Enticing treats

IMG_20131017_182855We have a better handle on what Bear consumes. He is more consistently put in the office during the day, leading to fewer loaves of bread eaten. Now the loophole is in the early afternoon when Fiona or Declan get home. They let Bear out of the room while they forage through the pantry and fridge, leaving remnants of the teenage diet on the counter. Easy picking for Bear.

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Because Bear eats more of what he is supposed to, not getting as much cheese, bread, salami, and cookies as before, his desire to work for treats increased. The hot dogs and cheese are suddenly more of a treat than before. So now when we pull out the scent samples, the smell of hot dogs motivates Bear. He is more active and vocal, sniffing for the scent, and announcing he found it.

Resting after doing the laundry.

Resting after doing the laundry.

Bear sleeps on the couch and I walk by with a scent up my sleeve or in a pocket. He wakes himself to alert the scent, earning a piece of hot dog, at which point we continue training by hiding the scent in another room. Bear remains in a STAY until release, at which point he goes to the room I just exited. Once in the room I wonder at what point does he smell the scent. Sometimes he’ll sniff around a bit and then come up to me and paw me, or bark, or jump up on me (he has incorporated some new signals on his own).

At what point do I reward the signal? Has he gotten enough of a whiff of the scent by passing by it, or should I wait for until he really locates it, putting his nose on it? Continuing some inconsistency in his training, I keep to no rule on this. If time is short, I’ll tend to give some leniency. With a lot of time, I wait patiently until Bear finds the scent. But I am not sure either is really better. If he smells the scent, but is not right on it, shouldn’t he signal. But then how strong is that scent? It is a cotton swab inside a plastic beaker. How much scent can be wafting out of that little thing?

Bear did signal Dec the other night, so it might be working regardless of my lack of knowledge. Dec was in the tub and Bear started yapping his high-pitched annoying bark. At first we ignored it, thinking Bear was simply excited, wanting to jump in the tub with Dec since he does everything else with Dec. After his persistence, we got a kit and checked Dec’s blood sugar. Dec got a juice pouch and Bear got a piece of hot dog with a side of cheese.

IMG_20130321_065938Maybe we will get there. Middle of the night alerts may be a stretch, though. Bear sleeps well. His snoring woke me the other night. I considered getting a scent sample at that time for some middle of the night training but opted for sleep. Maybe next time.


Parvo II?


Attempting to escape from the back of the car.

Over a year ago Bear spent five days at the pet hospital in secluded ICU recovering from Parvo. They gave him fluids and nutrients to give him the strength to recover from the attack on his GI track. And since returning from the pet hospital I’ve been sensitive about the health of his guts. I always wonder after a soft stool if there is some lingering effect on his nutrient absorption capabilities, a continual reminder that when he was three months old his intestines nearly collapsed.

But I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of the lingering effects of Parvo. It started at dinner with the family. Heather asked if we should give Bear away. She got home from work to find another butter dish broken, another spatula chewed up, and the remnants of a Ritz cracker wax-paper sleeve. We sat at the table as Heather explained the continuing issues that Bear has chewing things and stealing things off the counter.

While we sat at the table Bear lay on the couch with pieces of the butter dish attached to his collar. Not sure if he got the message Heather was trying to get across to him, but he didn’t look to happy.

I wasn’t sure how to react to Heather’s question, so I just sat quietly, listening to the kids come up with ideas to help out. I enjoyed listening to them come up with ideas to help. Before Heather’s question, the kids would join in the chorus of complaints, so hearing new solutions from the kids was a nice new angle.

IMG_20131027_163314No decisions were made at dinner, but the message was delivered. Fiona and Maggie take him on walks occasionally. And Declan puts Bear in his confined room in the morning. Prior to Heather’s question, we set alarms and timers to remind Declan to put Bear in his room. He never completed the task. After Heather’s question I put a note taped to the door reminding Dec to put Bear away. And since the question, Bear has been put away during the day.

I asked Dec if the note taped to the door was all the reminder he needed to put Bear away. He said that it was really the question about giving Bear away, knowing that his inaction might lead to placing Bear elsewhere.

ICUNow that he is being put away during the day on a consistent basis our bread consumption has been cut in half. And the number of Tupper Ware’s chewed up per week has declined drastically. We’ll need to amend our food and kitchen utensil budgets. And suddenly Bear’s intestinal health has firmed up. There are no lingering effects of Parvo, there are, however, immediate effects of consuming Dave’s Killer Bread, lunch-size chocolate milks, and sleeves of Ritz crackers.


