Split paw

Jelly has Bear pretty much trained.

Jelly has Bear pretty much trained.

It was three days ago, just finishing our second week of being tethered together, when Bear went completely berserk. He’s done this before, running in circles, jumping on furniture, racing across the house, jumping on more furniture, racing out to a couch to leap onto and to the bedroom, doing laps around the room, which includes jumping up onto the bed and back down again. He hasn’t done this for a few months. He moved the couch three feet, jamming it up against the door, the last time he did this.

Panting from the burst of exercise, Bear settled down onto his bed. Jelly was allowing him to spend some time on his bed for good behavior. He had a spot of blood on his right paw. It was a weird spot to have blood, right on the top. I thought maybe a bobby-pin punctured the skin. There was also a fair amount of blood on the edge of the bed. Inspecting his right paw, I couldn’t find anything, but when I checked out his left paw, his pads underneath had big splits in them. You know in the summer when you spend a lot of time in the pool and your skin cracks under your toes? That’s what it looked like.

One of the pads had a huge gash in it. The other had a smaller slit. The big gash continued to bleed. Not sure what to do, I searched for advice on the internets. One site said to get to the vet so they could clean it out, make sure it isn’t infected, and wrap it up so it stays clean. And they mentioned something about the Elizabethan collar (cone of shame) to keep the bandage on. Another site gave directions on how to rinse the paw in Epsom salt, apply some ointment, and wrap it up to keep clean. Having just paid our Visa balance, I chose to go with the home treatment.

For about eight dollars I had all the supplies. I cleaned the paw, dried it, and applied the ointment before wrapping it. And Bear’s limp disappeared. Getting the dirt out of the open wound was a good thing. The problem was he didn’t like the wrap on his foot. After walking around without a limp, Bear settled down and made quick work of the wrap, pulling it off after wearing it for ten minutes.

Getting rid of the bandage.

Getting rid of the bandage.

I went through the process again, this time applying the Yuck-spray to the tape. This time it stayed on for about an hour mainly because he was in his crate for about 45 of the 60 minutes. After a day and a half of this I was restocking the medical supplies. Luckily I ran into a friend that told me to use Crazy glue. She claimed that it is the exact same thing as Second skin. It might burn real bad initially, but it is the best way to keep the wound clean.

The Crazy glue cost $4.99 and it is doing the job.

Live Alerts

Bear has been getting a bit better at alerting. He has alerted Grandma Kitty twice now. Both times she has stopped by after spin class. He has alerted Dec a few times, but he remains silent with Maggie. In fact, this morning she was low. She woke up at 62, but didn’t come upstairs for another 30 minutes. I didn’t know she was low. Welcome to having a teenager. She told me she was low as she was getting a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. Bear came over and stretched and looked for some crumbs on the floor.

Instead of presenting an arm or leg for Bear to paw, I just watched him to see if he might pick up the scent. He didn’t notice anything and I’m beginning to trust him. Maggie checked her blood sugar again. She was 78, on the rise. And the meter tends to lag a bit, so maybe she was even higher.

I am coming around to Bear taking some of the burden off of us.

Second group lesson

Attempting to get comfortable outside.

Attempting to get comfortable outside.

We have completed the first week of tethering and the second group lesson. To lessen tethering time, I’ve been outside with Bear working on a planter box. Unable to get entirely comfortable without his leather love-seat, the outside time wears Bear down. He does enjoy being outside, but I catch him looking longingly at the love-seat through the window.

Between carrying cinder blocks and bags of concrete to the side deck, Bear and I went on a field trip with Declan’s class. We went to the climbing wall at Club Sports. As we left I told the  teacher and another student to get near Bear if they felt low during the trip. They are both T1D. On this field trip I felt Bear would have some chances to practice live alerts.

Soon after arriving the teacher told me that he felt low. Instead of pawing, Bear started getting super playful, licking the teacher. He tested and he was 87 and probably dropping. I’m not sure what the signal was, but I am starting to think that Bear being super playful, out of nowhere, is one way that he signals. A little later the other student said that he felt low. He presented his arm out for Bear to sniff, and Bear signaled. Not so sure on this one. Bear may have been taking the cue to paw because of the outstretched arm. The boy was 154, in range, but he probably was dropping since he felt low. And here lies a giant grey area with this training. With the meter reporting 15-30 minutes behind what the actual blood sugar is, it is difficult to distinguish between an erroneous signal and a signal that is just perfect, which happens to be before the meter will register a low (or high).

And this also reflects some of the difficulty with type 1 diabetes in general. In training Bear there are many factors at play, making it difficult to nail down a definitive signal. In managing diabetes there are many more factors to consider. Why is Dec’s blood sugar low (or high)? It could be the extra running around at recess. Did he finish breakfast? Did some of the insulin leak out on the injection site? Is the insulin bad? Anxiety is also known to increase blood sugar a LOT. Did he eat a snack that we didn’t know about? And it could be any of these things, or all of them. Instead of focusing on why he is out of range, I try to remember the last dose and activity and give a shot or sugar to fix it. Then we start all over again with the next shot and meal.

