Late update

Photo on 2013-01-09 at 18.46 #2

How I felt after missing the alert.

Just sitting at the table, playing some chess with Dec. Bear strolls up to me and paws me. Having just eaten dinner, I know I am not low, or close to low. I pet him.  He keeps pawing me. He barks. So I check my blood sugar and sure enough I am 167, still processing the carbs and sugars from dinner.  I let Bear outside as he must need to go to the bathroom being so vocal with me.

Bear is no longer contained in the backyard. I’m trying to figure out where the hole in the fences are, but I haven’t yet. I let Bear back inside through the front door. And it is getting on bedtime for Dec, so he checks his blood sugar.  And he is 77! Low. Bear was signaling and once again I miss it. We were able to get him to paw Dec and we celebrated it. So he is starting to get it, it’s just that we continue are thick-headedness.



Approved and unapproved chew toys.

Approved and unapproved chew toys.

Chew toys and live alerts.

After Bear alerted my friend and I thought he was just being a pain in the butt, but later found out she was prone to low blood sugar, I have been much more attentive to possible low alerting on people with fully functioning pancreas.  It’s happened twice so far.  I got home from the gym and was getting lunch together for myself.  (I go to the gym in the middle of the day now, with my open schedule.)  Bear is excited to get out of his crate and also to greet people, so he was walking around my legs, wagging his whole body, pushing into my knees and what not when he started pawing me.  I first thought that it was part of his excitement of meeting and getting out of his crate, but then I went ahead and grabbed a glucose meter and checked.  One of the advantages of having T1D people living in the house is we have tons of medical supplies, including glucose meters.

Turns out I was 80, which technically is “in range” for those that don’t have a functioning pancreas, but for me it was low.  I gave Bear a bunch of treats and celebrated the live alert.

Yesterday Heather got back from the gym and some errands.  Bear was doing his full body wag, pushing up against the new arrivals, celebrating getting out of his crate and greeting people when he pawed Heather.  I threw her a spare glucose meter and she was 86.  With a functioning pancreas, the 86 is low, so we handed out some freeze-dried bison lung, a high-value treat for Bear.


One of three headlamps consumed.  Ashley in background says, "I told you so."

One of three headlamps consumed. Ashley in background says, “I told you so.”

After spending over $200 replacing bike helmets (3) and footwear (2), I went out and spent $60 of chew toys.  Shopping for chew toys is like shopping for mechanical pencils.  They are all do the same basic thing, but they have a plethora of different colors and shapes and gizmos and gadgets.  Back in high school I learned that I freeze under too many choices and being an early adopter of mechanical pencils, I would lose track of time in the pencil aisle at the art store, trying out all the different styles.  Having a choice is good, I know, but I learned early on that having too many choices put me in a state of decision-paralysis.  And this is why I love going to Costco to shop.  They put two products to choose from; there is the Kirkland brand and the name brand.  I can handle that decision, but put 43 different chew toys in front of me and I freeze.

Sitting on the couch perusing the basket of toys.

Sitting on the couch perusing the basket of toys.

I was able to leave the pet store with three new chew toys in under 30 minutes.  Now Bear’s toy basket includes three rope squeaky toys (Costco), two femur bones, a Jax style toy that you can put meat rings on, a plastic bone that you can put meat rings on (pictured above), two squeaky stuffed animals (Costco, lost one of them), a hot dog squeaky toy, a specialized chew toy that came from some lab ($28), another specialized chew toy from some lab, and one to three tennis balls.  Regardless of the growing inventory of chew toys, Bear chewed two bike helmets, one head lamp, and three hangers in a two-day period.  At this point I am just thankful that there wasn’t a pair of Marc Jacobs boots or purse in that mix, which start at $100.

Not that I’ll ever be doing this again, but if I were to do it again, and if anyone ever asks for advice, I would by a lot of chew toys.  And people told me to do this (comments right here, even).  It is one of those incidental costs that some people like me have a hard time springing for.  In the toy aisle fourteen different chew toys, twelve rope toys, seven expensive toys, five types of Frisbees, and eight different tennis balls confront me.  Without the five hours needed to sort through the choices and come to a decision, I tell myself that Bear doesn’t need the toys, that the stuffed pig from Costco with one ear missing just needs to get rescued from the backyard.  And besides there is nothing that really jumps out at me.  Too many factors to choose from: size, type, color, cost, squeaky.

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back I’d buy one new toy a week to introduce and cycle through the toy lineup.