Scent training continues. There have been two live alerts. The challenge of scent training with two people with diabetes in the home remain. Now that Bear’s intestinal fortitude has been reestablished, I’ve reintroduced hot dogs for high value treats.

Now more chewed up blocks of cheese found on the floor.

Now more chewed up blocks of cheese found on the floor.

Walking on leash continues to be one of the most frustrating things in my day. I took a break from the leash, letting Bear walk off leash in the dark of the morning walk. After two runs without reacting to my calls taught me that the leash is a must. The only time he is off leash outside is at the dog park.

Eating well


Bear and Dec at the river.

At first I thought it was all the exercise Bear was getting. A couple walks a day on top of the trip to the river with Grandma exhausted him. I’m beginning to wonder if it might be an increase in extracurricular dining. Yesterday and today I think we got to the bottom of it.

Every few days there would be one or two packages I’d find around the house or out in the backyard: An empty box of cereal in the TV room, a torn up bread bag outside, the butter dish on the ground. Concerned about manners, Bear used utensils as well. Next to the cookie sheet on the living room floor is the serrated knife. Beside the Tupperware is the spatula, chewed to oblivion.

Need extra sleep.

Need extra sleep.

Yesterday I got home and found a bit of dried olive Ciabatta on the floor. Weird, I thought, as I picked it up and cut a thick slice to slather with butter. It wouldn’t be the first time that the animals known as teenagers had left half eaten food around the house. However, later I found the bag that went with the loaf of bread. It was torn and had some puncture wounds. Stirring the boys from their Xbox game I came across the remains of the Tillamook baby loaf, a Ritz cracker container, and a dead bird (pretty sure that was the cats, though).


More sleep.

At dinner I asked Declan about the bread and whether he and his friend ate it. Dec explained that instead of Bear greeting Dec at the door with the usual dog toy in his mouth, Bear had a loaf of bread in his mouth. Of course he didn’t notice this until his friend pointed it out to him.

Today I came home and found the paper wrapper from the giant Costco size dried salami on the floor next to Bear’s couch and the remains of the Costco size Irish cheese between the couches.

So it may be that Bear is exhausted from all the exercise he is getting. The amount of walking, running, and swimming could certainly tire a dog out. But I’m beginning to believe it is all the cheese and crackers, and salami and bread he is consuming. With his increase in exercise must come a commensurate increase in calories.


IMG_20131013_101218Completely unrelated to the food intake, but central to Bear’s job (hopefully one day), Bear continues to signal Dec or Maggie AFTER they sense a low. This morning Maggie woke up and went to her kit. This is a sure sign to me that she feels low because if she didn’t feel low I would have to remind her to check her blood sugar no less than four times before she would actually check. Bear was sleeping on the couch, no doubt finishing digestion of some Ciabatta bread. The positive news is that Bear woke up and went to Maggie while she was checking her blood sugar. I don’t think he would have gotten up had he not smelled the low. So that is at least a move in the right direction.

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.

Lowering the viscosity

After a bit of activity, Bear cashes out for a nap.

I have never had a puppy before.  I’ve had two dogs.  Max was sort of a puppy when we got him in Eugene, but he didn’t last long after he snapped at a three-month old Fiona.  Annie, our second dog, we found on the internet.  Annie could very well have been the best dog of all time.  She was very mellow; she put up with babies crawling over her; and she was very low maintenance.  She might have gone to the vet three times in the twelve years we had her.

From my experience dog’s are very reliable and consistent with their bowel movements.  Proportional to their size, the poops scooped easily, keeping their form.  Aside from the occasional consumption of a diaper, causing a gag reflex in the human trying to clean up the pile, the grown dog is easy to pick up after.

Not so much the puppy.  I was told that a puppy’s GI tract can be sensitive, but I (ahem) poopoo-ed that, thinking that from all I’d seen, dogs eat and then they poop. First, puppies eat just about anything.  In addition to the organic material, the Lego and Nerf toys make for great meals.  Second, puppies get sick more easily as their immune systems get up to speed.

Before getting Parvo, Bear would have what I would consider a reliable pile about every other day.  The unreliable piles might have the beginnings of reliability, but end with a soft-serve consistency.  Later in the day, the promising beginnings vanished, leaving just a pile of soft-serve to manage, which I might say is manageable.

