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.
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.
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.
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.
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- Nerf bullets (who knows how many?).