Dec returns

Bear and Jelly cuddle.

Bear and Jelly cuddle.

No medical emergencies on the flight home. And Bear was beside himself at Dec’s arrival. He shook and wagged and whined and pushed and licked. His whole body shook. Bear squeezed onto the loveseat next to Dec while he handed out presents and told stories. There was the fart in the elevator, grandma getting lost every day, and the monster slippers he and Rylee strutted around the hotel in. And Dec also talked a bit about the flight to DC when he helped someone who was on his way to a coma.

glucagonI spoke to the doctor that was also on the flight. She said that if it weren’t for Declan the man would have likely died. I initially called the doctor to find out if we could get the glucagon replaced that Dec ran up the aisle. But after talking to her about what Dec had done, I didn’t care about the glucagon.

During Dec’s absence, Bear seemed to take a bit of a vacation as well. Though he did great during scent training, perking up as I walked by with a sample up my sleeve, and trotting around the room to find the hidden sample; he did not do a great job on live alerts. Maggie had two lows in one night. Bear remained in a deep sleep, snoring through the night.

Grandma getting a sloppy kiss of gratitude from Bear.

Grandma getting a sloppy kiss of gratitude from Bear.

Before bed I brace for an alert, practicing in my mind what to do. I hear the bark and jump out of bed, grab a kit and juice box and a treat. When it happens, however, I find myself rationalizing the disturbance. Bear got into the pantry (or Fiona’s room) and polished a loaf of bread. It’s worked its way through, knocking at the door, and now he needs relief. Not only do I yearn for undisturbed sleep, or at least less disturbed sleep since I am up at this point, but I also am anticipating a false positive. I need to honor Bear’s signals, but the false positive disheartens me. Back in bed after a false positive, I’m awake from the trip downstairs. I begin playing out training we’ve done and how to change it. And I go through past live alerts that I’ve not responded to, and at times reprimanded Bear during a live alert. My heart sinks more.

Monster slippers

Monster slippers

Bear snores, back to sleep so quickly. If only I could slip back into sleep like Bear. I begin to question the viability of training Bear. He remains a challenge on the leash. My left shoulder can attest to that. Yet he improves on the leash (at least with me). A neighbor came by to take Bear to her house to play with their puppy. She returned after thirty feet of trying to walk with him on the leash, unable to deal with his bouncing. She then drove her car a block to take him.

And yet I am not ready to let him slip into full pet-hood. He can do this job. He has done it occasionally. And I believe he can do it, I just don’t know if it is in our combined constitution to get him there. I’ve made the two-year mark a defining line. Until then, my hot dog consumption will remain above average as I snag a few pieces each time I prepare Bear’s training treats. Capture


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.


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


  • Two more ear buds
  • Three Tupper ware containers

The miles and the sunflower seeds

A few summers ago we drove to Colorado for a family vacation.  Heather had to fly back for work.  Her flight was at the rude hour of six in the morning, so she needed to leave at 430 AM.  To jump-start our drive, we decided to leave when she was being taken to the airport by my loving mom.

The route was about 1,200 miles.  We got a call somewhere in western Wyoming from Heather.  Apparently her flight was the next day.  We were too far into our drive to return, and we were about to stop for gas and a breakfast of Slim Jim’s and Bugles (not much in western Wyoming); this was not my crowning moment as a parent.

When driving for long periods of time I need sunflower seeds to stay awake.  (This habit started in high school when Mike and I were driving to Lake Powell in a beat up Bronco.)  As we drove through Utah and into Idaho on our return trip from Colorado, we decided that we could make it all the way back to Portland without stopping.  The trip took a total of 22 hours.  I did pullover for a cat-nap somewhere in the Gorge.  At the beginning of the drive I bought a huge bag of seeds.  At the end of the trip there was a handful left.

I took the remaining seeds, in the bag, into school.  Teaching middle school math, I intended to use the remaining seeds as a proportional problem when we got to that unit.  Though I never busted out the seeds that year, asking students, “So what is my SPM?  Seeds per mile?”, the seeds remained on the board beside my desk for the entire year.

I think of that problem nearly daily.  This summer has had a lot of driving, all of it with Bear.  The first trip was a mere 90 miles from his original home.  Twice daily trips to Forest Grove began (65 miles round trip).  We’ve made that trip thirteen times.

We took Declan and his buddies to Evergreen’s Wings and Waves Water Park in McMinnville (80 miles).

We drove to Canada to visit Fiona, which included three ferry rides (700 miles).

We took a day trip with some neighbors to Astoria and Fort Stevens (225 miles).

And a trip to Port Angeles to pick Fiona up from camp (470 miles).  {I thought we might be driving to San Diego, but we luckily are flying}

In all of these travels I have been cracking seeds.  I prefer the cracked pepper flavor, but they are rare.  Ranch flavor is alright.  The Canadian “Seasoned” flavor is a close second to cracked pepper.  Thus far I have had two bags of cracked pepper, three bags of ranch, one bag of seasoned, and three bags of regular.  The question I would ask students is how many seeds a mile do I consume.  And how many more miles until my mouth is completely torn apart.