What to do?

Sunday afternoon down time.

Sunday afternoon down time.

Weekend rolls around again. Six AM and the chirping bark sounds from the far reaches of the basement. Bear still isn’t understanding the idea of the weekend. It is a time to sleep past six, maybe into the seven-o-clock hour. But I have to respect the signal. And as I rise from the fog of sleep I remember Declan got a shot before going to bed. Proportions and ratios and activity level in the afternoon come back to me. He was mid 400s before bed. He got a 2.5 unit shot to correct the 400. He had been with friends and had walked home before testing. It could be that the signal is a true-positive.

Kit and juice box in hand I navigate the dark stairs. First Dec and then Maggie. Dec was 328 and Maggie was 227, neither low. Trying not to reinforce to Bear that the chirpy bark means getting outside whenever he wants, I put him back up on Dec’s bed for what remains of sleep time.

Back up in bed, trying to steal a few more minutes of sleep as day approaches, I begin to wonder if Bear could have been signaling the high-blood sugar. Apparently the scent for the high is much stronger and more irritating than the low scent, and most dogs begin picking up on the high-scent on their own. Could he have been signaling the high-scent? If so, couldn’t he have signaled it much earlier? Or was Bear just beginning to stir from sleep and realized there was a high-scent and so he signaled, simultaneously realizing that his bladder was full.

Because Bear still hasn’t mastered English, and also because I haven’t picked up on the nuances of a high- or low-blood sugar-scent, these questions, I’m afraid, will never be answered. However, I continue to question how react to all this uncertainty.

Soccer

A game each morning this weekend, and Heather brought Bear along to both of them. With enough exercise before first whistle, Bear is able to stay in a “down” for the game. He acts more like an adult dog now.

At half-time of the game on Sunday Dec was 50 and had about six sugar tabs before getting back in the game in the second half. After the game Heather said that Bear was really well behaved except for right before halftime. Not sure how we can coordinate it, but we need to somehow communicate the misbehaving of Bear not only to check on Dec (or Maggie), but also to reward Bear for signaling.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Breakfast for t1D.

Breakfast for t1D.

Not sure if it will.

We spend a lot of time training. We walk. We hide scents in boxes. We hide scents in rooms. We take Bear to stores and restaurants.

When will Bear be ready? When can we say that he is truly a working dog?

Last night Dec was bouncing around, excited for a trip to Nectar after dinner. Bear jumped on the excitement train, following Dec around. Bear hopped a bit and nudged Dec with his nose. Then he pawed him. And I thought that this was a signal. But Dec checked his blood sugar and he was 160, well above a low reading. Could Maggie be low?

Bear models his new boots and collar.

Bear models his new boots and collar.

Maggie refuses to check. And she screams at Bear when he doesn’t signal when she is low.

How many times is it that Bear smells one of the two, possibly not nearby, and we don’t think to check both? There are times I have no idea that Maggie is home. She is squirreled away in her room streaming Psyche or Monk on her iTouch.

This morning I checked Maggie’s meter. She had tested at 3 am, one of two times she tests throughout the day. The other time “she” tests is when I take the meter downstairs in the morning. She was 46. Low. Her room is next to Dec’s, where Bear was sleeping.

I went down to get Maggie this morning. Bear came with me. I had the meter ready to check blood sugar. Bear sauntered over to Maggie’s garbage to sniff out any treasures. Maybe a stale bagel or a candy wrapper. Maggie was 68. Low. Bear didn’t find any treats nor signal a low.

Bear and Heather watch Fiona play futsal.

Bear and Heather watch Fiona play futsal.

Yesterday before dinner Declan came in from playing outside. He said he felt low. Bear was laying on the floor next to him. He checked his blood sugar and he was 68. Low.

Declan and Bear were playing on Bear’s bed. This gets Bear really riled up. He started humping the bed. Dec checked his blood sugar. He was 56. Bear kept humping.

