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.

Alerts

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.

Litter-mate

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.

Puppy Playground

A little pre-bed reading for Dec and Bear.

A little pre-bed reading for Dec and Bear.

Schools let out at one last Thursday. It was in anticipation of the coming storm. And they got it right. We’d been having cold temperatures so when it started snowing it accumulated right away. And by dinner time school had been canceled for Friday.

The cold temperatures and accumulating snow arrived and the normal rules for dogs departed. Walking on a leash became a safety hazard with stable footing gone, so the leash stayed in my pocket on the walks. And with school shuttered, we went to the playground to throw the ball, with no risk of getting a talking to from the custodian who always seems to appear as we would step on the corner of the field.

Bear and Jelly curling up on Dec's bed. Dec took this picture.

Bear and Jelly curling up on Dec’s bed. Dec took this picture.

Knowing Bear needs to run, and getting two comments that he is fat in the past two weeks, I’ve been taking him to the school in the wee hours of the morning. We walk/jog to the field and then I throw the ball for Bear to really stretch his legs a bit. But every time we get to the field I expect the custodian to arrive on site, pushing some cart, asking me if I saw the three signs that said “Dogs must be on leash,” asking me if I could read. Though we arrive to the field before six, I scan the parking lot, take an inventory of which lights are on in the building, and check the back gates before letting Bear off leash to run. If nothing else, his constant berating keeps me paranoid and gives me pause before taking Bear’s leash off.

Bear thieving hats from Sam, Dec, and Emma while Taylor pulls them.

Bear thieving hats from Sam, Dec, and Emma while Taylor pulls them.

So with the snow comes a confidence that the custodian is absent. Absent also are any cars on the street, so we walk down the middle of the street, arriving at the field to find one or two other dogs liberated to run freely, without fear of the custodian, at the schoolyard. And there is something new about having everything covered in snow. Other than the crunch when you walk, the air is more still. Whether it is the stillness, or the crunch, or the powder, the dogs have more jump

.

Walk softly and carry a big stick.

Walk softly and carry a big stick.

We bundled up and ventured for the fifth hole par three at the golf course. It is a steep hill prime for sledding. There were plenty of other people and plenty of other dogs. After running with the puppies, Bear took up the cause of chasing sleds as they careened down the hill. We got back home around noon, a time that Bear would have already clocked over three hours of napping, so he quickly jumped on his couch and slept curled up in a ball.

All smiles at the sledding hill.

All smiles at the sledding hill.

The snow continued as did the no-leash walking, chasing sleds, and playing with dogs. And a lot of sleeping.

Alerts

Bear pawed me. First, I went to Declan. Bear pawed me again. Dec was in range. Then downstairs to find Maggie in her room. She was in range. Then I checked myself. I was technically in range at 86, but I think he was alerting for me. I’d just gotten back from the gym and hadn’t eaten anything. So he alerted me, I checked Declan and Maggie’s blood, and then I checked mine. Not sure if the connection is made between the alert and the treat, but I gave him some hot dog-cheese-kibble potpourri.

It is a bit more difficult with the free-form snow-days to continue with scent-training, but we’ve been able to get in a few sessions. In fact, the “put the sample next to Bear’s nose while he sleeps” has been easier to practice with his deep sleeping after all the playing in the snow.

Back to the dog park

Sleeping on the deck

Sleeping on the deck

It was our third annual trip to the Wings and Waves Waterpark in McMinnville. Last year Bear was along for the trip. This year Bear spent the day in his office. On our return I couldn’t help noticing that Bear was not in the office, but out in the kitchen area. I headed back to the office and nearly fell down by the smell, and then dry heaved seeing the mess of brown liquid on the floor. As my stomach turned right side up, I thanked whoever had the wherewithal to get Bear out of the mess, though they did nothing in terms of cleanup effort.

I wet down a few rags to cleanup and reminisced when we had cloth diapers in Eugene. Whether it was thinking about some of those nasty diapers we cleaned in the toilet, or just a sudden solidifying state of my stomach, I did not add my own mess to the already disgusting floor. What is going on with Bear’s constitution, though?

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Bowl of Costco hot dogs and cheese sticks a day

Is it the anniversary of his parvo experience, needing to somehow celebrate his survival, Bear’s insides are reminding us how far he has come and how bad it was. Or is it the new high value treat he gets for scent work? He’s been getting about one Costco dog a day for the past week. Though I haven’t tried this regiment, I imagine it could do some damage. After I have one I’ll taste it throughout the day. Or might it be the newly instituted lock down regiment is stressing his constitution? Bear only goes on short walks, no running along with the bike, no dog park, and treats only with scent work.

While cleaning the mess I decided to take Bear to the dog park. We’d walk on leash, which would be painful, before heading to the water and enjoying time off leash.

I finished scrubbing and spraying air freshener (it still smelled of poo) and loaded Bear into the car and drove to the park. The park full of dogs and the smell of the river distracted Bear greatly. He whined a bit and pulled quite a bit. Stay tuned on how the yanking develops into Bear’s lack of feeling around his collar.

