Turning the corner

Bear takes a selfie

Bear takes a selfie

So Declan asked, “When can I take Bear to school?” I thought, ‘it’ll be a while, quite a while; and do you really want to take him to school?’ But I said, “You could probably take him this year, but we have to work with Bear to calm him down more in public places.”

This conversation occurred a few times, along with Declan suggesting that we take Bear to the store more often to get him more calm in public. I think it is great that Dec is thinking about this. And I wonder if there are some slightly ulterior motives. You see Declan is on the shy side. And he is in middle school. I’m wondering if he is thinking Bear might be a great icebreaker with some coeds. Bear is as outgoing as Declan is an introvert. I imagine Dec walking down the hallway, Bear on leash walking up to every kid for a hello. And some of them going crazy, “Oh my God! How cute! He is so soft! What’s his name?” Which is where Dec would finally be able to step in and have words with them.

Letting Dec share his couch on a sick day.

Letting Dec share his couch on a sick day.

But maybe I’m just projecting what I’d have been thinking if I were in Dec’s position. I’d have leveraged it past diminishing returns, into the land of negative returns. So maybe Dec just really wants to be around Bear more, to have Bear have a fuller life, one bigger than the two walks a day and laying belly-up on the couch. And this is more in Dec’s nature, always looking out for those around him.

And so we dug into the closet to find the “Service Dog” vest for Bear. Bear remembers it, pulling his ears back and even shying away when he sees it. But once it is on, he is fine.

All smiles

All smiles

Taking him into the store I remember how I used to take him when he was a puppy and wonder what I was thinking. I’m not sure why, but I would take him in the store and do the shopping. Bear lurched for every little crumb on the floor and I’d be trying to control him with one hand while pushing the cart with the other. I realize hindsight is 20:20, but I’m shocked I’d never thought of walking through the store, Bear in tow, without shopping. Now when I take Bear I feel superior to my self of two years ago who tried shopping while taking Bear around.

Bear is older now as well, which makes the stroll around the store easier. He no longer dives for each little crumb on the floor. He is wizened now, he knows a loaf of bread waits for him in the pantry, and he must know the foraging return is much greater at home. Which brings us to the bread aisle. This is by for the most challenging part of the store for Bear. My presence dampens his drive to forage, but he looks to bread, planning his return to the bread aisle off-leash, and probably calculating if he could take the loaf all the way back to the TV room, the place to consume contraband.

Bear is not only less eager to sniff and grab at the nose-level food, but he is also not as interested in meeting everyone. This as much as the interest in food makes the lap around the store more promising. And looking ahead, makes me think that Dec might actually be able to take Bear to school someday.


Bear gives Dec about a third of the bed.

Bear gives Dec about a third of the bed.

Bear is alerting more often. He is keen to the signal that the glucose meter means someone might be low. So he always signals the person checking blood sugar, which is not a bad strategy for Bear, but the timing is all wrong for us. The kids have not had many night time lows recently, and this remains the blind spot for Bear’s signaling. If only I could be ninja-like, sneaking into Dec’s room in the middle of the night, not waking Bear, and holding a scent-sample to his nose (after checking both Maggie and Dec to make sure they weren’t already low), then maybe we could get Bear’s heavy sleeping days behind him, and get him a bit more aware of potential low-scents in his area.


Bear got to meet up with one of his litter-mates. They met at the river together, caught up on this and that, and traded new moves.


Typical Day

IMG_20141007_070424149 (2)The day begins with me going downstairs to get Bear out of bed and out for a walk. If Bear did not signal in the middle of the night, then this is my first trip down. If he signaled at some point in the middle of the night, then it could be up to my sixth trip down: one to go down and realize the kit is upstairs, two to bring the kit down and realize there are no strips in the kit, three to bring the strips down and test, fourth to bring down a juice box for Maggie or Dec, fifth to bring down a scrap of hot dog for Bear, and the sixth to come down to take Bear for a walk.

On school mornings Bear is still in bed snoring away. The only change for a weekend is that I am snoring upstairs, and Bear is barking downstairs. Up and out of bed, stretch and scratch, and we are on our way to the park to throw the ball. Along the way there will be anywhere from one to four poops, depending on how much bread was left in the bag that Bear ate yesterday.

Back at home Bear gets fed and finds a cozy spot on the couch to wait for Declan to wake up. The couch spot is abandoned briefly after Heather and I are done getting ready, before the kids are up, to check to see if there is any cat-food left out. Then back to the couch. The kids saunter upstairs and each has to be greeted. And Bear may signal solely on the presence of the kit coming out to check blood sugar. The success rate on these signals, as you can imagine, is quite low. But there are times when Bear signals and either Maggie or Declan are still downstairs and they are low.

Heather leaves. I leave. And then the kids walk around the house and make sure there are no less than 15 lights turned on. Maggie and Fiona leave either together or separate. And then it is just Declan and Bear for a solid hour. I cannot confirm this, but from the pattern established this week, I believe Declan leaves the ice cream out on the counter after eating a few bites and then makes sure there is a loaf of bread in the pantry within chomping reach of Bear’s snout.

