Cone of shame

Cone_LeighDriving to a meeting yesterday I saw a “Cone of Shame” bumper sticker.  After six blocks of following the yellow VW Bug, I gave up my attempt to get a picture of it.  But several of the kids decided to model the cone in the first day of Bear’s recovery.

First it was Emma and Sam who modeled the cone.  Emma said, “It smells like Bear in hear.Cone_emma

Cone_samSam had difficulty breathing with the cone on.

When I am home I relieve Bear of the cone.  Though our human minds might think wearing a cone is emotionally straining for Bear, I am not so sure.  He certainly looked sad when I first put the dish on, but since then he has adjusted quite nicely to it.  He just barrels through the house.  He forces his way under the table.  He pushes past chairs and tables with the cone bending and snapping as he goes.  And now when I put it back on him, he doesn’t even flinch.

IMG_20121129_065641Since Bear can’t talk, I’ll speak for him.  He doesn’t mind the cone so much.  It is a bit of an annoyance, and the cats aren’t sure what to think, but because he gets long stretches with it off, it isn’t so bad.  He can lay and relax at Declan’s feet.  And the need for the cone diminishes with the scars decreasing in annoyance.

The biggest challenge during this recovery will be the low activity needed to ensure the staples stay intact.  It is day three of recovery and Bear is chomping at the bit.  I take him for short walks a couple of times a day.  This is not nearly enough stretching of the physical limits.  This morning Dec was getting on his bike to ride to school and Bear was so excited to run to school.  He ran and jumped along side Dec for half a block until I could reign him in.  (The vet warned against any running and jumping for the next 12-14 days.)

Trapped inside, wanting to run.

Trapped inside, wanting to run.

Training has continued.  In fact, the kids take part in a lot more of the training.  Emma and Sam tend to put Bear through some drills every morning.  Declan does some exercises with Bear every day.  I can tell when Declan has done some training because Bear’s collar is missing.  Declan thinks the collar is uncomfortable for Bear.  I believe the training from different people is very helpful.  It is important for Bear to receive both commands and treats from people other than me.  Not only does it condition him to “listen” to others, but it also gives him permission to signal low-blood sugars to other people.  In fact, this morning Bear signaled Dec, and he was indeed low.

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Lack of hormones or shame?

Veterinarians will tell you that neuter your male dog calms them down.  They say that the hormones associated with being intact makes them more aggressive.  Now that Bear is back from surgery, I believe there is an alternate theory.  I believe that having to prance around in the “cone of shame” for two weeks significantly destroys the confidence of the “detached” dog to simply make the intact dogs aggressive only in comparison.

Cone of shame

It’d be interesting to put the cone on an intact dog for two weeks and see the result.  It is “purchased” for the price of an xBox wireless controller, but is useless after the two-week period taps confidence and all sense of pride from your dog.  The original cone, the one Bear wore when we picked him up, the one he was wearing as he walked past a pit bull mix (probably intact) in the waiting room, jutted out four inches past his snout.  He banged into everything.  I expected him to be skittish after banging into things, but he just kept at it, pushing through the waiting area, past the door, and eventually into the car.

Declan consoling Bear.

At home Bear kept running into things and began whining.  I couldn’t take the enormity of the cone any longer, so with Dec standing guard making sure Bear wouldn’t rip the staples out of his belly, I took the cone off and cut it back three inches.  With the condensed dish, unable to receive dish-network channels, Bear can navigate through the house a bit better.

Feeling free without the cone.

Bear gets two pain pills a day.  He is already eating and drinking normally.

Questions

  • How will this affect his scent training?
  • How will we survive two weeks of low activity?
  • How much training will he be able to withstand?

    Scar from hernia repair stapled shut.

Last day of completeness

Bear snoring in the kitchen near the end of the long day.

Bear went in this morning.  Yesterday was his last day of being intact, of having a pair swinging.  So we made the most of it.  It might have been due to the experience at the Holiday Inn (see previous post), or it could have been just trying to get the most out of cyber Monday.  Whatever the reason, Bear had a busy day.