Training continues.  I am reintroducing some tasks that we should have down now.  One being the “grab the bringsel (or dongle).”  This will eventually be paired with a low-scent, but for now Bear needs to grab it and hold on to it.  Eventually he will bring it to the person with a low-scent, signaling that he smells a low-scent.

There are times I enjoy doing the training, but for the most part it is not something I look forward to doing.  It is becoming similar to drawing and giving insulin shots for Maggie and Declan.  The same low-level dread feeling accompanies both.  And I know how horrible it would be without insulin.  It still is a bummer to administer four to six shots every day.  It is a chore.  With Bear training, though, nothing catastrophic will occur by skipping or decreasing the frequency.

And so I look forward to the group lessons we’ve signed up for.  They start in two weeks.  I need some guidance, somebody to judge how things are going.  I need the teacher to be impressed with something we’ve been working on.

New hope

Productive training session.

Productive training session.

It has been awhile since we’ve had a lesson.  I fear when we return, which we will be in a few weeks, we’ll find out that what we have on our hands is some hybrid puppy, capable of some service dog duties, but largely a house pet.

It is difficult to convey the frustration of attempting to guide Bear to service dog status.  I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I may not be the best dog trainer.  I can handle teaching math, statistics, and economics to people, but teaching a dog to bring an object on command is beginning to feel out of reach.  As I write this, Bear is snoring on the couch.  A great house pet, right?

Gentle lead

Gentle lead and a treat keep Bear focused away from jogging dog.

Have you ever seen service dogs out in public?  Whether they are guiding the blind or assisting in another way, they always seem very attentive and calm.  They lazily scan the scene before them, always attending to their person.  They stand or sit right next to their person.  A toddler screams by them, and the service dog merely glances nonchalantly their way, hardly moving their head, merely following with their eyes.

Bear enters a room and quickly scans it for some fun.  Who and what can turn this boring place into a play area.  There is a ball in the corner, a shoe by the door, and a kid hopping up and down.  He’ll first charge the kid, always preferring an animate object.  If the hopper is unavailable for whatever reason, then the shoe wins out over the ball because of some enticing smells, stories to unfold within the smells.

IMG_20130113_115500Maybe I am not giving Bear enough credit.  He is great at some basic obedience stuff, like sit, down, and stay.  He is getting the hang of “go to bed,” but I can’t find the blue pad that we use to identify bed with, so we haven’t been working on that one recently.  You know what else Bear is amazing at?  He knows the sound of the lid to a scent sample hitting the counter.  Fast asleep on the couch, he’ll perk up, ready to work the moment the lid hits the counter.  Then he is all serious, ready to sniff out the low.  I’d like to think that he picks up the scent at about the time the lid hits the counter.  However, he’ll occasionally perk up with the opening of the fridge door, which is where the scent samples are stored.

My hope is that when we begin our weekly group lessons begin, Bear is smart and attentive enough to make up for all of my shortcomings.

And we went to Mt. Hood for a few days away.  Beautiful views and weather.IMG_20130121_104017

Serenity Now

Appropriately out of focus and blurred with motion.  Bear tries to get in on Maddie and Jelly cuddling.

Appropriately out of focus and blurred with motion. Bear tries to get in on Maddie and Jelly cuddling.

I keep thinking of the Seinfeld episode where George’s dad repeats “Serenity now. Serenity now.”  It calms him down.  At the end of the show he loses it, clearing off a table of computers, yelling, “Serenity now!  INSANITY LATER!”

Correct Bear when he grabs Dec’s shoe.  Find a chew toy to give him and praise him.  Serenity now.

If Bear has to be left alone put him in a the bathroom, a place he can’t get in trouble.  Serenity now.

Bear comes along to lunch and quickly settles down under the table.  Serenity now.

Bear signals on Maggie when she feels low.  Serenity now.

I’m holding my breath, though, waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Each time I leave him in the bathroom, I enter the house holding my breath, scanning the floor for debris, exhaling and going to the door to let Bear out.  Walking down the street I am waiting for Bear to yank on the leash.  My left-pointer finger, bearing the brunt of the yank and subsequent correction, now has skin peeling back and a developing callous.  My shoulders tense as we walk through the store, anticipating the yank to come as we near that sole broccoli flower laying on the floor.

And it comes.  And not always with Bear.

Returning from the gym, it is obvious what Fiona and Maggie had for breakfast.  The egg coated pan sits on the stove; the yolk remains spread on the cutting board; the cheese grater is on the counter; the milk remains on the counter; sugar is sprinkled all around the sugar bowl; the teacup, water-glass, milk-glass, plate, four spoons, and butter knife lay on the counter; and the loaf of bread sits open next to the toaster.  Insanity has arrived.

