Updates

Approved and unapproved chew toys.

Approved and unapproved chew toys.

Chew toys and live alerts.

After Bear alerted my friend and I thought he was just being a pain in the butt, but later found out she was prone to low blood sugar, I have been much more attentive to possible low alerting on people with fully functioning pancreas.  It’s happened twice so far.  I got home from the gym and was getting lunch together for myself.  (I go to the gym in the middle of the day now, with my open schedule.)  Bear is excited to get out of his crate and also to greet people, so he was walking around my legs, wagging his whole body, pushing into my knees and what not when he started pawing me.  I first thought that it was part of his excitement of meeting and getting out of his crate, but then I went ahead and grabbed a glucose meter and checked.  One of the advantages of having T1D people living in the house is we have tons of medical supplies, including glucose meters.

Turns out I was 80, which technically is “in range” for those that don’t have a functioning pancreas, but for me it was low.  I gave Bear a bunch of treats and celebrated the live alert.

Yesterday Heather got back from the gym and some errands.  Bear was doing his full body wag, pushing up against the new arrivals, celebrating getting out of his crate and greeting people when he pawed Heather.  I threw her a spare glucose meter and she was 86.  With a functioning pancreas, the 86 is low, so we handed out some freeze-dried bison lung, a high-value treat for Bear.

Chewing

One of three headlamps consumed.  Ashley in background says, "I told you so."

One of three headlamps consumed. Ashley in background says, “I told you so.”

After spending over $200 replacing bike helmets (3) and footwear (2), I went out and spent $60 of chew toys.  Shopping for chew toys is like shopping for mechanical pencils.  They are all do the same basic thing, but they have a plethora of different colors and shapes and gizmos and gadgets.  Back in high school I learned that I freeze under too many choices and being an early adopter of mechanical pencils, I would lose track of time in the pencil aisle at the art store, trying out all the different styles.  Having a choice is good, I know, but I learned early on that having too many choices put me in a state of decision-paralysis.  And this is why I love going to Costco to shop.  They put two products to choose from; there is the Kirkland brand and the name brand.  I can handle that decision, but put 43 different chew toys in front of me and I freeze.

Sitting on the couch perusing the basket of toys.

Sitting on the couch perusing the basket of toys.

I was able to leave the pet store with three new chew toys in under 30 minutes.  Now Bear’s toy basket includes three rope squeaky toys (Costco), two femur bones, a Jax style toy that you can put meat rings on, a plastic bone that you can put meat rings on (pictured above), two squeaky stuffed animals (Costco, lost one of them), a hot dog squeaky toy, a specialized chew toy that came from some lab ($28), another specialized chew toy from some lab, and one to three tennis balls.  Regardless of the growing inventory of chew toys, Bear chewed two bike helmets, one head lamp, and three hangers in a two-day period.  At this point I am just thankful that there wasn’t a pair of Marc Jacobs boots or purse in that mix, which start at $100.

Not that I’ll ever be doing this again, but if I were to do it again, and if anyone ever asks for advice, I would by a lot of chew toys.  And people told me to do this (comments right here, even).  It is one of those incidental costs that some people like me have a hard time springing for.  In the toy aisle fourteen different chew toys, twelve rope toys, seven expensive toys, five types of Frisbees, and eight different tennis balls confront me.  Without the five hours needed to sort through the choices and come to a decision, I tell myself that Bear doesn’t need the toys, that the stuffed pig from Costco with one ear missing just needs to get rescued from the backyard.  And besides there is nothing that really jumps out at me.  Too many factors to choose from: size, type, color, cost, squeaky.

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back I’d buy one new toy a week to introduce and cycle through the toy lineup.

Training

Training continues.  I am reintroducing some tasks that we should have down now.  One being the “grab the bringsel (or dongle).”  This will eventually be paired with a low-scent, but for now Bear needs to grab it and hold on to it.  Eventually he will bring it to the person with a low-scent, signaling that he smells a low-scent.

There are times I enjoy doing the training, but for the most part it is not something I look forward to doing.  It is becoming similar to drawing and giving insulin shots for Maggie and Declan.  The same low-level dread feeling accompanies both.  And I know how horrible it would be without insulin.  It still is a bummer to administer four to six shots every day.  It is a chore.  With Bear training, though, nothing catastrophic will occur by skipping or decreasing the frequency.

And so I look forward to the group lessons we’ve signed up for.  They start in two weeks.  I need some guidance, somebody to judge how things are going.  I need the teacher to be impressed with something we’ve been working on.

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The Grind

Dec's helmet now chewed up.

Dec’s helmet now chewed up.

I keep telling myself that it is Bear’s age, that it is some developmental plateau he is at.  Bear is nearing eight months of age and I keep hoping he will signal when Maggie or Declan are low.  We haven’t even introduced the high blood sugar scent, yet.  It is beginning to feel futile, like Groundhog Day (the movie), doing the same thing over and over again without much to show for it.  Bear continues to chew up books and shoes and helmets.  Dec’s bike helmet is now in the garbage.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is now in recycling.

I’ve tried to change it up a bit when possible.  I’ll put the scent sample in Dec’s pocket, or in Fiona’s pocket, or in Maggie’s sock.  Bear pretty quickly understands that it is game time.  With game face on, sniffing intently, he’ll search for the sample and signal once he finds it.  Maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but it appears Bear knows when the sample is out and work is to be done with a yummy liver treat to be consumed.  Does he smell the sample as soon as the cap is taken off?  Can he hear the lid being placed on the counter?