The day begin with the now usual ride to school with Sam, Dec, and Emma.  He is getting better, but still needs some training.  I am also getting a bit better at sensing when he MUST take a poop, when he is yanking to get to some grass.  I’ve learned to simply let go of the leash and get a bag out.

After getting back home, Bear’s usual three-hour morning nap was cut short to sign papers for our refinance (have you seen how low rates are?).  At this point I realized that I could have easily left Bear at home.  The decision to bring Bear was a combination of the Holiday Inn experience and Bear’s increasing maturity.  He is much calmer and able to hold it together for longer periods of time.  At the same time I am more aware of how people react when they see the “Service Dog” vest.

We rode the elevator up to the 14th floor.  Bear laid on the floor while we signed.  He was very still with the help of my foot on his leash, but he didn’t struggle.  We visited the Men’s room.  There was someone else in the restroom.  Luckily the stall was vacant.  At this point I realized that Bear hadn’t drunk any water and was likely very thirsty.  I waited for the other occupant to exit before letting Bear drink from the commode.  (It’s a well-known fact that the water from a toilet is cleaner than the water in the washing machine.)

After the Title company, there were some errands to do.  In particular, we had some stores to visit.  Before shopping, though, I needed some food.  So we went to one of the best places: Chipotle’s.  Bear got to practice his Army crawl while we inched forward in line.  Then he got to lay quietly below the table while Heather and I ate.

Then it was off to Nordstrom, then to Costco, and finally to Wal-Mart.  In general, people ignore the fact that I am walking around with a dog.  I suppose that this occurs when Bear is really behaving himself.  It may be that comments are more common when I have to correct him, put him in a sit, or redirect him.  People say how cute he is, or the fact that I am training him, or ask if it is difficult to give the dog up when they are grown.  I used to respond to these comments, but now I usually smile and nod.

Once home Bear plopped down in the kitchen where dinner was being made, but he quickly fell fast asleep, snoring on his side.  Again his nap was cut short to ride to Sam’s and pickup Dec.  On our ride home we stopped at a field for Bear to run off leash, and then back home.

He slept soundly.    This morning it was another ride to school before being dropped off at the vet’s for the chopping block.

Questions

  • How much will this surgery set Bear back in scent training.
  • How much do we want Bear to be with us when we are not at home?
  • How many Hanukkah presents will Bear destroy?

Chewing

  • Lord of the Flies from Fiona’s English class.

    Dec demonstrating the consumption of Lord of the Flies.

  • Another set of earphones.
  • Dec’s slipper.
  • A plastic Army soldier.
  • Dec’s walkie-talkie (I hope it still works).

 

Holiday Inn

Photo op post hot springs

Instead of going berserk shopping on black Friday, the family packed up the MPV and headed to Terwilliger Hot Springs.  Bear was along for the trip, and on the drive down he struggled to find a comfortable spot in the car as Fiona kicked him off the back seat, and he is getting too big to squeeze in on the floor between seats.  He settled on sitting between the front seats, resting his head on the armrest.

Don’t want to spend a lot of time on the hot springs experience, but if you’ve ever been to a hot springs carved into the mountain beside a river (I seem to recall visiting one in my youth outside of Steamboat Springs), but a lot of people who frequent these venues loving feeling natural in nature.  The kids had no idea, but as we rounded the corner on the trail for the final descent to the springs you could clearly see that the ratio of suits per person was zero.  We had come all this way, and we were meeting another family here, we changed into our bathing suits, causing everyone to stare at us, probably feeling bad for our kids that had to grow up in such a restrictive home.

We stopped for a picture on our way back to Eugene, looking forward to a motel with hot tub and pool that required bathing suits.  Signing into the motel, a Holiday Inn Express, the last initial on their form was to comply with their no smoking and no pet policy.  I let them know that we had a service dog.  The receptionist let me know that there were absolutely no pets, to which I responded it was against the ADA law to restrict a service dog.  She said that proper documentation was needed to ensure that it was a service animal, some sort of certification.  Though I knew there is no such thing, I told her that it was in the car.  I put the vest on Bear and brought him into the lobby.