Bear had a jail break.  Back from a meeting, holding my breath climbing the steps my fears are realized as Bear is standing tall looking out the window in the door, mischief in his eye.  Debris is scattered throughout: a bike helmet on the couch without the plastic shell, a library book torn up in the living room, an empty bag of chocolate chips in the bedroom, a chewed up roll of toilet paper in the office, a torn up cardboard box in the kitchen, and an untouched dog bone in the dining room.  Insanity now.

Out on walks or in public places I no longer wait for the yank to come to put on the “gentle” lead.  I put it on right from the get go.  It’s as if a switch has flipped.  It annoyed Bear at first, but he got used to it.  Serenity now.  Now it annoys Bear initially and he struggles to remove it, rubbing his nose on the floor, against my leg, jumping up and grabbing the leash to yank on it with his mouth.  Insanity now.

I take Bear to the park to get some energy released.  He bolts for another dog, wanting to play.  Hoping in vain the owner is willing to let her dog play with Bear off-leash, she stands tall, holding her Schnauzer close.  Bear not only ignores my call to return, he also makes it a game of chase.  Insanity now.

I put Bear in a more secure bathroom to stay in while I am gone.  He begins barking immediately.  I leave as he continues barking, which will cease as he settles down.  But I can hear him barking as I return to the house.  The bathroom is steamy from Bear panting and barking.  Insanity.

Declan looking after Bear in the snow.  Bear looking after Dec.

Declan looking after Bear in the snow. Bear looking after Dec.

I’m pretty sure Bear senses my anger, which only escalates his crazy energy.  I become more and more convinced that I am not cut out for this, that there must be a better place for Bear.  And it is only Dec’s strong bond with Bear that keeps me from pursuing this better place.  Declan gets home and plays “soccer” with Bear, kicking one of the chew toys around.  Dec gets a point when he dribbles it to the kitchen; Bear gets a point when he gets the toy up on the couch.  Declan works with Bear on some drills: sit, down, stay, crawl.  He gives Bear treats and a lot of loving pets.  But then Bear gets too worked up, snapping at Dec while they play.

Declan had to take five things to school to share with his “tribe.”  The items would help the people in his tribe get to know him.  He brought his kit, a Lego, a chess piece, a shinguard, and one of Bear’s toys.


This has been my year off.  It can be challenging staying at home.  I can empathize with the stay-at-home parent.  Without a desk or a classroom to go to each day, the day can feel empty.  I need to occasionally catalog what has been done.

What I’ve done

Built a gate to enclose the backyard for Bear.  Taken Maggie, Declan, and Fiona to the doctors, the dentist, the orthodontist, and the physical therapist.  Cleaned and reorganized pantry.  Planted two Espalier pear-trees.  Dealt with new medical insurance (full-time job).  Made temporary walls to snap into place, making a guest room in basement for visitors.  Cooked meals.  Trained Bear.  Swept and vacuumed the floors.  Chaperoned five high-school students to a Macklemore concert.  Designed and installed a desk for the office from reclaimed materials.  Baked Challah.  Chaperoned four field-trips.  Given over 500 shots.  Built shelving unit in TV room.  Laundry.  Tutored high school student in math.  Picked up countless dishes.  Attended spin class in the middle of the day.  Built bike shelters and bike-lock stands.  Picked up thousands of poops.  Observed classrooms with outstanding teachers.  Become familiar with Costco’s layout.  Delivered Meals-on-Wheels with Maggie.

What I haven’t done while at home with only Bear

Taken a nap.  Turned on the TV.  Perused Netflix shows.  Gone to the bar.  Consumed any alcohol or other mind altering vices.  Kicked or hit Bear (come close, though).  Watched videos on the computer or iPad.  Read a book for pleasure.

I can’t wait

Getting comfy on the couch.

Getting comfy on the couch.

I can’t wait to report that Bear signaled on someone, unprompted, un-staged, that he walked over to Declan or Maggie and that he pawed them.  I can’t wait for them to check their blood sugar and find out they are low.  We continue the staged lows.  We continue to have “parties” when one of them is low, giving Bear treats as he sits with them while they are still low.  And I feel it will happen soon.

Sharpening 1

Jelly marking Bear

Jelly marking Bear

I was at a meeting last week for a camp I help run at PSU.  It was in the middle of the day.  It was downtown.  So I brought Bear along.  I lean towards bringing him along rather than leaving him at home.  It involves considerable schlepping, with treat bag, clicker, leash, and toys, but I prefer him with me rather than left to his own devices at home.  It also gets him into more of a working dog mentality, having to be with someone throughout the day.  Bear seems to be slipping into a comfy house pet routine, sleeping on the couch, pestering the cats, and going on occasional walks.

