dec’s knee.  Dec thought it was pretty cool that dogs automatically start cleaning wounds.  I didn’t encourage or discourage this form of cleaning a wound.  Dec and Bear are in a serious bounding cycle, and I didn’t want there to be any dirt between them.  I did try to get one more pat of the alcohol swab after Bear left a layer of saliva on it, though.

Maggie makes sure Bear doesn’t leave the back of the van on the way to a soccer game with Ashley (Maggie and Bear are not bonding the way Dec and Bear are).

Over the course of the next day, Declan had one soccer practice and two soccer games.  I am proud to say that he soldiered through, participating in all.  Resting at home after the second game, Declan thought it would be a good idea to get his wounds cleaned.  So he called Bear over, exposing his knee to him, actually encouraging a layer of dog slobber over the wound.  Bear sniffed the wound, cocked his head sideways, and sat down without any licking.  Declan persisted, presenting his knee.  Bear sniffed again and then pawed Dec’s leg, signaling for a low blood sugar!

Jelly always tries to find a warm place to sleep.

Ever the diligent trainer, Declan got a treat for Bear, and then checked his blood sugar. He was 62 (anything below 80 is considered low).  So cool.  Declan was home alone when this happened.

Season changing

We are heading into fall.  If you live in the Northwest, or have visited the Northwest in the fall, you know that there are a lot of trees.  It is a beautiful time of year with the leaves changing color.  I’m not going to be able to enjoy it nearly as much this year with Bear pouncing on every leaf within four feet.  With some of the trees already dropping leaves, walking with Bear has become more challenging.

I’m not sure how he picks the leaf out, but I can see him zero in on the approaching leaf, tumbling along the sidewalk.  Rearing up on his hind legs as it gets near, he pounces down with both front paws.  It is cute for three or four times, but after the 20th leaf on the same block, it starts getting old.  To decrease the leaf fatalities on our walks, I’ve increased the amount of treats Bear gets.  I’ll just have a handful of treats, clicking and giving treats as fast as possible.  And it is actually working.

I try to anticipate distractions along the road, be them leaves or people or dogs.  As we approach the distraction, I increase the rate of treats.  The more distract-able, like a screaming three year-old, I’ll literally have my hand in front of his nose, pulling him toward me and dropping treats in his mouth.  There are times, though, my concentration lapses and we are passing another dog on the sidewalk.  And the shocking thing is that before losing total control of himself and sniffing the other dog, Bear will actually look at me expecting a treat.  And what is even more surprising are the times that I am ready to give one out in the half-second he glances up at me.

Changing behavior

Not sure if it is the season or a growth-spurt or post-parvo, but Bear is lounging around a lot.  He’ll crash on a couch for a few hours.  But when he is not sleeping he is often gathering up toys, piling them up in his “territory”.  As he gets a bit older, he has experimented with different toys, namely non-dog toys.  He had a short stint with socks, including a sock monkey.  He discovered shoes, and they remain a favorite.  We often search for a single shoe in the backyard.  There was a short infatuation with balls, be it tennis of base types.

His newest toy genre is hats.  He found a checked cap first that no one really claimed.  After chewing a notch out of the brim, the cap is officially Bear’s.  The plastic army hat is a mainstay, it often jumps out of his grasp, and with its durable plastic form, Declan continues to play with it during Nerf gun battles.  Every once in a while, Bear finds a new “toy” that is dear to someone named Fiona.  Recently Bear found Fiona’s new H&M hat that she spent a fair amount of time posing in.  Luckily Fiona rescued the hat before he placed a notch in it, claiming it as his own, and probably causing harm to himself in the form of a teenage girl.

Five months

With a bit of primer on his nose and paw.

Bear is now five months old.  He has been with us for three months.  Now that we are on hiatus from lessons with Kristin, we have gotten into a bit of a routine.

I’ll start at the end of the day.  About three days a week Bear sleeps with Declan.  Bear wakes Dec up around three in the morning.  I think he just wants to get up in bed with Dec, but rather than bring him up on the bed, Dec opens his door and lets Bear out.  He then ventures up to our room.  If he doesn’t settle down right away I put him in the crate and close the door.  I then lay in bed thinking about whether Dec might be low.  A few times I have actually dragged myself out of bed and went and tested him.  He has never been low.

In the morning we let Bear out to the backyard to do his business.  Before the air warms up, I go and find as many of the piles as possible to keep the flies (and spiders) at bay.  Bear chases Dec around the house a bit; the bike gang gathers at our house, giving pets to Bear and putting him through some basic obedience.  After they leave for school, I take Bear on a good walk with scent sample, vest, and dongle.

If we have time we go all the way to the park where Bear gets to run around a bit without his vest, leash, or harness.  On the walk we do a few scent trainings, a few behavior trainings and a lot of walking nice practice.  Back home he gets the weeble-wobble feeding toy to eat.

After the last kid leaves for school we do the “go to bed” and “left” and “right” drills.  Then Bear gets to settle down for his first of several two- to three-hour nap.  With any luck he completes his nap on the couch in the living room.

Some where around midday I gear back up for another round of drills with Bear.  I get the snack-pack on, place the dongle in my back pocket, get a scent sample from the freezer, and get to work.  After the training Bear settles down for his second or third nap.

While he naps, I jam a scent sample by his nose to get him to wake up and signal a low.  This has been less than stellar.  But with all of these drills, it is all about being consistent and sending the same message each time (I hope).

As the kids arrive back home, Bear greets them all with the same full body wag and a lot of licking.  Right before or after dinner I’ll gear back up and go through some more drills.  And then before bed, Bear gets one more walk, with drills along the way.  If all goes well, Bear does not leave any surprises in the basement for the girls.