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.

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Classroom

Getting comfortable at the front of the class

Getting comfortable at the front of the class

Bear went to work today. He came with me to the classroom. It was a late start, which made the day a bit shorter and more manageable with Bear there. Before the students arrived he quickly found comfort on his pad and started sleeping. We were at the door to greet students and they went bonkers. They pet and scratched him. They nuzzled him and cajoled him. And for the most part Bear sat nicely soaking up all the attention. Probably not the best practice for a dog that loves the attention, but I reminded him to look at me every so often. And he quickly responded, moving his head to the side to get a good look at the treat that I held in front of my face.

Once in the classroom I reminded the students about Bear being a working dog and that this is part of his training. I put him in a down/stay on his pad and he promptly relaxed. Several of the students were completely enamored with him and laid on the floor trying to get closer to him. At this point I had to pull out the “I hope to bring him back for more days, but I can’t if he is too much of a distraction” card. They leaped back into their chairs and got to work. These kids are great.

Near the end of class I showed the class the scent sample and how he signals when he smells a low. Bear demonstrated this great when the students were sitting at their desks but struggled when he was surrounded by adoring fans.

Each class Bear got comfy.

Each class Bear got comfy.

Each period was a similar story, but I limited student contact with him. Instead of letting the kids approach and pet him at the beginning of class, I introduced  Bear and put him in a down, letting the students know that they’d get a chance later to interact with him. At the front of the class most students couldn’t see him, so when he came out to greet students some had forgotten that he was even there. Teenagers attention span is about as long as their arm. Some students put Bear through some commands.

Live alerts

This morning Bear signaled me while I read the paper. It was early. Both Dec and Maggie were asleep. He was persistent, so we went down to check blood sugar. Dec was 70 and Maggie was 47.

After soccer practice Dec came home and cuddled on the couch with the fur blanket. Bear looked up at him and barked. He was 89 and likely dropping from the exercise.

Two nights ago Bear woke up at 2am. I checked Dec and he was 240. I didn’t check Maggie, but I heard her about 30 minutes later checking and treating a low blood sugar. It took me a while to get back to sleep thinking about not checking Maggie’s blood sugar (she was 400 before bed with no correction: post exercise drop!)

Post soccer practice cuddle

Post soccer practice cuddle

So last night Bear woke up at 1230. Remembering the previous night I went down to check both Maggie and Declan. There was one test-strip left, so after checking Dec I had to come back upstairs to get some strips. Neither of them were low or anywhere near low. And sleep was far away from my trips down and up and down and up the stairs. But they were both low by morning time. I don’t even try to figure some things out.

Highs and lows

IMG_20130202_162643

Bear and Dec sharing the new bed.

So last week we started noticing Bear signaling quite a bit more, starting with the time he barked at me with Declan sitting across from me (Late Update). I believe that he has been signaling at some level, but we have not been noticing. That said, Bear is not on all the time. Two nights ago Declan was getting into bed; Bear was on his trundle snoring. Dec said, “I think I need to test.” Sure enough he was low. We got Bear awake and he signaled, but at some point Bear needs to wake from the scent on his own and signal.

This morning Maggie rolled out of bed and came upstairs, sitting next to Bear. Bear pawed her and then she went and tested. She was low. The challenge in this case is twofold. First, it would be good for Bear to have to come to Maggie, but she is in tune with how she feels. So she will go to Bear when she feels low to give him practice, but the only time Maggie goes to Bear is when she is low. Bear needs to signal when she is low, not when she approaches him. At this point I am not convinced what Bear is signaling. The second challenge is to get Maggie excited after he signals. When he pawed her this morning, she simply stood up and went to her kit to test, quietly telling me that Bear signaled her. Now I wonder how many times has he signaled without any celebration or without any treats.

Bear wondering why Sam is trapped in his crate.

Bear wondering why Sam is trapped in his crate.

This afternoon I was running to the store when Dec and Sam got home from school. When I got home my mom, who is out visiting, told me that Bear pawed Declan. Declan quashed the signal, telling Grandma that Bear paws a lot when he gets home because he is so excited. And I agree with Declan, however, when I got home and heard this I told Dec that he needed to test. Though I was expecting the usual mid-afternoon 300+ blood sugar reading, Dec was 72. Though it was quite a bit after his initial signal, we had Bear signal Dec again before treating the low with a juice pouch.

Chewing update

After spending over $60 on chew toys and bones, things have improved. Bear now has a big basket of toys that is depleted throughout the day. (Need to teach him to pick up his own toys.) The basket is refilled as the house gets picked up throughout the day. In addition to more approved chew things, I put Bear in the crate whenever I leave the house. Needless to say, it is not foolproof. Yesterday Fiona stormed upstairs screaming, which is not out of character, but she was screaming that she MUST have a lock on her door. Bear chewed up a hanger and a leather-bound sketch book.

The fourth of six helmets destroyed by Bear.

The fourth of six helmets destroyed by Bear.