He was great during the meeting, laying on the ground by my chair.  Part way through he started whining, looking out the window.  Not wanting an accident in the Economics department conference room, I took him outside for a break.  He just sniffed around a bit.  Back upstairs to the meeting room, Bear settled back down with a bit of whining.

In a sense Bear was signaling the end of the meeting.  He is able to sense when people are losing productivity and should move onto something else.  I walked with the woman who co-directs the camp with me, let’s call her Rosy, a few blocks.  Bear was overly excited, really tugging on the leash.  He jumped up on Rosy really playfully.  Knowing that she doesn’t have diabetes, I reprimanded Bear, continuing our walk, making sure he behaved.

Back home Bear and I go through some training, both obedience and scent training.  I have come to realize the obedience training is largely getting him out in public and directing him to pay attention to the person he is with.  At home we continue to work on “Go to bed”, “Stay”, and the “crawl.”  The scent training is now a combination of hiding the scent somewhere in the house, like between two couch cushions, and Bear finding it, or putting it somewhere on me for Bear to find and signal.  And I will combine the two, pretending to place the scent on the couch or table, I’ll slip it into my suburban-mom cuffs on my jeans.  You know the cuffs that are folded up about six inches?  Not only are they fashionable when wearing some fancy boots, but they are great for hiding a scent sample.

Later I get an email from Rosy.  It had some business to do, what was discussed in the meeting, and the fact that she was feeling dizzy from low blood-sugar, something she is prone to from her mom.  So the whining in the conference room and the playfulness after was really Bear doing his job.  Once again I am immune to his signals.  Once again Bear finds himself doing the task he is trained for, out in the real world, not as a setup in the house with a low-scent vial, but on a real person, and he gets punished.  I always say that dog training is really people training, but my senses need sharpening to pick up on Bear’s language.

Sharpening 2

Last night after dinner Dec and I were wrestling a bit.  Not surprisingly, Bear was joining in, jumping up, bringing some of his toys to the melee.  A few times we had to dismiss him from the arena, making him wait on the floor.  But he would wait for a bit and then jump back up excitedly.  At some point Dec stopped and said, “I feel low.”  Sure enough he was 37.  Was bear signaling or was he playing?  At what point do we stop and check blood-sugar when we are playing.  It is a bit of a buzz-kill to stop and check blood sugar.

What we need to become more aware of is the different types of playfulness.  Is there a different interaction when he is signaling a low?  This involves becoming an observer rather than a participant.  Will recognizing the difference lead to more live signaling?  Ultimately, Bear should stop playing and signal when someone is low (or high).

After writing that, I realize that Bear became excitable and playful when he live signaled on Rosy.  It may be too much to ask Bear to be calm and signal when everyone else is playful.  But I get ahead of myself.  The first step would be to get consistent, un-staged, live signaling.


We went to the pet store yesterday, which happens to be the hardest place to take Bear.  Not only are there tons of yummy treats, but people in the pet store feel perfectly comfortable petting Bear even though he wears his “Service Dog” vest.  We spent over $50 on chew toys.  We got a new bone, two fancy chew toys, and a bunch of treats.  It is my hope and belief that we will save quite a bit of money by spending the $50.  Shoes and books and headphones and bike helmets, though still enticing, will be spared from the jaws of Bear as he works on his new chew-toy puzzles.Jelly4Bear and Jelly have always gotten along. This picture is from the summer.


Operation Chew Toy

Bear nosing his on-list chew toy.

Bear nosing his on-list chew toy.

Turns out Bear is just really relaxing into a house pet.  We need to let him know that he is working.  He needs to know that it is not alright to chew books and shoes and boots.

Though he continues to spend time sleeping, I interrupt his sleep with low-scents and with games of Hide and Seek  Awhile back we started the low-scents while he was sleeping, and I’ve continued somewhat, but it needs to be ramped back up.  The games of Hide and Seek will trigger Bear’s brain to start solving problems and coming up with solutions.

In addition to Hide and Seek, I need to somehow setup an obstacle course for Bear.  Not sure where or how this will be done, but I’m sure there is a YouTube video on it.

Without frequent contact with Kristin, I feel like we are on an island.  All this work is being done with little to no progress.  It is difficult to know where normal is without a comparison.  There is no barometer of what progress is appropriate.  Should Bear be signaling in the night now?  Should he be signaling in the day?  Is it normal for an eight month old dog to chew through libraries when left alone?  At what point do we need an intervention?