At this point I explained there was no such “certification” for a service dog, that she could call our trainer if she wanted, and that we’d taken Bear to Canada.  I’m not sure why a trip to Canada would institute proper certification, but she bought it.  The whole thing left a foul taste in my mouth, though.  It made me think of the comments left on the story about the service dog that the Christian school forbid from coming to school.  It made me wonder about how far it is worth pushing this.  There certainly are a lot of service dogs out there.  It wasn’t long ago that service dogs were limited to seeing-eye-dogs.  Now there are dogs for people who get seizures, people with autism, people with diabetes, and I suppose there are others.  A quick Google search not only lays out some types of service dogs, but also quotes the ADA law.

Though I feel that having Bear assist with managing Declan and Maggie’s diabetes is a great thing, I am not sure if I am ready to battle hotel chains, schools, and the outspoken slice of america that believes people are abusing the “service-dog” categorization.  Taking a step back, I can see how easy it would be to simply tell the clerk that it is a service dog, giving the family pet free range to everywhere but the religious institutions.

On the flip-side, my blood boils as I am told that “absolutely no dogs are allowed.”  I am invested in this service.  We spend a lot of emotional energy dealing with diabetes, of managing blood sugar levels.  We give/receive up to eight shots a day.  We check blood sugar up to twelve times a day.  We treat low- and high-blood sugars.  It is a constant balancing act between insulin, sugar, activity, stress, sickness, and adrenalin.  We have spent hours training Bear to signal a low-blood sugar scent.  And when he signals on either Declan or Maggie the energy changes, going from a “well this sure is a bummer” feel, to a “Good job Bear!” celebration.  I suppose that I am somewhat biased in how different the feeling is when Bear tells them they are low versus the meter telling them they are low as I have spent a lot of time soliciting the signal from Bear using scent samples.

Questions

  • How do people feel about service dogs?
  • When will Bear signal unsolicited?
  • Can you define when a service dog is needed?

Chewing

  • Two more ear buds
  • Three Tupper ware containers

Gearing up for Thanksgiving

New favorite napping spot by the side door.

Not sure if Bear knows about Thanksgiving, that it is one day away, and that we must train our gastrointestinal fortitude, but he has been putting his insides through some impressive strains.  To get the most out of our turkey meal we need to increase the quantity that our stomachs hold, which can be done in just a few trips to Taco Bell.  Bear has taken an alternate path to gastrointestinal fortitude.

Bear has not only increased the quantity, but he has also increased the variety of what is consumed.  In addition to his impressive volume of food (he is currently going through five pounds a day), Bear also is dabbling in a plethora of new food.  He is testing the limits of his GI tract with boots, toothbrushes, Nerf gun, and DVD cases.  I’m not sure how much of these he actually gets down to his gullet, but I pick up remnants of his work around the house.

I’m not exactly sure why his chewing and consuming of non-food items has increased.  I’m certain he doesn’t know about Thanksgiving.  In fact, Thanksgiving will likely be a bummer for Bear.  He’ll spend more time alone than he usually does.  If we bring him to the in-laws, he’s likely to spend a big chunk of that time in the car, alone.  This will not be enjoyable for him.  He’ll smell the turkey, the stuffing, the green bean casserole, but he’ll be stuck in the van, fogging up the windows.

Bear would much rather have his normal day.  He gets up with Declan at 630, says his hellos, and then hits the couch for a nap.  I take him for a run on the bike.  He runs off leash at the school.  After a few exercises back at home, he hits the couch for solid two-hour nap.  In the evening there is a long walk, possibly to the dog park, and then back home for bed.