Are the scent samples losing their scent? Are we training Bear to ignore the scent because we are not picking up on him signaling. And the humping better not turn into Bear’s signal. Or we don’t have the wherewithal to see that someone else in the room may need to check their blood sugar and so we don’t properly reward a live alert?

My head is about to burst.

Exchange student

IMG_20130309_111241

Declan spends quality time in Bear’s crate.

A few months ago we signed up to host a student from France. To prepare for her arrival, I guilt some temporary walls to convert a common room downstairs into a guest room. My mom and my sister test drove the new room and found it quite enjoyable. Two weeks ago we picked her up after a grueling day of travel. She flew from France and then had a bus ride from Seattle down to the Target parking lot near the Portland Airport.

With someone seeing our city and our home for the first time, it made me view our environs a bit differently. We take two freeways and one busy street to get back to our neighborhood. On this drive I noticed all the industrial buildings more, and all the construction on the street. It brought me back to a family vacation I took back when I was Declan’s age. We went to a big city in Mexico, and I remember the drive from the airport. The area struck me as being dirty. There were houses crammed together. There were people walking barefoot. There seemed to be a lot of poverty. I distinctly remember a mom pulling her daughter. They were both barefoot wearing dirty white dresses. The girl saw me in the car and watched as we raced by.

She was tired from her trip and we were excited to meet her. We brought Bear along with us. Having visited France years ago, we saw how much the French love their dogs (another story, having witnessed a Doberman marking someone near him at the restaurant). Looking back, however, maybe we should have left Bear at home, making a bit more room in the van and a bit less commotion on the ride home.

It was late by the time we got home, near ten. I suddenly saw the guest room in a different light. Someone not related to me might see the temporary walls as a bit chintzy. And I noticed there was a slight gap between the panels, allowing light in and out. And suddenly the latch for the door seemed more appropriate for the barn than for a room, especially a non-kin guest. I fixed the gaps with duct tape, but I couldn’t do anything about the latch.

How weird that Bear goes everywhere with us?

How weird that Bear goes everywhere with us?

It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning as I pulled and administered two shots for Declan that I thought how this might look to our new family member. She had limited English, and I have no French, so I couldn’t explain or ask questions. I couldn’t ask if she knew about diabetes, if she knew anyone with diabetes. So I just plowed through, letting her figure it out. It must be strange at meal times, though. With the table all set and ready to go, I still linger in the kitchen gathering three syringes and two or three vials of insulin. And I generally start eating a bit after everyone else as I give the shot to Maggie and Declan.

She returns home this Sunday.

Come

Declan told me that Bear needs to be better at some things. Especially doing this outside, he said. I asked him what things and we could work on them. Dec says that Bear needs to come when he is called. I couldn’t agree more.

Dec explained how he and a friend let Bear outside while they were outside. And Bear just ran around, being chased by the two boys, playing keep away.

Dec and Bear pose with Dec's new Nerf gun from Grandpa.

Dec and Bear pose with Dec’s new Nerf gun from Grandpa.

And it is something I work on with Bear. We practice inside, first with the short leash, and now with the longer rope. But when he gets outside, it turns into a game, and it gets very frustrating for the person trying to get a hand on him. I realize this is a skill Bear should have had down months ago, but my inconsistent training has kept him from mastering it.

Job?

I just went and spoke to an administrator at a school about helping out for the rest of the year. I’d take over a classroom. Along with all the usual questions that arise when a job goes from being a posting to a potential reality, like what are the people like I’ll be working with and what kind of coffee do they have in the break room, I now have questions about what Bear will do while I’m not at home. Could I bring him to school occasionally? Could Heather take Bear to work? Will we need to get someone to come over and walk him in the middle of the day?

And I begin wondering what we were thinking when we signed up for training a service dog ourselves.

Lack of hormones or shame?