Declan on a bouldering wall. Bear watches.

Declan on a bouldering wall. Bear watches.

Back at the rock gym, one of the difficulties I’ve had with taking Bear out in public is getting him enough water. Arriving back home from the store, Bear would sit at his water dish lapping up the water until it was gone and then continue lapping it up after I refilled it. On this trip I remembered. We went to the drinking fountain several times where I filled a water cup and he lapped it up. We went to check on Declan. He was on one of the bouldering walls without a belay rope. He fell back onto the mat underneath him; Bear lunged out onto the mat, meeting Declan right as he landed. I was surprised at this.

Declan treating a low at the climbing wall. Bear watches.

Declan treating a low at the climbing wall. Bear watches.

Bear continued to whine and pull towards Declan. The bell finally went off in my head. “Hey Dec, I think Bear is trying to tell you to test.” Sure enough, Dec was 60. Bear continued to nuzzle up against Dec while he had his juice. And this makes me wonder how many other times has Bear tried to tell us that something was wrong and we were unable to see or hear him? So much of this journey is about the human figuring things out and being more aware of what the dog is trying to communicate.

Which makes me wonder why Bear loves Tucker Max so much. Or maybe he really doesn’t like him. Bear was able to sneak around the house un-tethered while I was out on a bike ride, and he found Hilarity Ensues and chewed it up…again. This was the replacement book that he’d chewed already. This is another blow to the relationship building between Bear and Fiona as he continues to concentrate on grinding his teeth on her stuff.

Fiona's friend, Maddie, spending quality time with Bear on his couch.

Fiona’s friend, Maddie, spending quality time with Bear on his couch.

Though Bear is not Fiona’s favorite, her friends continue to adore him even though he is no longer a puppy, tipping the scales at over 80 pounds.

Day 5

IMG_20130214_093405It is going better than I expected. Not only has Bear adjusted quickly to being tied to someone, but I also increased the length of the cord to accommodate Bear laying on the couch. Bear responds more quickly to me moving around. He’ll get up and follow me, which is, I suppose, the intent. It would be nice if Maggie or Declan would enjoy having him tied to their waste, but I will not force this on them.

IMG_20130214_093340Because we are tied to each other whenever we are indoors, I’ve started a project outside. I’m putting in a concrete block planter-box/bench at the end of our deck. It is nice to be able to untie Bear from me. As a bonus, the weather has been holding up. Similar to working on a project with kids around, my productivity is, at best, half of what it would be without Bear running into me and licking my face. Today when I go out I am going to prepare a chew toy with peanut butter to get a solid twenty minutes of work done.

I must be working really hard outside lifting those blocks because Bear signals me a lot. He jumps down in the gravel next to me, sniffs, and signals. It is hard work. And I didn’t have a lot of breakfast, but I didn’t feel shaky. Nonetheless, I climb up and check my blood sugar. With a functioning pancreas, my blood sugar was generally around 100, though once it was 92. Regardless, I gave him some treats. I checked my blood sugar five times.

Signaling on those without a functioning pancreas has been less consistent. This morning Maggie came upstairs and yelled at Bear for carrying around one of his new chew toys. “That is a good toy for him to have. What’s up?” I asked Maggie. She felt low and wanted Bear to signal her. This is great that she wanted to get Bear working. And it shows the irritability of being low (and being a teenager). But Bear went about his business sniffing the bacon grease that was spilled on the floor, a no-brainer for both two- and four-legged animals.

I’d also like to think that the low was on its way up, so Bear didn’t smell anything. Hope. Jelly-cat continues his dominance of the bed, though he has become a bit playful with Bear. You can see him move his paw slightly when Bear tries to play.

Day two of umbilical cord

Bear crashes next to the table, cord attached.

Bear crashes next to the table, cord attached.

Two hours into the second day of being tethered to Bear and already I am tense about the challenges to come. The water dish has been spilled twice. And I’ve had to untangle the “cord” from under the table and chairs. On a positive note, Jelly the cat has graciously left Bear’s new bed, which is in cord length of the table.

Jelly-cat noticed the bed unoccupied and knocked at the window.

Jelly-cat noticed the bed unoccupied and knocked at the window.

As the intent of being tied to Bear (or Bear tied to us, though it doesn’t feel that way) is to break Bear’s pattern of sneaking away to find a book, toothbrush, headlamp, or hangers to chew on, I am bending the rules a bit. In the mornings Dec loves to run around with Bear, jumping on the couch, tackling him, and playing some sort of tag game. Though Bear sat down nicely after he realized his participation in the game was limited to an eight foot radius around me, I decided to let them play off-cord. Bear is never more than three feet from Dec, but I fear for their safety and the well-being of the home when they race around tied to each other.