1408051310200After Declan leaves then it is serious couch time. But first Bear must tour the house for any treasures within reach. This is when he finds the carton of half eaten and half melted ice cream, and the half to three-quarters of a loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread. Not sure if he takes them one at a time, but the treats are consumed int he TV room, where I find a ripped apart ice-cream carton, and torn plastic bag that used to hold the bread.

And then it is off to the couch to help digest. We have had friends say they come by the house to drop something off, or see if anyone is home, and Bear is splayed out on the couch. They knock on the door and Bear doesn’t move. They knock again, checking to see if he is still alive. Bear slowly turns to see who is at the door before turning back to his nap. And after the ice cream and bread any of us could use a solid four hour nap.

IMG_20140808_170543880A couple of days a week the nap is interrupted by Grandma Estelle coming over to take Bear for a walk. I believe this is the best part of the day second only to Declan coming home. After the walk Grandma makes some coffee and maybe makes a sandwich. She reinforces some good habits for Bear, tossing extra meat or cheese his way and Mimi’s way while she makes her meal.

Back home and back to the couch to wait for Fiona to come home and turn on a few more lights. Eventually everyone gets back home. When I get home I do a quick tour of the house to not only take inventory of what Bear ate from the kitchen, but also to turn off all the lights. I grew up during the energy crisis in the 70s and am conditioned to turn things off if they are not being used.

IMG_20141012_125740960 (1)As each person comes home Bear finds a sock, or a shoe, or a towel, or anything from the floor to carry over to the person and greet them. There might be an occasional low-blood sugar to signal for, but Bear must always first greet the new people with something in his mouth.

IMG_20141014_195651067Then dinner and homework, maybe someone takes Bear outside for a quick walk or to throw the ball a bit. And then back downstairs to go to bed with Dec.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

IMG_20140527_073024106_HDRSummer wound down with a lot of soccer. Maggie, in particular, was participating in a lot of hard practices. She had two weeks of “camp”, followed by a week of tryouts. With all the exercise came quite a few lows. In fact, she was getting up a few times a night with lows. And sometimes Bear was down there barking away, letting us know that he needed a treat because someone was low. And sometimes Bear was cashed out on Declan’s bed (I’m still not sure how they both sleep on that little single).

So this was good and bad. Bear signaling in the middle of the night was great. It got us up and able to treat the lows. The bad was two-fold. First, it got Bear conditioned to getting up in the middle of the night. He sensed the time was ripe for a hot-dog morsel and would begin barking. Second, there were times when Maggie felt the low and treated it on her own. It would have been nice to be able to bump Bear out of bed to force signal those lows. However, Maggie can be stealth in the wee hours while treating a low. And I can barely function in the small hours of the night and my blood sugar is fine; I can’t expect Maggie to get Bear and give treats.

IMG_20140822_131753042With the start of the school year I have been getting up early to take Bear on a walk. I’ve totally abandoned the leash on these walks. It’s early enough that there is hardly any other souls out, and the streets we cross have no traffic. Furthermore, Bear has become less and less interested in all the little things. He no longer chases leaves or bolts to say hello to every person, dog, and puppy he sees. He is more focused on the important thing in his life: the tennis ball and cat food. We walk to the park and I throw the ball for him. On these walks he has learned the houses that have outdoor cats and that leave a food  bowl out on the porch. And on our way home he knows exactly where the water dish is four houses from the park.

The regular weekday walks are good and all during the week. And though Bear knows the map to each outdoor cat-food dish, he still is unable to distinguish a weekday from a weekend day. At 530 on each Saturday and Sunday Bear barks. I bump my way downstairs only to remember the kit is upstairs. Back downstairs, I check both Dec and Maggie. Both in range. The first time this happened Bear was upstairs barking at the door to get out. I think this immediacy was from the bag of bagels and chocolate chips he polished off the previous afternoon.

I’m learning, though. Now when I get up at 530 to check on the weekend, I tell Bear to lay down and wait while I check blood sugars. If they are in range, I put him back on Dec’s bed.

Sleeping under the hammocks.

Sleeping under the hammocks.

The summer was long and stressful for Bear.

1408051310200A lot of time on the couch.

Sleeping in the Airstream with Dec.

Sleeping in the Airstream with Dec.

Time hanging with Dec.

Ever wonder how to teach your dog how to beg?

Ever wonder how to teach your dog how to beg?

And time learning how to beg in the kitchen from Grandma.

Typical Day

Bear went on the last field trip with Dec's class. He found the rock tasty.

Bear went on the last field trip with Dec’s class. He found the rock tasty.

It may be that Bear is not getting enough food each day. Like the adult with ADHD who self medicates with marijuana, Bear makes up for his lack of nutrients received from dog food with treasures left around the house. And though Bear finds some small caches of food in easy to get to places, the coffee table often has some remnants of food in a discarded wrapper, the real prizes exist on the counter, requiring more stealth planning and more acrobatic search and seizure actions.