Veterinarians will tell you that neuter your male dog calms them down.  They say that the hormones associated with being intact makes them more aggressive.  Now that Bear is back from surgery, I believe there is an alternate theory.  I believe that having to prance around in the “cone of shame” for two weeks significantly destroys the confidence of the “detached” dog to simply make the intact dogs aggressive only in comparison.

Cone of shame

It’d be interesting to put the cone on an intact dog for two weeks and see the result.  It is “purchased” for the price of an xBox wireless controller, but is useless after the two-week period taps confidence and all sense of pride from your dog.  The original cone, the one Bear wore when we picked him up, the one he was wearing as he walked past a pit bull mix (probably intact) in the waiting room, jutted out four inches past his snout.  He banged into everything.  I expected him to be skittish after banging into things, but he just kept at it, pushing through the waiting area, past the door, and eventually into the car.

Declan consoling Bear.

At home Bear kept running into things and began whining.  I couldn’t take the enormity of the cone any longer, so with Dec standing guard making sure Bear wouldn’t rip the staples out of his belly, I took the cone off and cut it back three inches.  With the condensed dish, unable to receive dish-network channels, Bear can navigate through the house a bit better.

Feeling free without the cone.

Bear gets two pain pills a day.  He is already eating and drinking normally.

Questions

  • How will this affect his scent training?
  • How will we survive two weeks of low activity?
  • How much training will he be able to withstand?

    Scar from hernia repair stapled shut.

Last day of completeness

Bear snoring in the kitchen near the end of the long day.

Bear went in this morning.  Yesterday was his last day of being intact, of having a pair swinging.  So we made the most of it.  It might have been due to the experience at the Holiday Inn (see previous post), or it could have been just trying to get the most out of cyber Monday.  Whatever the reason, Bear had a busy day.

The day begin with the now usual ride to school with Sam, Dec, and Emma.  He is getting better, but still needs some training.  I am also getting a bit better at sensing when he MUST take a poop, when he is yanking to get to some grass.  I’ve learned to simply let go of the leash and get a bag out.

After getting back home, Bear’s usual three-hour morning nap was cut short to sign papers for our refinance (have you seen how low rates are?).  At this point I realized that I could have easily left Bear at home.  The decision to bring Bear was a combination of the Holiday Inn experience and Bear’s increasing maturity.  He is much calmer and able to hold it together for longer periods of time.  At the same time I am more aware of how people react when they see the “Service Dog” vest.

We rode the elevator up to the 14th floor.  Bear laid on the floor while we signed.  He was very still with the help of my foot on his leash, but he didn’t struggle.  We visited the Men’s room.  There was someone else in the restroom.  Luckily the stall was vacant.  At this point I realized that Bear hadn’t drunk any water and was likely very thirsty.  I waited for the other occupant to exit before letting Bear drink from the commode.  (It’s a well-known fact that the water from a toilet is cleaner than the water in the washing machine.)

After the Title company, there were some errands to do.  In particular, we had some stores to visit.  Before shopping, though, I needed some food.  So we went to one of the best places: Chipotle’s.  Bear got to practice his Army crawl while we inched forward in line.  Then he got to lay quietly below the table while Heather and I ate.

Then it was off to Nordstrom, then to Costco, and finally to Wal-Mart.  In general, people ignore the fact that I am walking around with a dog.  I suppose that this occurs when Bear is really behaving himself.  It may be that comments are more common when I have to correct him, put him in a sit, or redirect him.  People say how cute he is, or the fact that I am training him, or ask if it is difficult to give the dog up when they are grown.  I used to respond to these comments, but now I usually smile and nod.

Once home Bear plopped down in the kitchen where dinner was being made, but he quickly fell fast asleep, snoring on his side.  Again his nap was cut short to ride to Sam’s and pickup Dec.  On our ride home we stopped at a field for Bear to run off leash, and then back home.

He slept soundly.    This morning it was another ride to school before being dropped off at the vet’s for the chopping block.