Back from the pet-hospital, Bear had one or two reliable piles.  Unfortunately, he is on an antibiotic while he recovers (it is worth mentioning that it is amoxicillin, the identical antibiotic that has been prescribed to the kids).  Just like with humans, antibiotics causes diarrhea.  It’s gone from soft-serve to an espresso machine.  Not only in consistency, but even with sounds.  I feel for Bear as he is mending from his insides getting torn apart from the parvovirus, but my insides start gurgling at the site of a triple espresso pour.  I try to limit these concoctions to our yard (or the vacant house next door), giving them time to harden over a few days of dehydration.

On our walk this morning, however, we were not in the yard when he pulled up his hind legs to his front paws in ready position.  We did happen to be at a less manicured lawn, and on the boulevard (the strip between the sidewalk and the street).  Thank goodness I had a double-layered newspaper bag, which in the end protected me from full-on vomiting.

I managed to scoop about half of the mess up while suppressing my gag reflex.  As I thought on how to tie the bag up without making a mess of my hands, the owner of the house poked her head out of the front door.  She thanked me for cleaning up after my dog, and commented on how cute he was.  The hand holding the aqua-dump in a bag shot out straight.  I am not sure whether I was trying to simply get it away from me, or I was trying to bring attention to the bag holding only part of the pile, which would divert attention from the remains that seeped into the dry grass.

Whether it was the angle from which she stood, or the bag of doo held high with pride, she did not notice what remained.  And I am thankful for that.  It is my hope that the last of the amoxicillin, which dilutes things at the tail end, will also be the end of the espresso machine.

And I broke down and bought one of those roles of baggies that can be attached to the end of a leash.


Before leaving for San Diego, we visited Bear at Dove-Lewis pet hospital.  He didn’t look that good.  We now get twice or thrice daily updates from Dove-Lewis, my mom (yes, she is on the call list), and Kristin (the trainer).

As we left our visit with Bear, after we took off the gowns, rubber gloves, footy slippers, and dipped our feet in some toxic solution to kill any remaining Parvovirus, the technician warned us that dogs with parvo often don’t make it.  She told us that we should be realistic but still be hopeful.  She had told us that he was doing better in the morning, but then tailed off as the day wore on, which is often how I feel on any given day.

Most of the updates about Bear are stagnant.  They don’t change much.  He really hasn’t eaten anything aside from 16 kibbles of food.  He had really bad diarrhea, but that has since diminished, along with the blood in the diarrhea.  His blood work has remained decent for a dog with parvo.  Other communications I’ve had with Dove-Lewis is with their accountant giving more permissions to charge our Visa.

It is worth noting that they knew exactly how many kibbles Bear ate.  This and the other list of things they know about Bear (white blood cell count, protein levels, and others I can neither pronounce nor spell) is an indication of the bill accumulating.


We are in San Diego and enjoying the environs, including Legoland.  Just before Maggie, Declan, and I loaded into the car I gave consent to use the feeding tube to get some much needed nutrients to Bear.

Legoland sucks.  I would get much more bang for my buck playing Lotto or PowerBall.  The buildup is similar.  There is great expectation about the fun to be had.  You fantasize about what would be your first move.  With the lottery you wonder where you would live and what you would do everyday.  With Legoland you wonder about which ride to go on, which models to build, and how much fun the kids will have.

Then reality hits.  With the lottery it is over pretty quick.  The last lotto ticket I had, which was given to me as a birthday present, I did not have even one matching number.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of “total loser” prize for not getting even one number matched?  Like they’d give you the price of the ticket back, or half the price of the ticket?

At Legoland reality creeps up to you slowly.  It starts with parking.  You drive into this giant expanse of a parking lot.  There is nothing around.  No one would drive out to this place and park and not shell out the $89 to get into the park, yet they charge you $12 to park.  And that is the economy lot.  You can pay $20 for the privilege of parking closer in.

At the airport there is short-term, long-term, long-long-term, and then there is economy parking.  This is the economy parking; at the airport it is one or two exits before the airport with a 15 minute shuttle ride to departures.  For $12 we found a spot that was a 15 minute walk to the entrance.

Once in the park there are the lines, and the heat, and more lines to get food, and then paying for food.  The bill for lunch, which I abstained from, was $25.  Dec had a grilled cheese kids meal, and Maggie had a roast beef sandwich and a drink.  The drink was $3.50, which I had high hopes for until seeing the “Sorry no refills” sign at the fountain (I learned my lesson trying to dupe food service at a ski area cafeteria in high school).