I’m convinced that he can tell when I try and inconspicuously unscrew the sample while it is in my pocket.  He tilts his head the side, his ears perk up, and if we aren’t walking he will sit down and get ready to signal.  This won’t be a problem as long as Maggie and Declan unscrew a vial in their pocket whenever they are low.

Yesterday Maggie got down on the floor with Bear, got him to signal a low by putting her arm out, and then she tested with her kit.  Being the ultra sensitive person that she is, Maggie was indeed low.  This is when I realized what she was doing and asked if she could sit a bit longer with Bear, feeding him treats and blowing in his face.  She also suggested we take some low-scent samples.  In addition to being ultra sensitive, Maggie is also money motivated (Over the summer we agreed that they would get 25 cents for each scent sample).  She was planning a date at Starbucks the next day.

Starbucks date aside, Maggie got down on the floor with Bear, got him to signal and gave him treats on her own accord.  It may be that she has come to terms with the fact that Bear is around for the long haul, and that he may as well be an asset to her.  Similar to asking me what my plans are each morning, she may now see Bear as a resource worth utilizing.

At the PT office.

At the PT office.

Bear came with us today to a physical therapy appointment and to a dentist appointment.  Maggie took a few pictures with Bear, yet another sign she is coming to terms with him.  While Maggie got a cavity filled at the dentist, Fiona had the scent sample in her shoe, in her pocket, and under her leg.  Knowing the sample was out, Bear’s game face was on and he signaled when he found it.  After the filling we took the dentist out for some hot wings.  Bear laid under the table quietly.  As we got up to leave there were two guide-dogs in line to order some hot wings (with their handlers).  I had to forcibly direct Bear to the door.  Even so, the two other service dogs were distracted and had to be redirected by their handlers.  Not to be mean-spirited, but there was some solace in the fact that these guide-dogs were distracted, that it is not just Bear.

At the New Year Bear will be eight months old, which is the age some dogs are placed in their home.  At the New Year I will be half way through my year off.  I’m hoping for some milestones.

Hoping

IMG_20121213_110503

Teddy bear. Check. Bike helmet. Check. Ready to run to school.

I have to be honest here.  I am now beginning to think that we have a great dog on our hands.  Bear is settling down and is becoming more and more attentive to who he is with.  He actually looks to whomever is with him before looking around for something more interesting, like a leaf on the sidewalk or a clump of mud in the street.  Though not perfect in stores, he is at least malleable, able to redirect his attention from the enticing stroller passing by to the dried chunk of liver in my hand.  However, I am unsure that he is catching on to the whole low-scent signaling.

There is this Facebook group consisting of people training diabetes assist dogs.  It is great to banter with the challenges of such an endeavor, but it is also a bit frustrating.  You see a lot of the posts are people posting about the first “live” signal.  This is a very exciting thing to happen.  In fact, I still get goosebumps when I think about the time Declan was trying to get Bear to “clean” the wound on his knee by licking it, and Bear sat down and pawed him instead.  It is a fantastic thing.  But with each post of a “live” signal, I am reminded of Bear’s lack of signaling.

In the backseat of the Subaru.

In the backseat of the Subaru.

I believe Bear is very capable, and is at times bored with his couch life.  I started teaching a few new “tricks” this week, and Bear is quite responsive.  But back to scent-training, I’ve said this before, but I think that Bear is picking up on visual cues as much or more than the scent cues.  For instance, if I hide the scent in a pocket or in a cuff and stand next to him, I believe that he picks up on how I am leaning toward him, my stature, and then sits seriously, does some sniffing, and then signals.

There have been several instances this week when either Declan or Maggie has been low and Bear walks by without a care in the world, eyeing that couch to climb upon.  When they are willing we call Bear over, encouraging him to sniff and signal, and then have a big celebration for the signal, pouring treats down his mouth.  Just yesterday Declan got home from school and was 96.  Knowing that he often drops in the afternoon, I kept an eye on both Bear and Dec.  Not long after, Dec was 67 without a peep from Bear.  With some encouragement and presenting of Dec’s arm, Bear signaled, and we gave ample treats.  I’m pretty sure if I present my arm to Bear and quietly wait that he will signal me for a low.

Using Dec's glove as a pillow.

Using Dec’s glove as a pillow.

On the upside, Declan and Bear are really becoming good friends.  Declan seeks Bear out when he gets home from school, and Bear runs to Declan whenever he hears his voice.  Bear sleeps in Dec’s room every night, normally sharing the bed with Dec.  We open the window a bit for both the body heat and body smell.

So I am anxious for that first unsolicited signal, for Bear to approach Maggie or Declan and signal.  I am a bit concerned that that time will never occur.  If not, we have acquired a great dog that Dec will be able to take with him to college, which Dec asked about not long ago.

UPDATE: Dec just walked over to Bear with a scent sample in his pocket and Bear signaled.  Maybe my concerns are unwarranted.  Or maybe Bear is just really good at sniffing out the plastic container and cotton swab.

Time to ride?

Time to ride?

Bear was featured in an article in the local paper, The Oregonian.  I got my first and probably last photo credit in the article. There was also a great article on diabetes assist dogs in the Wall Street Journal.  Bear was not featured in that article.

Chewing

  • What Can You Do with a Tail Like This?
  • Nerf bullets (who knows how many?).
  • Hairbrush