I am able to empathize with Fiona. I’ve had several shoes gnawed on along with books and notebooks. However, I had trouble not laughing with such a big deal about a hanger being chewed up. “It will have to be replaced!” she yelled. I’m fine with that. It is a bummer when Bear chews things up. Now whenever we drive past our local True Value, Fiona points to it and says, “Let’s go and get a lock for my door.” I respond by telling her that Bear doesn’t chew anything anymore. She rolls her eyes. He doesn’t chew as much, at least, it is going in the right direction. Guffaw. And I’ll do a better job of making sure the gate is up at the bottom of the stairs and that your door is latched. Another roll of the eyes.

Lessons

Jelly getting some quality Z's on the new bed.

Jelly getting some quality Z’s on the new bed.

We go to Service Dog training lessons this Saturday. I needed these classes to start a month ago, and it will be great to get started with Kristin again. Without much direction, and with an adolescent dog, I purchased a few books. My Smart Puppy arrived first. Turns out Bear being a big pain in my butt is developmental. This book should be attached to the puppy when you bring it home. Better yet, it should be mailed to you three weeks prior to picking the puppy up.

Grandma

photoGrandma came to town and helped out with some walks and teaching Bear to drop a ball at her foot. Not sure how she did it, but I haven’t been able to replicate it. Bear learned to retrieve a ball for Grandma. Anyone else and it turns into a game of keep-away.

New hope

Productive training session.

Productive training session.

It has been awhile since we’ve had a lesson.  I fear when we return, which we will be in a few weeks, we’ll find out that what we have on our hands is some hybrid puppy, capable of some service dog duties, but largely a house pet.

It is difficult to convey the frustration of attempting to guide Bear to service dog status.  I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I may not be the best dog trainer.  I can handle teaching math, statistics, and economics to people, but teaching a dog to bring an object on command is beginning to feel out of reach.  As I write this, Bear is snoring on the couch.  A great house pet, right?

Gentle lead

Gentle lead and a treat keep Bear focused away from jogging dog.

Have you ever seen service dogs out in public?  Whether they are guiding the blind or assisting in another way, they always seem very attentive and calm.  They lazily scan the scene before them, always attending to their person.  They stand or sit right next to their person.  A toddler screams by them, and the service dog merely glances nonchalantly their way, hardly moving their head, merely following with their eyes.

Bear enters a room and quickly scans it for some fun.  Who and what can turn this boring place into a play area.  There is a ball in the corner, a shoe by the door, and a kid hopping up and down.  He’ll first charge the kid, always preferring an animate object.  If the hopper is unavailable for whatever reason, then the shoe wins out over the ball because of some enticing smells, stories to unfold within the smells.

IMG_20130113_115500Maybe I am not giving Bear enough credit.  He is great at some basic obedience stuff, like sit, down, and stay.  He is getting the hang of “go to bed,” but I can’t find the blue pad that we use to identify bed with, so we haven’t been working on that one recently.  You know what else Bear is amazing at?  He knows the sound of the lid to a scent sample hitting the counter.  Fast asleep on the couch, he’ll perk up, ready to work the moment the lid hits the counter.  Then he is all serious, ready to sniff out the low.  I’d like to think that he picks up the scent at about the time the lid hits the counter.  However, he’ll occasionally perk up with the opening of the fridge door, which is where the scent samples are stored.

My hope is that when we begin our weekly group lessons begin, Bear is smart and attentive enough to make up for all of my shortcomings.

And we went to Mt. Hood for a few days away.  Beautiful views and weather.IMG_20130121_104017

What they don’t tell you…

The training continues.  As it continues there are a couple of things that people never talk about.  Little things, but worth mentioning.  So for the last few days we’ve been pretty good about all the work that Kristin gave us:

Bear finds a comfy spot under the chair.

Clicker charge, obedience, handling, and tug-o-war. All this work can be tiring for a young pup. We’ve also been decent at making sure that Bear is in a situation to succeed in terms of chewing things that are for him and for relieving himself outside.  He has had a couple of accidents.  However, today he was jumping at the side door, letting us know that he was about to poop the floor.  Luckily, we got the message in time.

What is expected: It takes a lot of energy.  Similar to raising a baby, if the puppy is awake, you keep your eyes on him/her, and you are ever vigilant.  You sense when something is wrong, or pickup on little body language (like jumping at the side-door) that signals something needs to happen or something bad will happen.  Also, much like a baby, the puppy spends a lot of time sleeping.  Bear is either up and going, or he is cashed out asleep.

Unexpected:Like the toddler that enjoys going through the pots and pans more than playing with the toy kitchen set, Bear is enjoying the duster attachment more than the toys we bought for him.  He carries it around the house and yard.  Bear does enjoy the store bought toys, especially the ones that can be (and are) stuffed with food, like the Kong and the Weeble-Wobble type thing that Kristin lent us.

The baby gates are put up to keep Bear in a smaller area (limit access and accidents to one area).  Well, the gates are limiting our access as well.  The high step needed to get over the gate is enough of a deterrent.  I find myself questioning the need for another glass of water when it involves stepping over the gate.  I experienced this before when we lived in Arlington, VA, and crossing a bridge to get into DC was an added barrier that often kept me from venturing there.