And then I exhaled, taking Bear off leash and walking along the beach. The leash swung freely from my hand as Bear charged in the water for a stick. He boxed with other dogs. He charged other dogs, faking to the left at the last possible moment and dove into the water.

We came home and he flopped down, tired for the first time in a week.

Sleeping on the deck

Sleeping on the deck

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.

Gearing up for Thanksgiving

New favorite napping spot by the side door.

Not sure if Bear knows about Thanksgiving, that it is one day away, and that we must train our gastrointestinal fortitude, but he has been putting his insides through some impressive strains.  To get the most out of our turkey meal we need to increase the quantity that our stomachs hold, which can be done in just a few trips to Taco Bell.  Bear has taken an alternate path to gastrointestinal fortitude.

Bear has not only increased the quantity, but he has also increased the variety of what is consumed.  In addition to his impressive volume of food (he is currently going through five pounds a day), Bear also is dabbling in a plethora of new food.  He is testing the limits of his GI tract with boots, toothbrushes, Nerf gun, and DVD cases.  I’m not sure how much of these he actually gets down to his gullet, but I pick up remnants of his work around the house.

I’m not exactly sure why his chewing and consuming of non-food items has increased.  I’m certain he doesn’t know about Thanksgiving.  In fact, Thanksgiving will likely be a bummer for Bear.  He’ll spend more time alone than he usually does.  If we bring him to the in-laws, he’s likely to spend a big chunk of that time in the car, alone.  This will not be enjoyable for him.  He’ll smell the turkey, the stuffing, the green bean casserole, but he’ll be stuck in the van, fogging up the windows.

Bear would much rather have his normal day.  He gets up with Declan at 630, says his hellos, and then hits the couch for a nap.  I take him for a run on the bike.  He runs off leash at the school.  After a few exercises back at home, he hits the couch for solid two-hour nap.  In the evening there is a long walk, possibly to the dog park, and then back home for bed.

I wonder if the increased consumption of non-food items is largely from the Thanksgiving break, with kids and chaos home during the day, and with my mom and her dog, Mimi, visiting.  He loves greeting people as they come over.  He’ll have something in his mouth, a hat, a shoe, and occasionally a dog toy, while he nudges the person, wagging not just his tail, but his whole body.  Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t continue for Bear.  In his excitement he grabs kid’s belongings that pile up near the door.  Then the kid or a parent reprimand Bear, “No! Leave it!”  He drops the shoe, and goes for something else, which then elicits a similar response.  Though he enjoys being with people and pets, I believe his stress level increases with an increased amount of negative feedback, which then increases the need to chew things.

I also wonder about Bear’s surroundings compared to the puppies that Kristin trains at her home.  Bear is constantly with us, a part of the family, while the puppies at Kristin’s house are with each other, with limited human contact.  They go through exercises with a person, but otherwise they are with other dogs, mingling in the yard or in the kennel. Bear’s experience is the inverse: Constant contact with people and mere glances with other dogs.  I wonder if the extreme calm of trained service-dogs I see in public is partly from their limited human contact and constant dog contact for the first nine-months of their lives.

Chewing

  • Two sets of earphones
  • One Steve Madden boot
  • Small Nerf gun
  • Bedroom carpet
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Toothbrush (not sure if it got any plaque off)
  • Book from school
  • DVD case (luckily not the DVD)

Lessons

Not sure when the last lesson was, over a month, i think.  At the lesson I realized that my energy and excitement for training is inversely related to the frequency of lessons.  I had to admit that Bear’s training has diminished to walks to the park, with some scent training thrown in there.  I’ll occasionally do a few things at home, like “go to bed”, “rollover”, and “crawl”.  The main reason for the lesson was to work on basic outdoor behavior: tugging on the leash and running next to the bike.

Right off the bat Kristin introduced Bear to a “Gentle-lead”, which is very gentle for the person, but appears extremely annoying to the canine at the other end.  It is a figure eight harness for the head, going around the snout and neck.  Bear started bucking and yanking at his snout as soon as it was on.  It reminded me of the first time we had him on a leash.  He did settle down after some tasty treats and a bit of time.  I am told that after a few sessions with the “gentle-lead” the uncontrollable yanking will disappear simply by pulling the “gentle-lead” out of one’s pocket.  That is how gentle it is to the canine at the other end.  We’ll see.

Next we went outside to run alongside the bike.  Luckily for us it was dry.  The last time I tried riding with Bear on the bike I nearly took his head off while he nearly yanked me down a bluff.  No treats necessary on this one since just running at full speed is such a joy (oh, to be a dog).  The majority of this lesson is to communicate where he needs to be, which is behind the fork line of the bike, and to the right of the bike.  We started by walking the bike with Bear on the right.  If he ever got passed the fork line, Kristin would say “Get back!” as she jerked the front wheel to the right to tap him.  Bear should be scared to go beyond the fork line of the bike because bad bad things will happen if he does this while riding.