Bear snoozes and loses, Jelly-cat settles into a day or two of napping on Bear's bed.

Bear snoozes and loses, Jelly-cat settles into a day or two of napping on Bear’s bed.

I’m not sure if this is more of a reflection on Dec or Bear, but Bear was chasing Dec around the living room table in a game of chase. Declan likes this game because when they get going fast enough Bear has to jump from the carpet under the table to the carpet by his window couch to keep from sliding out on the wood floor. Dec ran around the table gearing up for the jumps, but Bear stopped at the end of the table and waited. Declan came tearing around the table and collided with Bear as he waited for Dec to complete the lap. Maybe Bear was just tired.

Back to school

They were so happy to see eachother!

They were so happy to see each other!

Yesterday we went back to lessons. We arrived a bit late, making for the entrance all the more challenging as we entered a room full of Bear’s litter-mates and three new dogs. Bear tugged and yanked to greet everyone, nearly pulling my shoulder out of joint. All in all it was an appropriate entrance to impress upon all there just where we stood with turning this puppy into a service dog.

We went through some basic “Look at me” practice and a few scent drills, pairing the scent with the doorbell and hiding it in a box. At the end the puppies got to play off-leash. It was a family reunion with three sisters and two half-brothers attending the class. And play they did. There was a point where I wasn’t sure we’d be able to pick them apart, as three of them wore red-collars like Bear.

Being tethered limits  Bear's couch time.

Being tethered limits Bear’s couch time.

In addition to entering a room with absolutely no control, Bear also has a chewing problem. In the last week he’s chewed through another library book and continued on a helmet that he must have considered in-progress. No problem, we just need to tether Bear to someone at all times during the day. If he isn’t tethered to someone, then he should be in his crate. This doesn’t instill confidence in Bear as he attempts to jump to his usual window couch-seat. It only works if the tether-er is sitting at the end seat at the table.

I am not looking forward to this three-week tethered period. I am hopeful that Bear learns his boundaries quickly, only needing three days of tether-ship.

In addition to a few new drills from the class, we continue to work on some basic manners from the new book. Bear is learning to sit down when a door is opened. If a toy or distraction is between him and me, he’ll sit back and wait. And we continue with walking nicely on leash. He still needs reminders, but he is catching on.

Declan and Bear try to share the bed with Jelly.

Declan and Bear try to share the bed with Jelly.

I’m hoping to institute three-a-days for training, keeping it pretty short: a run in the morning with Dec on bikes, a trip to the park for some fetch, and back to the house for training and couch time. We’ll also have a mid-day and evening training session.

Jelly sleeps all day in Bear’s new bed. In fact, I don’t think Jelly has left the bed for the past four days. Bear is coming to terms with this, but occasionally attempts to reclaim it. Bear will lay next to the bed and begin to whine. With no reaction he’ll increase the volume of the whine. Jelly remains sleeping in the center of the bed. Unable to contain himself anymore, Bear lets a high pitch bark out. Jelly remains motionless. Bear is now beyond yapping at Jelly. He now tries to entice him away with his favorite toy. His strategy works wonders for him, but does nothing for Jelly.

Highs and lows

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Bear and Dec sharing the new bed.

So last week we started noticing Bear signaling quite a bit more, starting with the time he barked at me with Declan sitting across from me (Late Update). I believe that he has been signaling at some level, but we have not been noticing. That said, Bear is not on all the time. Two nights ago Declan was getting into bed; Bear was on his trundle snoring. Dec said, “I think I need to test.” Sure enough he was low. We got Bear awake and he signaled, but at some point Bear needs to wake from the scent on his own and signal.

This morning Maggie rolled out of bed and came upstairs, sitting next to Bear. Bear pawed her and then she went and tested. She was low. The challenge in this case is twofold. First, it would be good for Bear to have to come to Maggie, but she is in tune with how she feels. So she will go to Bear when she feels low to give him practice, but the only time Maggie goes to Bear is when she is low. Bear needs to signal when she is low, not when she approaches him. At this point I am not convinced what Bear is signaling. The second challenge is to get Maggie excited after he signals. When he pawed her this morning, she simply stood up and went to her kit to test, quietly telling me that Bear signaled her. Now I wonder how many times has he signaled without any celebration or without any treats.

Bear wondering why Sam is trapped in his crate.

Bear wondering why Sam is trapped in his crate.