And although the reward can be abysmal, a dirty bowl with a few pieces of oatmeal, the cache can be ample and tasty, a pound of European butter left on the cutting board to soften. A quick risk-reward analysis signals two thumbs up, a strong buy, a giant green light, for Bear to seek treasure on the counter. Though there are risks, they are somewhat minimal for Bear.

Sleeping in the clsasroom while a group of students practice a dance.

Sleeping in the clsasroom while a group of students practice a dance.

Bear may be caught in the act, front paws on the counter, eyes scanning for dishes. Bear is reprimanded with strong, loud words, forcing a feeling of shame. He will then quietly sulk to the throw rug and plop down for some alone time. A completely different risk occurs when a seizure is successful without any reward. This occurred the other night when a used cereal bowl was captured from the counter, only to be dropped on the floor where it broke into two large pieces and many shards. Another note of interest for Bear (I believe he already has noted these things, I just wonder his recall accuracy) is the time of day the act occurs largely dictates not only success of mission, but also severity of penalty. The aforementioned broken cereal bowl occurred at two AM, bringing on a disproportionate penalty for such a measly amount taken.

Bear's preferred sleeping position.

Bear’s preferred sleeping position.

Because of Bear’s increased intake of counter food, his GI tract is less predictable, causing frequent trips outside. These often occur in the middle of the night. Bear will spend half the night with Dec, and then the chicken carcass will finish processing and need immediate attention. After waking Declan up to open the door and doing the same to me, Bear will be outside fertilizing the garden. I will then check blood sugars not knowing about the timing of the chicken carcass.

Quality lounge time with Dec.

Quality lounge time with Dec.

Bear attempts to show gratitude for being let outside to relieve himself by licking exposed faces, jumping up on the bed, and playing with the cat. His gratitude is countered with some solitary confinement in the office. Sleep must occur.

If Bear is not in the classroom with me, he will spend time on the couch. We continue to train him with scent samples and basic obedience. However, he is morphing into a house pet.

T-minus 24 hours

Soaking up the sun.

Soaking up the sun.

In two days our schedule will change. I will be in my adopted classroom, taking over for a teacher who is going on maternity leave. It is in a middle school. I will be teaching algebra, geometry, and algebra 2. I’ve had to brush up on my trigonometry identities over spring break to get ready for the algebra 2 class.

Grandma's traveling companion.

Grandma’s traveling companion.

And Bear has been getting ready for the new schedule by spending more time in his confinement area. His crate and bed are in the office. And as long as my mom doesn’t let him out to roam around, he doesn’t chew any books up. Unfortunately, the new schedule will have Bear chilling in his office for almost all of the work day. He will go in around 730am, get a break around 1030 from someone (still trying to secure a person for this), get another break around 230 when Sam and Dec ride home from school, and then get released around 430 or 5 when I get home from school.

You don't want to know how much this one day excursion to Bachelor cost.

You don’t want to know how much this one day excursion to Bachelor cost.

We were in Sunriver last week. Or really the kids and I were in Sunriver. Heather had to stay home and work. It was her close week at work. So Bear was left behind in Portland, readying for the new schedule. His cousin, Sage, came over for a midday play. We are hoping that schedule continues. Maggie’s friend Ashley took Bear on mid-afternoon walks. And then Grandma arrived with her cat-dog Mimi. So Bear was left on his own to consume a couple of books.

Live alerts

On our first morning back from Sunriver, Declan and Bear came upstairs at their normal six-o-clock hour. Dec lounged on the leather love-seat when Bear pawed him. We checked Declan, who was easily in range. I’m getting more savvy at this dog-alerting-diabetes thing, so I went downstairs to Maggie’s room. It being 630, Maggie was deep in sleep. Bear immediately pawed Maggie, which elicited Maggie to yell at Bear, a non uncommon interaction between Maggie and Bear. Maggie was indeed low. Bear got liver treats and a party while Maggie screamed.

Bear has had a few other alerts, both accurate and inaccurate. We’ve noticed Bear is associating certain locations as an alerting station, a place to get treats if he paws Declan. The leather love-seat is one such place. Declan takes the opposite approach as Maggie, praising Bear and giving him the benefit of the doubt when he is not low after an alert. After checking and being in range, Declan will declare that a) “I feel dropping,” or b) “I might be dropping, let’s check in 15 minutes.”

New chore schedule

The old chore schedule, each kid having responsibility for one chore for one week, rotating each week, turned into each kid doing their assigned chore at most one-time. Without a stay-at-home parent to do these chores, we came up with another chore schedule with everyone responsible for chores throughout the week. I wish we didn’t have to have a checklist, but it is the only way to keep track of equity in a home filled with people keeping track of what everyone else does.

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.

Want to play “Try and catch me?”


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.