I got more bitter as the day progressed with more incidental fees being tacked on (you have to pay $5 to dry yourself outside the squirt gun zone).  Not sure it was worth the couple of pictures captured.  I’m hoping there will be more lasting memories for the kids than the relief felt as we entered the “Build it…Test it” room that was both “free” AND air-conditioned.

Aside from the AC, the highlight for me was getting a text from Kristin.  She had just spoken to the vet, who told Kristin that she expects Bear to make it.  She said that he’ll likely be able to go home after another two to four days.  Kristin also said that the pharmaceutical company that we got the vaccinations from might pay for part or all of Bear’s bill.

My immediate thought was relief.  Then I quickly wondered if Kristin had any idea how much the bill was currently, let alone what it will be after another four days.  I am also considering, somewhat seriously, putting our “project” on Kickstarter.com for funding.  I just need to come up with a catch name.  I already have plenty of cute pictures to reel people in after they have clicked on the catchy name for our project.

San Diego

Aside from Legoland, San Diego has been awesome.  We went to the beach the first day.  The day turned to evening.  We made a run to Roberto’s for fish tacos and had dinner at the beach while the sun set.  One of my favorite things to do.

And then

We could go back pretty far to find the root of all the events which occurred in the past 18 hours or so.  Could be last March when we decided to dive in and get a service dog.  It could go back to when we were finishing our basement and we decided to go with the pump to get the waste water up to the main stack.  We could go back to when we started having kids, which would then have us digging out the basement (with 5-gallon buckets) to make room for our growing children.

After winning the first game of the tournament, Maggie’s soccer team had just lost six to nil in the second game.  It was a triple digit degree day, and still hot driving home at 830.  I looked forward to a cold beer and an early bedtime.

And then (1)

Walking in the door at nine, I was happy to find leftover burritos in the fridge.  Normally not one to be an audience of boys playing Xbox, I quickly learned why Heather was in the TV room with Declan and two of his friends.  “Declan has lice!”  Have you seen Declan’s hair recently?  The lice had hit the Trifecta, the Club Med for Lice.  Vacation for the lice is over and just in time for our vacation to begin; we are set to fly to visit family in San Diego in just over a day.  Note to self: call and tell sis that we are traveling with some unwanted baggage.

And if you are one of those people who gets grossed out by the mention of lice, then you are probably in the group that either has young kids or no kids.  Just wait.  And don’t freak out when it comes.

Heather was toiling over Dec’s scalp after the treatment, nit-picking, literally (that is where the term originated).  I was trying to enjoy my luke-warm, half-eaten, chicken burritos, trying not to overheat as the heat of the day did not relent to any evening cool breeze.  It was as if we were back in Arlington, VA.

I noticed Bear was conspicuously absent from the scene.  It being so hot, he might be down in the basement where it is slightly more inhabitable.  What garbage was he finding?  What shoe was being torn apart as he played unsupervised in the cool of the basement?

Finishing the burritos, I search for Bear in the basement and actually felt a slight chill in the cool air of the basement.  Bear was nowhere to be found, however.  He was not in his crate that he has begun heading to on his own for his incessant naps.  He was not in Maggie’s room, a favorite of his with hidden snacks all over the place.  He was not in Declan or Fiona’s room.  Turns out he was upstairs sleeping in our room.  And he had a little throw up on the carpet earlier that Heather didn’t have time to clean up.

And then (2)

Bear was clearly not feeling well.  He turned his head away when offered food and water.  After witnessing Bear dry-heaving, bringing back memories of college, I tried to feed a Pepto-Bismol to settle things.  It worked for me back in the day.  However, he doesn’t even take the cheese wrapped Pepto-Bismol that he normally dances for.  Could it be that he’d moved up to larger Lego pieces and the 2×4 piece was now somewhere stuck?  More memories of retching to get every last drop from the evening help me empathize with Bear attempting to expunge something from his body.

Bear does settle down a bit, goes to the bathroom outside, and is ready for a good night’s rest.  Nit-picking is complete, Bear settled on his bed, and we are ready to call it a night, finally.

Bear dry-heaves again and I decide to call the veterinarian.  After being told that things can go downhill pretty quick with a dehydrated puppy, I pack up and take him across town to Dove Lewis pet-hospital.  They tell me that we should go in the side entrance as there could be potentially dangerous germs to keep Bear away from.  This is what I heard, but on reflection I realize they wanted us going in the side door to protect all the other dogs that might be in the main lobby.

