Soccer games are tiring

Soccer games are tiring

Four games this past weekend, two for Dec and two for Mags. Fiona was out-of-town or else it would have been two more. Dec’s games were back-to-back in the Saturday afternoon sun. And then on top of that there were no subs for the second game.

Bear’s day started with Maggie’s game, leaving at nine. Nothing special to report except for there was no time for his morning nap. And then after the no nap morning, Heather and Mags took Bear to Target and The Mac Store. Again there was no time for a nap. On a positive note, there also was no poop deposited in the aisles of Target as had been done in a previous visit.

IMG_20130427_181729Back home there was hardly time for a twenty-minute nap before we loaded up and set out for Dec’s game. Midway through the first half Bear was whining and signaling and just being a pest. Turns out Dec was low. Always being the well-prepared parent of kids with diabetes, we borrowed two juice boxes from a fellow soccer-parent. Bear continued to pester Heather, who was handling him, and Declan continued to play. At halftime Declan had another juice box and a Gatorade to keep sugar-levels up.

Declan stayed in range during the second half as well as the entire second game. There were a couple of bouts of exhaustion after a long run up the field. I felt that we were starting to get the hang of responding to Bear’s signaling, as well as Bear getting the hang of signaling appropriately.

IMG_20130429_135015Bear continues to go to school with me. He is not 100% staying where he is supposed to, but he is improving. He will occasionally saunter to a students desk when he is supposed to be in a down. I am improving at anticipating issues with kids trying to get Bear’s attention. This allows me to keep Bear in the appropriate spot, and occasionally redirect students (but usually just dealing with Bear). Bear now is able to stay in a down even when a student is doing his best to distract him.



Laying in the sun

Laying in the sun

At first I thought it was being back in the classroom fulltime, but now I realize it is largely the number of times I am up to check blood sugars in the middle of the night. Last week there was one night I wasn’t woken up with a wet nose in my face at 2 am. I’ve trained myself to grab a kit and check both Maggie and Declan. It being in the middle of the night, and checking blood sugar requiring some mental and physical dexterity, by the time I’ve completed checking my mind and body are half awake. It then takes me a good 45 minutes to get back to sleep.

There are also the nights that I get downstairs to check only to find no test-strips in the kit. Climb back up the stairs and back down again. Body is more awake. And there are the nights that I check Dec and then remember to check Maggie only after I’ve gotten back in bed. And in the past week none of these checks have been a low-blood sugar. Bear whines at Dec’s door and he let’s him out. So the “alerts” the past week have more to do with Bear’s GI-tract than with Maggie and Dec’s blood-sugar levels.

On one glorious night Bear barked at something outside on his trip upstairs. After all the testing, our neighbor’s dog returned the favor, hoping to find a dog to chat with. The only thing to make this worse would have been Bear barking back from Dec’s room. I lay awake waiting to hear Bear’s bark from the basement only to hear the neighbor’s dog yap.


Snoozing in class.

Snoozing in class.

Bear is becoming a fixture at school. He was at school twice this past week. The students are getting used to him, expecting him to be there. Instead of saying hello to me, they simply ask if Bear is here.

Bear generally stays behind the desk sleeping. I’ll bring him out to lay next to a student later in the period after everyone has settled down. Most of the students forget that he is even there by the time I bring him out. If there is time I’ll do a scent sample test. He has done these with about 75% success rate.

Twice the principal came in to observe classes while Bear was in the room. Both times he was sleeping behind the desk and she never noticed him and still doesn’t know he was there. Had she known Bear was sleeping behind the desk she would have woken him up and said hello.

After a long day of napping behind the desk, Bear is exhausted and takes a nap in the sun.


IMG_20130427_073005Bear will be a year old in less than a week. Maggie asks what I am planning for his birthday. I’m thinking a Karaoke machine and Build-your-own-Sunday bar. With the birthday approaching, Bear is also filling out.


Getting comfortable at the front of the class

Getting comfortable at the front of the class

Bear went to work today. He came with me to the classroom. It was a late start, which made the day a bit shorter and more manageable with Bear there. Before the students arrived he quickly found comfort on his pad and started sleeping. We were at the door to greet students and they went bonkers. They pet and scratched him. They nuzzled him and cajoled him. And for the most part Bear sat nicely soaking up all the attention. Probably not the best practice for a dog that loves the attention, but I reminded him to look at me every so often. And he quickly responded, moving his head to the side to get a good look at the treat that I held in front of my face.

Once in the classroom I reminded the students about Bear being a working dog and that this is part of his training. I put him in a down/stay on his pad and he promptly relaxed. Several of the students were completely enamored with him and laid on the floor trying to get closer to him. At this point I had to pull out the “I hope to bring him back for more days, but I can’t if he is too much of a distraction” card. They leaped back into their chairs and got to work. These kids are great.

Near the end of class I showed the class the scent sample and how he signals when he smells a low. Bear demonstrated this great when the students were sitting at their desks but struggled when he was surrounded by adoring fans.

Each class Bear got comfy.

Each class Bear got comfy.