I wonder if the increased consumption of non-food items is largely from the Thanksgiving break, with kids and chaos home during the day, and with my mom and her dog, Mimi, visiting.  He loves greeting people as they come over.  He’ll have something in his mouth, a hat, a shoe, and occasionally a dog toy, while he nudges the person, wagging not just his tail, but his whole body.  Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t continue for Bear.  In his excitement he grabs kid’s belongings that pile up near the door.  Then the kid or a parent reprimand Bear, “No! Leave it!”  He drops the shoe, and goes for something else, which then elicits a similar response.  Though he enjoys being with people and pets, I believe his stress level increases with an increased amount of negative feedback, which then increases the need to chew things.

I also wonder about Bear’s surroundings compared to the puppies that Kristin trains at her home.  Bear is constantly with us, a part of the family, while the puppies at Kristin’s house are with each other, with limited human contact.  They go through exercises with a person, but otherwise they are with other dogs, mingling in the yard or in the kennel. Bear’s experience is the inverse: Constant contact with people and mere glances with other dogs.  I wonder if the extreme calm of trained service-dogs I see in public is partly from their limited human contact and constant dog contact for the first nine-months of their lives.

Chewing

  • Two sets of earphones
  • One Steve Madden boot
  • Small Nerf gun
  • Bedroom carpet
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Toothbrush (not sure if it got any plaque off)
  • Book from school
  • DVD case (luckily not the DVD)

Biking

After twenty minutes with Kristin and one practice at home, Bear is a champion at running alongside the bike.  On day two we rode to Maggie’s school to deliver her lunch (she is doing her best to get the most out of the stay-at-home dad), and today we rode with Declan to his school.  With only minor distractions, Bear stays alongside the bike either at a full speed gallop or at a slow jog, responding quickly to the “easy” or “GET BACK” commands.

And with his new heart-shaped pizza flavored treats, Bear pays attention more during walks and during training sessions at home.  Mimi is also around during the home training, which may or may not help his attentiveness.  I could see it helping because he wants to make sure he gets the treat, not Mimi who gets bullied by the cats.  There are times Bear sits at attention, very different from his slumped sit.  In his slumped sit, he’ll be a bit katty-whompus to one side, back legs splayed out.  Sitting at attention, his back is straight, his neck stretched, his eyes bright, and his ears cocked forward..  He is nearly a foot higher sitting at attention.  On the flip side, Mimi could just be a distraction, but the heart-shaped pizza flavored treats more than make up for the pint-sized distraction.

Bear checks Alaska while Dec locates Boston on the floor map.

We are collecting small boxes to assemble the scent game.  Declan is looking forward to unveiling the game, imagining Bear as a bomb sniffing dog in the second war of the world.  His excitement for the game has prompted unsolicited training from Declan.  He still doesn’t have the giving of the treat to Bear down.  Unwilling to get slobber on his hand, Declan will drop the treat to the floor at the approximate time that he believes Bear will complete the skill, which is often times prior to completion.  As a payback, Bear helped Declan with his Longitude-Latitude homework today.

Bassie

Declan, Maggie, and I went to a “Get in the Game” event hosted by Novo Nordisk last night, which happened to be world diabetes day (anyone know why 11/14 is world diabetes day?).  Chris Dudley (former Trailblazer) and Kendall Simmons (former Steelers) spoke at the even about being in professional sports with type 1 diabetes.  It was great to hear their stories.  Sitting next to us was Bassie, a dog that Kristin trained and who Bear played with after our lessons over the summer.  He was with his people, laying on the ground quietly (for the most part).  Turns out the school her person goes to, a private school in West Linn, is not letting the dog in school.  It made the local news.  (Quick side note, I am absolutely APPALLED at the comments on this page.  Makes me wonder what kind of mean people just sit around posting on local news sites.)  It was nice to see Bassie and to discuss with his people some of the challenges of training.

Chewing

  • My nice headphones.
  • Lone flip-flop.
  • Shower scrub.
  • Lip balm.

