Getting in the way

The sun has returned.

The sun has returned.

It does get in the way a bit, sometimes more than others. On average it’s less obtrusive than the neighbor who continues remodeling his house after ten years. But diabetes does get in the way. Normally it is just little things: every morning checking blood sugar and giving shots; scarfing down sugar during soccer games.

This morning we all slept in because of dentists appointments. Luxuriating in the extra time, Declan went to Lego warfare which was spread on the table. I threw him the kit to check blood sugar, which is when Bear started signaling. It seems Bear is now conditioned to check for low blood sugar the same time the kids are checking. Need to somehow get him to check when they are not checking. That is the whole point of it all.

Dec is 114. Bear continues to signal, barking a high-pitched sound. So it could be that Bear expects a nice juicy hot dog chunk whenever the blood sugar kit comes out, or it could be that Maggie is low downstairs, or it could be that Declan is dropping. In fact just the other night Bear signaled Dec, so he tested. he was in the 90s. We went downstairs and Bear continued signaling. Dec tested again and he was 64. It gets messy with the meter’s accuracy. They claim to be within 10% of actual blood sugar, which studies back up, but when you are around the boundary of being low, possibly dropping or rising, 10% makes a difference, which only leads to how confusing it must get for Bear trying to conform his signals to receive the juicy hot dog treat.

Not wanting to be left for the soccer game.

Not wanting to be left for the soccer game.

So it could be the meter, it could be he is dropping, or it could be that Maggie is low. Maggie and a different meter are downstairs, down I go. Minimizing up and down trips, I check Maggie first, and she is indeed low at 70. Being a teenager, she proclaims that she is fine. On my return upstairs I praise Bear and give him a nice juicy hot dog treat.

You might think having multiple people with diabetes in the home would make training Bear easier. More and more I think it really is getting in the way.

Tough love softened

We get to the dentist’s office and fill the waiting room, the three kids and myself. Each year the waiting area seems to shrink as our physical space increases, mine less so I hope, and the amount of energy expelled (mostly sound) increases as well. By the time we’ve cycled through appointments, Declan succeeded in disabling Fiona’s phone for an hour, which achieves his ultimate goal of pushing Fiona into a slightly controlled rage.

Normally we stop and get breakfast or lunch on our way back from the dentist, and I’m trying to figure out if Bunk, a local sandwich shop, is open. Meanwhile mental jabs and full-on screams ensue between shotgun and back seat occupants, which is when the flip switched for me, and I announce we will not be getting any lunch, but simply being dropped off at school. I am fed up with the mental, and occasional physical, sparring.

Staying away from shoes, but went on a bender, destroying a computer mouse and gorilla grip camera clamp.

Staying away from shoes, but went on a bender, destroying a computer mouse and gorilla grip camera clamp.

For three blocks I enjoy the quiet in the car, Fiona and Declan still fuming while Maggie strategizes a new angle. And then Declan says he feels low, checks, and is indeed quite low at 56. He is without sugar tabs or juice (which he drank while disabling Fiona’s phone). His time delayed insulin, NPH, is kicking in. So instead of being able to punctuate my canceling of lunch by dropping them off at school to fend for themselves, we now have to stop somewhere quick to get soda or juice for Declan.

Any other day I’d appreciate having New Season’s Market three blocks away, but in this case I’d rather have a Plaid Pantry to run into and get a soda, leaving the kids in the car waiting to be dropped at school. Instead we pull into the parking lot, unloading and going into New Seasons. Before getting to New Seasons, Maggie was brainstorming different solutions that all involved her getting a sandwich. “There’s a nice cafe next to the Plaid Pantry, or that place looks good…”

I don’t respond to any of her suggestions, including the one to get a sandwich at New Seasons. She takes the non-response as an affirmative response when we park, and everyone gets a sandwich while Declan horks down a Mountain Dew.

It is a relief to get Declan back into range, but I was looking forward to dropping them off at school, denying them a nice lunch, but diabetes got in the way.

Snow long gone

IMG_20140215_082404

The snow melted. The river swelled. Sledding hills turned back to grass. Bear cuddles with Fiona’s boots rather than gnawing them. 

Walks at the river turned soggy. Instead of walking along the river on the sand, we now walk through the trees on the path above the river.

IMG_20140210_075139While still in the thick of snow days, Bear donned his boots. The freezing rain that came after the Colorado-like snow cut his paws. So we squeezed his extra-large paws into the medium-sized boots and took to the streets. After a few minutes of high-stepping in his boots, Bear settled down and we walked to the middle school, walking in the middle of the street, abandoned of traffic and more stable than the poorly shoveled sidewalks. And though the front right boot fell off a few times, the boots did their job. I just hope to be able to use them more than this one time, which would bring down their average cost per use from about $70 to $35.

IMG_20140210_153206With the temperatures rising Bear no longer needed his boots when we ventured to the river hill for sledding. Equipped with a saucer someone left at our house, Declan and Bear raced down the hill. And the finish was always a tie, with Bear licking Dec’s face as he slowed to a stop. Then the walk back up to the top.

During the trek to the park and the racing up and down the hill, Declan got a low blood-sugar. I was unable to distinguish Bear’s excitement of sledding and a potential signal of low blood-sugar. Maybe his barking and menacing Dec was in fact a signal. Regardless, I didn’t bring along any high-value treats, and I’d used up all the low-value treats rewarding him for coming back when called, so Bear had to be satisfied with some warm affection for a reward.

IMG_20140210_154130During this time there were several episodes where Declan or Maggie walked by Bear, feeling low, confirmed the feeling with a test, and Bear remained calmed and collected. Not quite what I’d hope for. Several days in a row, Declan woke up low with no response from Bear. No response at least until Declan would walk to him after testing, petting him, presenting his hand, waiting for a signal. Bear now picks up on such pets and invitations from Declan to signal, and Bear would eventually signal by pawing or with a high-pitch bark.

IMG_20140210_100546It was time to change things up. The time and frequency of scent-training hadn’t changed much. I’d open a vial and begin scent training, which was primarily hiding the vial in a different room. So I went back to training with a dummy-vial and a scent-vial. No hiding the vial, simply presenting it to Bear, I’d reward a positive signal with a high-value treat. I’d give a “Uh-uh” and turn away with a false-positive, and I would reward a no-signal negative with a “Good boy” and a pet. Bear is still figuring it out, but he improves.

This past week he has had several live alerts with Declan and with Maggie. The other morning he even had a live alert with both of them at the same time.

Back when Bear fit under a chair.

Back when Bear fit under a chair.

From chewing to cuddling the boot.

From chewing to cuddling the boot.

By no means are we hitting on all cylinders. There are still times when low blood sugars are missed, and there are also times when Bear signals and they are not low. There are also times when he signals and they are HIGH. Which makes me wonder if he is picking up on the high-scent, though we have not introduced that. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.