Questions

  • How much will this surgery set Bear back in scent training.
  • How much do we want Bear to be with us when we are not at home?
  • How many Hanukkah presents will Bear destroy?

Chewing

  • Lord of the Flies from Fiona’s English class.

    Dec demonstrating the consumption of Lord of the Flies.

  • Another set of earphones.
  • Dec’s slipper.
  • A plastic Army soldier.
  • Dec’s walkie-talkie (I hope it still works).

 

Holiday Inn

Photo op post hot springs

Instead of going berserk shopping on black Friday, the family packed up the MPV and headed to Terwilliger Hot Springs.  Bear was along for the trip, and on the drive down he struggled to find a comfortable spot in the car as Fiona kicked him off the back seat, and he is getting too big to squeeze in on the floor between seats.  He settled on sitting between the front seats, resting his head on the armrest.

Don’t want to spend a lot of time on the hot springs experience, but if you’ve ever been to a hot springs carved into the mountain beside a river (I seem to recall visiting one in my youth outside of Steamboat Springs), but a lot of people who frequent these venues loving feeling natural in nature.  The kids had no idea, but as we rounded the corner on the trail for the final descent to the springs you could clearly see that the ratio of suits per person was zero.  We had come all this way, and we were meeting another family here, we changed into our bathing suits, causing everyone to stare at us, probably feeling bad for our kids that had to grow up in such a restrictive home.

We stopped for a picture on our way back to Eugene, looking forward to a motel with hot tub and pool that required bathing suits.  Signing into the motel, a Holiday Inn Express, the last initial on their form was to comply with their no smoking and no pet policy.  I let them know that we had a service dog.  The receptionist let me know that there were absolutely no pets, to which I responded it was against the ADA law to restrict a service dog.  She said that proper documentation was needed to ensure that it was a service animal, some sort of certification.  Though I knew there is no such thing, I told her that it was in the car.  I put the vest on Bear and brought him into the lobby.

At this point I explained there was no such “certification” for a service dog, that she could call our trainer if she wanted, and that we’d taken Bear to Canada.  I’m not sure why a trip to Canada would institute proper certification, but she bought it.  The whole thing left a foul taste in my mouth, though.  It made me think of the comments left on the story about the service dog that the Christian school forbid from coming to school.  It made me wonder about how far it is worth pushing this.  There certainly are a lot of service dogs out there.  It wasn’t long ago that service dogs were limited to seeing-eye-dogs.  Now there are dogs for people who get seizures, people with autism, people with diabetes, and I suppose there are others.  A quick Google search not only lays out some types of service dogs, but also quotes the ADA law.

Though I feel that having Bear assist with managing Declan and Maggie’s diabetes is a great thing, I am not sure if I am ready to battle hotel chains, schools, and the outspoken slice of america that believes people are abusing the “service-dog” categorization.  Taking a step back, I can see how easy it would be to simply tell the clerk that it is a service dog, giving the family pet free range to everywhere but the religious institutions.

On the flip-side, my blood boils as I am told that “absolutely no dogs are allowed.”  I am invested in this service.  We spend a lot of emotional energy dealing with diabetes, of managing blood sugar levels.  We give/receive up to eight shots a day.  We check blood sugar up to twelve times a day.  We treat low- and high-blood sugars.  It is a constant balancing act between insulin, sugar, activity, stress, sickness, and adrenalin.  We have spent hours training Bear to signal a low-blood sugar scent.  And when he signals on either Declan or Maggie the energy changes, going from a “well this sure is a bummer” feel, to a “Good job Bear!” celebration.  I suppose that I am somewhat biased in how different the feeling is when Bear tells them they are low versus the meter telling them they are low as I have spent a lot of time soliciting the signal from Bear using scent samples.

Questions

  • How do people feel about service dogs?
  • When will Bear signal unsolicited?
  • Can you define when a service dog is needed?

Chewing

  • Two more ear buds
  • Three Tupper ware containers

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)