Each period was a similar story, but I limited student contact with him. Instead of letting the kids approach and pet him at the beginning of class, I introduced ┬áBear and put him in a down, letting the students know that they’d get a chance later to interact with him. At the front of the class most students couldn’t see him, so when he came out to greet students some had forgotten that he was even there. Teenagers attention span is about as long as their arm.┬áSome students put Bear through some commands.

Live alerts

This morning Bear signaled me while I read the paper. It was early. Both Dec and Maggie were asleep. He was persistent, so we went down to check blood sugar. Dec was 70 and Maggie was 47.

After soccer practice Dec came home and cuddled on the couch with the fur blanket. Bear looked up at him and barked. He was 89 and likely dropping from the exercise.

Two nights ago Bear woke up at 2am. I checked Dec and he was 240. I didn’t check Maggie, but I heard her about 30 minutes later checking and treating a low blood sugar. It took me a while to get back to sleep thinking about not checking Maggie’s blood sugar (she was 400 before bed with no correction: post exercise drop!)

Post soccer practice cuddle

Post soccer practice cuddle

So last night Bear woke up at 1230. Remembering the previous night I went down to check both Maggie and Declan. There was one test-strip left, so after checking Dec I had to come back upstairs to get some strips. Neither of them were low or anywhere near low. And sleep was far away from my trips down and up and down and up the stairs. But they were both low by morning time. I don’t even try to figure some things out.

Not sure

Utilizing all the pillows.

Utilizing all the pillows.

Monday night is soccer practice night. Maggie and Declan both have practice right around dinner time. It screws up the whole schedule of eating, not only as a family, but also for the non-functioning pancreases in the house it really messes with the insulin and blood sugar management. Insulin-sugar management is exacerbated by the high physical activity during practice. The body borrows sugar from the liver during extreme levels of activity (someone once told me that we have enough stored sugar to run three marathons, that’s assuming the knees would hold up). After the activity the liver replenishes sugar storage. But here is the trick, the liver doesn’t need insulin to absorb the sugar. So blood-sugar levels can plummet after hard exercise.

IMG_20130321_065938Last night Maggie was high, like in the 500s, after practice. She hadn’t eaten yet, so I gave her a fraction of a correction, enough insulin to bring her down to about 350. On top of that, she still had dinner to eat. Dec was at 177, in range, so he had dinner without a shot. Before bed Dec was right around 100, so he got milk and crackers. As for Maggie, I don’t know. We are lucky to get two blood sugar tests out of her a day. She insists she doesn’t need to test, that she can sense what her blood sugar is, and that she gives shots when she eats. At this point I am just making sure that she gets her 24-hour time release insulin (Lantus).

Two this morning I heard Maggie in the kitchen. I do have to give her some credit, she feels it when she is low (not when she is high, though). She was 60, making a sandwich for after she finished her juice box. Ten minutes later Bear comes sauntering up the stairs, wagging his tail and breathing his breath on me. Heather went downstairs to check Declan, and he was 75. Dec let Bear out because he was whining.

Now I’m not sure if this was a middle-of-the-night signal, or if Bear was thirsty because after Heather went downstairs to check on Dec, Bear was slurping down a bowl of water. At this point I don’t have the confidence in Bear’s alerting that it was an alert. Regardless, Bear woke Dec up to let him out, which got us downstairs to check on him.

Hopes, fears, and reality


The new schedule is tiring.

The new schedule is tiring.

Left on his own for much of the day, Bear attends to the humans when we are around, looking to please and complete his tasks. Satisfied to be around his humans, he seeks out tasks to complete and get more interactions with his humans. On walks Bear walks nicely always aware of where his handler is, making quick adjustments to speed and direction.

With a lot of time in his confined space, Bear learns to settle himself down, settling into a routine of laying quietly when not working.

Training continues, but the total amount of training time goes down. However, the proportion of training time to overall human time goes way up, increasing the amount of work time Bear does when around humans. Bear tends to work when with humans.


The new schedule leaves Bear alone for much of the day. Left on his own for hours, Bear will turn into a couch potato, preferring the comfort of the cushion to the satisfaction of working. Bear becomes a house pet, sitting on the couch, greeting visitors wagging his tail and nudging with his nose.

The decrease in training dulls his senses and attentiveness to low-blood sugar. Bear begins signalling cues other than a low scent. For instance, Bear signals when a hand is presented as if they are holding a scent sample.


Dec's clay creation of Bear.

Dec’s clay creation of Bear.

It feels like Bear is turning into a house pet. He roams the house with a ball in his mouth, wagging his tail. Declan and Bear continue to bond. Maggie continues to pester Bear. Fiona is warming a bit to Bear.

Bear is more confused on walks. With different people coming over in the middle of the day to walk Bear, the rules of walking differ with each person.

Bear has stopped alerting for lows. Yesterday Declan was 61 and Bear was busy chewing a bone. Bear now signals when he wants a treat rather when he smells a low-scent. This morning Maggie was 74 and Bear was more concerned with the water on her nightstand.

We either need to throw in the towel and come to terms with a very expensive house-pet, or we need to change something.