Questions

  • Still wondering about signaling a posture rather than a scent.
  • Am I mean to put the “gentle lead” on during walks when he tugs on the leash? (certainly not as mean as those commenters on KATU website)
  • When will we get that huge jacket for Bear that Bassie has?

Lessons

Not sure when the last lesson was, over a month, i think.  At the lesson I realized that my energy and excitement for training is inversely related to the frequency of lessons.  I had to admit that Bear’s training has diminished to walks to the park, with some scent training thrown in there.  I’ll occasionally do a few things at home, like “go to bed”, “rollover”, and “crawl”.  The main reason for the lesson was to work on basic outdoor behavior: tugging on the leash and running next to the bike.

Right off the bat Kristin introduced Bear to a “Gentle-lead”, which is very gentle for the person, but appears extremely annoying to the canine at the other end.  It is a figure eight harness for the head, going around the snout and neck.  Bear started bucking and yanking at his snout as soon as it was on.  It reminded me of the first time we had him on a leash.  He did settle down after some tasty treats and a bit of time.  I am told that after a few sessions with the “gentle-lead” the uncontrollable yanking will disappear simply by pulling the “gentle-lead” out of one’s pocket.  That is how gentle it is to the canine at the other end.  We’ll see.

Next we went outside to run alongside the bike.  Luckily for us it was dry.  The last time I tried riding with Bear on the bike I nearly took his head off while he nearly yanked me down a bluff.  No treats necessary on this one since just running at full speed is such a joy (oh, to be a dog).  The majority of this lesson is to communicate where he needs to be, which is behind the fork line of the bike, and to the right of the bike.  We started by walking the bike with Bear on the right.  If he ever got passed the fork line, Kristin would say “Get back!” as she jerked the front wheel to the right to tap him.  Bear should be scared to go beyond the fork line of the bike because bad bad things will happen if he does this while riding.

Last night I practiced running with the bike, and this morning I rode with him to Maggie’s school to deliver a forgotten lunch.  Bear picked up on it like a champ.  This has everything to do with the reward for learning the lesson.  In fact, Maggie’s school is one of his favorite destinations with many dogs playing in the field at the beginning and end of each day.  Our walks to the school is what prompted me to call Kristin about tugging on the leash, which may be remedied with the aforementioned “gentle-lead.”  So on our ride to his favorite destination, Bear tugged a little bit, but he was very responsive to the “Knock it off” command.  Once we got to the school, he remained behind fork to the right of the bike as we walked to the door.

While Bear learned quickly how to run alongside the bike, I learned how powerful the reward is in learning.  I picked up some new treats while buying the “gentle-lead”, and Bear loves them.  Back at home he actually went to the dog-pad on the “go to bed” command without me standing right next to the pad.

The variety of treats will help in our latest skill to learn from Kristin: Find the scent.  We put five or six shoe-box sized boxes on the floor, putting treats in one of them (this is how they train drug sniffing dogs).  Bear needs to find the box with the treats.  At first the box is open.  Then we close the box.  Then we put a scent-sample along with the treats.  Then we put the scent-sample in random places around the room.  The idea of this drill is that Bear is seeking out the scent, actively finding it, instead of being passive and waiting for the scent.  Later in this game, we can hide a scent-sample at the park for Bear to find.

Mimi donning her new raincoat for the wet Portland weather.

In addition to the new game and running along with the bike, Bear has had a new dog in the house.  My mom is visiting with her dog, Mimi, who happens to be the same weight as Bear’s poops from the backyard.  Mimi is slowly getting used to Bear trying to play with her.  It is a bit awkward as his paw is about the size of her skull.

Questions:

  • Will Bear ever not seek attention from other dogs?
  • Will Declan be able to ride his bike with Bear running next to him?

Items chewed in the past week:

  • Declan’s school book (we’ve already ordered a replacement).
  • Fiona’s Steve Madden boots (apparently they are nice).
  • Four rolls of toilet paper.
  • A roll of paper towels.
  • Two milk cartons.
  • One juice pouch.