Last night I practiced running with the bike, and this morning I rode with him to Maggie’s school to deliver a forgotten lunch.  Bear picked up on it like a champ.  This has everything to do with the reward for learning the lesson.  In fact, Maggie’s school is one of his favorite destinations with many dogs playing in the field at the beginning and end of each day.  Our walks to the school is what prompted me to call Kristin about tugging on the leash, which may be remedied with the aforementioned “gentle-lead.”  So on our ride to his favorite destination, Bear tugged a little bit, but he was very responsive to the “Knock it off” command.  Once we got to the school, he remained behind fork to the right of the bike as we walked to the door.

While Bear learned quickly how to run alongside the bike, I learned how powerful the reward is in learning.  I picked up some new treats while buying the “gentle-lead”, and Bear loves them.  Back at home he actually went to the dog-pad on the “go to bed” command without me standing right next to the pad.

The variety of treats will help in our latest skill to learn from Kristin: Find the scent.  We put five or six shoe-box sized boxes on the floor, putting treats in one of them (this is how they train drug sniffing dogs).  Bear needs to find the box with the treats.  At first the box is open.  Then we close the box.  Then we put a scent-sample along with the treats.  Then we put the scent-sample in random places around the room.  The idea of this drill is that Bear is seeking out the scent, actively finding it, instead of being passive and waiting for the scent.  Later in this game, we can hide a scent-sample at the park for Bear to find.

Mimi donning her new raincoat for the wet Portland weather.

In addition to the new game and running along with the bike, Bear has had a new dog in the house.  My mom is visiting with her dog, Mimi, who happens to be the same weight as Bear’s poops from the backyard.  Mimi is slowly getting used to Bear trying to play with her.  It is a bit awkward as his paw is about the size of her skull.

Questions:

  • Will Bear ever not seek attention from other dogs?
  • Will Declan be able to ride his bike with Bear running next to him?

Items chewed in the past week:

  • Declan’s school book (we’ve already ordered a replacement).
  • Fiona’s Steve Madden boots (apparently they are nice).
  • Four rolls of toilet paper.
  • A roll of paper towels.
  • Two milk cartons.
  • One juice pouch.

Dog park

Bear is needing interaction with animals other than our cats.

Now that Bear has all of his vaccinations and has survived a bout with parvo, I took him to the dog park.  There is one walking distance from our house, down by the river.  It is a bit of a walk, and I thought it might wear Bear out a bit, but he was raring to play when we got there.

Our previous dog was one of those annoying dog-park dogs.  The one that found a dog to pester.  She wouldn’t fight at all; she would just bark at one dog.  I am not sure how she chose the dog, but she would stay with that dog until we left, which was usually soon after she found that dog.

Early on with Bear, Kristin warned us about dog parks, that there might be some aggressive dogs at the park, and some timid owners to go along with those dogs.  I am of the belief that people who take their dogs to the park to play know the importance of dogs playing, and, thus, should be well-adjusted.

I got thinking about the dog-park after a walk to the football field that I let Bear roam off leash.  This time there were two other dogs there, and Bear levitated he was so excited to play.  The other dogs put up with the puppy and thoroughly wore him out.  Instead of leaving to chance to see another dog at the football field, I took him to the dog-park.  As it was by the river, it also allowed for a swim, which he hasn’t gotten to do at all.

We’ve been to the dog park twice.  The first time he sniffed the water, not getting in past his ankles, and he ran with a lot of dogs as they chased a ball.  Bear was oblivious to the game of fetch, assuming that it was chase they were playing.  Not accustomed to the constant running, Bear tried to keep up with the Herculean feat of keeping pace with these dogs that just kept running, putting to shame any ultra-marathoner.  Soon it became Bear jogging 30 feet behind the dog lunging for the ball, only to make a U-turn as the dog sprinted past him on his way back to their owner holding a Chuck-it stick.

The second time to the park I let Bear off leash and he sprinted to a cluster of three dogs.  I could see them playing as I approached.  The owner tossed a ball and the clump of dogs chased after the ball, Bear chasing the dogs.  One of the dogs got aggressive, leaning hard into Bear, bearing his teeth, and growling.  Only wanting to play, Bear flopped down to showing submissiveness.  The dog continued lunging at Bear.  As I approached the owner was able to get his dog, claiming that puppy play can be so loud.  I responded that that was not play, that was fighting.

As I redirected Bear to the river, the dog lunged a few more times, jerking his owner.  I secretly relished the thought of a small rotater-cuff injury to the owner’s shoulder.  Nothing big, like a full dislocation, but something to remind him not to bring a damn aggressive dog to the park.  No luck as the jerks from his dog didn’t even dislodge the cigarette hanging from his mouth.

We survived, though.  Maybe I’ll bring my tazer next time to neutralize any aggressive dogs next time.