This afternoon I was running to the store when Dec and Sam got home from school. When I got home my mom, who is out visiting, told me that Bear pawed Declan. Declan quashed the signal, telling Grandma that Bear paws a lot when he gets home because he is so excited. And I agree with Declan, however, when I got home and heard this I told Dec that he needed to test. Though I was expecting the usual mid-afternoon 300+ blood sugar reading, Dec was 72. Though it was quite a bit after his initial signal, we had Bear signal Dec again before treating the low with a juice pouch.

Chewing update

After spending over $60 on chew toys and bones, things have improved. Bear now has a big basket of toys that is depleted throughout the day. (Need to teach him to pick up his own toys.) The basket is refilled as the house gets picked up throughout the day. In addition to more approved chew things, I put Bear in the crate whenever I leave the house. Needless to say, it is not foolproof. Yesterday Fiona stormed upstairs screaming, which is not out of character, but she was screaming that she MUST have a lock on her door. Bear chewed up a hanger and a leather-bound sketch book.

The fourth of six helmets destroyed by Bear.

The fourth of six helmets destroyed by Bear.

I am able to empathize with Fiona. I’ve had several shoes gnawed on along with books and notebooks. However, I had trouble not laughing with such a big deal about a hanger being chewed up. “It will have to be replaced!” she yelled. I’m fine with that. It is a bummer when Bear chews things up. Now whenever we drive past our local True Value, Fiona points to it and says, “Let’s go and get a lock for my door.” I respond by telling her that Bear doesn’t chew anything anymore. She rolls her eyes. He doesn’t chew as much, at least, it is going in the right direction. Guffaw. And I’ll do a better job of making sure the gate is up at the bottom of the stairs and that your door is latched. Another roll of the eyes.

Lessons

Jelly getting some quality Z's on the new bed.

Jelly getting some quality Z’s on the new bed.

We go to Service Dog training lessons this Saturday. I needed these classes to start a month ago, and it will be great to get started with Kristin again. Without much direction, and with an adolescent dog, I purchased a few books. My Smart Puppy arrived first. Turns out Bear being a big pain in my butt is developmental. This book should be attached to the puppy when you bring it home. Better yet, it should be mailed to you three weeks prior to picking the puppy up.

Grandma

photoGrandma came to town and helped out with some walks and teaching Bear to drop a ball at her foot. Not sure how she did it, but I haven’t been able to replicate it. Bear learned to retrieve a ball for Grandma. Anyone else and it turns into a game of keep-away.

Want to play “Try and catch me?”

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New bed from Costco

No thanks. How embarrassing, though. I met a friend for lunch at a place called “Shut up and Eat.” I brought Bear along. Other than cleaning the floor with his tongue, he did pretty good. He also liked the smell of the woman’s boots sitting behind me.

After lunch Bear and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. Confined to the floor under the table at lunch, Bear was a little rambunctious, but he did alright considering. I threatened to put on his “gentle” lead by showing it to him, and he calmed down. We found a really nice park on our walk. Rolling hills and open grass beckoned some off leash time.

As we entered the park I took Bear off leash. He went bonkers, charging down the soupy grass. He attempted to stop at the bottom of the hill, sliding in the mud. It was an ideal situation for Bear being able to stretch out in the open and no one around for him to pester. We neared the playground with a toddler on a swing. I called Bear to come. And he did!

Dec, Sam, and Bear play dog-pile on Bear's new bed.

Dec, Sam, and Bear play dog-pile on Bear’s new bed.

Then we came to another off-leash dog, playing fetch. Since the dog was off-leash, I figured it would be fine for Bear to play with him. And they did. Bear had mud up his legs and on his back. Problems began when Bear gained possession of his ball. Bear threw it up in the air, he pushed it around with his nose, and he kicked it with his paw. What he didn’t do was give it up. And what he didn’t do was get anywhere near a person. Catch me if you can, sucker.

And then the other dog’s owner started getting all pesky. “We need to go. I need to get the ball. Can you call your dog?” Not sure if he was mean or just really dim, but at this point I thought it pretty obvious to anyone in a three-block radius that I could not get my disobedient dog to obey. The last thing I wanted to do was chase after Bear, making more of a fool of myself and probably falling in the mud in the process.

I calmly called for Bear, walking slowly to him, as he bounded away with a visible smile pasted on his snout. “Could you please call your dog?” the dog’s owner asked again, clearly annoyed. Not wanting to change the scene from dogs playing to adults fighting, I chose to keep my thoughts to myself.

I continued my slow walk towards Bear, and Bear continued his throwing, pushing, and nosing of the stolen ball. Not wanting the fun to end, Bear kept his distance from any upright animal with an oppose-able thumb. If I had a few bucks in my wallet, I would have just offered to purchase the bloody ball from this guy. The way he coveted the ball I’m afraid he would have demanded twenty bucks for it.

All the fun came to an end when the other dog was finally able to secure possession of the damn ball. We finished the loop of the park on-leash.