After a quick physical, the vet says there may be something blocking his intestine.  He was in a lot of pain in one particular spot in his lower intestine.  “Is there anything that he could have eaten recently?”  she asks.  Legos and Nerf bullets run aplenty in our home and are available like food at a Las Vegas buffet.  Damn it, he got into the Indiana Jones set and was able to force a figurine down.

Bear being 14 weeks old and having already received three of the four Parvo vaccinations, it is unlikely that it is Parvo, but the vet needs to rule this out.  So a swab of stool is tested.

A mere twenty minutes later, slightly longer than a pregnancy test, but looking just like a store-bought pregnancy test, the Parvo test is positive.  This is when I realize that we were brought in the side entrance for just this situation.  Parvo is an extremely resilient, deadly virus.  High and low estimates are presented for Bear’s stay in the isolation ICU.  I ask if this will keep him from going to Kristin’s to be boarded while we are away in San Diego.

The enormity of Parvo has not hit me, and I wonder if I’ll be able to pick him up before Maggie’s 1030 am game.  The timing and location of her game was perfect.  We’d take Bear to the game, which was way out in Hillsboro, but very close to Forest Grove, where Kristin lives.  The vet very gently lets me know that it is unlikely he’ll be released later in the day (it being 130 in the morning by this time, game time is a mere nine hours away).

After nearly maxing out my credit card, Bear is taken to isolation ICU.  Before leaving I have to dip my feet in some solution to shed the Parvo, if any remained on me.

As the reality of Parvo sinks in, and the explanation of the danger of it and how it is transmitted, I manage to send an email to Kristin to let her know that Bear is Parvo positive.  It’s possible that other puppies he has played with have Parvo.  Bear could have gotten it from them, or he could have given it to them.

And then (3)

After each training session with Kristin, Bear goes on recess with his litter-mates and other dogs that she is training.  The favorite by far was Calvin.  Super mellow, Calvin would saunter up and lean up against you, nosing your hand to give him a pet.  He was the Mr. McGoo of the group.

Kristin’s message back at 730 the next morning is concern for Bear, hoping that he will pull through, and that Calvin was in a drug-induced coma, and that she might have to put him down.  She did have to put him down, and a large brain tumor is believed to be the cause.

Big bummer.

And then (4)

Declan and his friends are up, having breakfast and getting set for a day of Xbox and swimming.  Heather and I are trying to pick up the pieces before heading to Maggie’s game, then to visit Bear, then back to another game, and then back home to pack and get ready for our 630 am flight.  Still unsettled is where Bear will be when released from the hospital.

I send the boys down to brush teeth, hoping that Declan will find the tooth fairy’s gift.  He lost a tooth while I was at Dove Lewis. As I’m packing Bear’s pen and bed up, I hear the boys screaming that the bathroom is covered in water. F***!!

This goes back to digging the basement out and having the pump eject waste-water up to the main stack.  Intermittently, the pump will be on but not pumping anything out.  This causes water to back up out of the floor drain in the laundry room, and in this case the toilet never switched off after a flush.  The turn off valve never switched off, so the water just kept flowing, and with nowhere to go, it flowed over onto the tile in the bathroom and out into the hallway.  The good news is that the water flowing in the basement is clean, straight from the tap, almost.

Not sure why this gets the pump to work, but I merely have to unplug it and plug it back in and then it is able to work.  Every towel in the house is down soaking up a small portion of the water.  Did I mention that we are going to San Diego the next morning?

After several times wringing out towels in the bath and reapplying to the floor I have the stroke of genius to borrow Aaron’s steam cleaner to suck up the water.

It’s 1015 and we have to leave to catch some of Maggie’s game, which happens to be a mere five miles from Kristin’s house, where  Bear was supposed to stay.

On our way home we visited Bear.  He is not doing that well.  A cone around his head and an IV in his leg, he struggles to keep his head up.  The tech said that he was better in the morning, and even ate a bit, but after a giant diarrhea, he was clearly feeling worse.  He has not hit bottom.  We are hoping a bottom occurs that he climbs out of.  At this point they can only support him, providing hydration and nutrition.  He is also on some pain killers.

We are hopeful that he rebounds and is able to be picked up by friends who will care for him until we return.