Highs and Lows

Post soccer tryouts Voodoo doughnut appropriately named

Post soccer tryouts Voodoo doughnut.

We were doing alright for a short time there. Pantry door was being closed with the loaf of bread in the pantry. And Dec would even occasionally give his NPH shot before going to school, which not only kept him at a reasonable blood-sugar level, but also let him throw down snacks after school without a shot.

The walks with Bear were more enjoyable with the lack of pantry snacking. With a stable diet of dog food, Bear poops were regular, easy to pick up, and generally one per walk.

We went off the rails. Maybe the change in weather relaxed everything, but suddenly Bear eats a loaf every second or third day. Tiring of bread, he now dabbles in other snacks. He discovered the box of granola bars, a post low-blood sugar snack, accessible on the pantry floor. Though he was able to hork down nearly a baker’s dozen, the individual wrapped not-for-resale packaging foiled his parvo-recovered intestinal track. Like the cat leaving a mouse at the doorstep after tiring of playing with it, and not wanting to eat it (people say it is a “gift” to the owners, but I believe cats just get bored with it), Bear left a pile of granola bars, packaging included, just inside the front door. Thank you very much.

Individually-wrapped, not-for-resale pile of granola bars and wrappers.

Individually-wrapped, not-for-resale pile of granola bars and wrappers.

As a frequent consumer of granola bars I am thankful that they have dispensed with the raisin granola flavor. I would have been more upset had Bear eaten a bunch of granola bars knowing that the precious peanut-butter and chocolate-chip flavors were consumed. I wonder who actually likes the granola raisin flavor. Raisins simply wreck the vehicle they travel in, be it a cookie, granola, or cereal. I digress.

I realized that training Bear in Dec’s bedroom, or just downstairs in general, might be a good idea. To lower that hurdle, I purchased and placed a bag of dried liver in Dec’s closet. Shocking that Bear has not figured out how to get into that bag of goodies.

Relaxing on the couch.

Relaxing on the couch.

With a slight increase in training, Bear has picked up on a reliable “tell” that someone is low: the Capri-sun juice pouch. Dec or Maggie would be low. After sipping on the juice pouch, Bear would plop from the couch, stretch, and signal with paw and bark. Do we reward this signal? I told Bear we wanted a leading indicator, let us know before the juice is consumed, not a lagging indicator of low-blood sugar. Nonetheless, we rewarded this signal, then waited for the appropriate no-low-blood sugar in the house to reverse this lagging indicator.

Home alone with Bear, I pulled out a juice pouch. At the sound of the pouch leaving the box, Bear jumped up and signaled. I admonished him for the false signal. After several of these, he quit signaling the pouch.

Second group lesson

Attempting to get comfortable outside.

Attempting to get comfortable outside.

We have completed the first week of tethering and the second group lesson. To lessen tethering time, I’ve been outside with Bear working on a planter box. Unable to get entirely comfortable without his leather love-seat, the outside time wears Bear down. He does enjoy being outside, but I catch him looking longingly at the love-seat through the window.

Between carrying cinder blocks and bags of concrete to the side deck, Bear and I went on a field trip with Declan’s class. We went to the climbing wall at Club Sports. As we left I told the  teacher and another student to get near Bear if they felt low during the trip. They are both T1D. On this field trip I felt Bear would have some chances to practice live alerts.

Soon after arriving the teacher told me that he felt low. Instead of pawing, Bear started getting super playful, licking the teacher. He tested and he was 87 and probably dropping. I’m not sure what the signal was, but I am starting to think that Bear being super playful, out of nowhere, is one way that he signals. A little later the other student said that he felt low. He presented his arm out for Bear to sniff, and Bear signaled. Not so sure on this one. Bear may have been taking the cue to paw because of the outstretched arm. The boy was 154, in range, but he probably was dropping since he felt low. And here lies a giant grey area with this training. With the meter reporting 15-30 minutes behind what the actual blood sugar is, it is difficult to distinguish between an erroneous signal and a signal that is just perfect, which happens to be before the meter will register a low (or high).

And this also reflects some of the difficulty with type 1 diabetes in general. In training Bear there are many factors at play, making it difficult to nail down a definitive signal. In managing diabetes there are many more factors to consider. Why is Dec’s blood sugar low (or high)? It could be the extra running around at recess. Did he finish breakfast? Did some of the insulin leak out on the injection site? Is the insulin bad? Anxiety is also known to increase blood sugar a LOT. Did he eat a snack that we didn’t know about? And it could be any of these things, or all of them. Instead of focusing on why he is out of range, I try to remember the last dose and activity and give a shot or sugar to fix it. Then we start all over again with the next shot and meal.

Declan on a bouldering wall. Bear watches.

Declan on a bouldering wall. Bear watches.

Back at the rock gym, one of the difficulties I’ve had with taking Bear out in public is getting him enough water. Arriving back home from the store, Bear would sit at his water dish lapping up the water until it was gone and then continue lapping it up after I refilled it. On this trip I remembered. We went to the drinking fountain several times where I filled a water cup and he lapped it up. We went to check on Declan. He was on one of the bouldering walls without a belay rope. He fell back onto the mat underneath him; Bear lunged out onto the mat, meeting Declan right as he landed. I was surprised at this.

Declan treating a low at the climbing wall. Bear watches.

Declan treating a low at the climbing wall. Bear watches.

Bear continued to whine and pull towards Declan. The bell finally went off in my head. “Hey Dec, I think Bear is trying to tell you to test.” Sure enough, Dec was 60. Bear continued to nuzzle up against Dec while he had his juice. And this makes me wonder how many other times has Bear tried to tell us that something was wrong and we were unable to see or hear him? So much of this journey is about the human figuring things out and being more aware of what the dog is trying to communicate.

Which makes me wonder why Bear loves Tucker Max so much. Or maybe he really doesn’t like him. Bear was able to sneak around the house un-tethered while I was out on a bike ride, and he found Hilarity Ensues and chewed it up…again. This was the replacement book that he’d chewed already. This is another blow to the relationship building between Bear and Fiona as he continues to concentrate on grinding his teeth on her stuff.

Fiona's friend, Maddie, spending quality time with Bear on his couch.

Fiona’s friend, Maddie, spending quality time with Bear on his couch.

Though Bear is not Fiona’s favorite, her friends continue to adore him even though he is no longer a puppy, tipping the scales at over 80 pounds.