Monday, November 14, 2016

The Broken Foot

Mom turned 51 this year.  Hard to believe huh?  She's been busy all summer working with Grandma, who turned 67 in September, on the house next door.  I knew things were going weird when Mom spent so much time over at the new place.

For a while Mom trained at Grandma's house and then we trained in Mom's yard and finally at the new place.  It was nice, but still, Mom kept going over with Grandma and working over at the new place.  I could hear the saw and the drill and Max and I could see Mom wander back and forth and she was weaving and stumbling.

One day she was pretty bad.  See, her medication was a bit off and she was stumbling over her words and forgetting things a lot and even starting to sleep off and on when driving.  I had been bump-bumping her with my chin or side of my muzzle to keep her awake in the van when she drove and was walking beside her when she was weaving and forgetful.  Her leg would fold out from under her more and she was at greater risk of falling.  Max would walk on her other side and we'd make sure she didn't walk into things; sometimes we'd have to bark to stop her from walking into something if we were too far away.

Problem, that day Mom wouldn't let us be with her.  She was smelling of paint and I could hear her talking to Grandma and she sounded all wrong.  She sounded like she does when she's having problems with her balance and noticing things.  When she's like that she also is really forgetful and really needs me to pay attention to her safety for her.

Max started it.  As we heard her in the front of the new home working we could tell she was no longer able to process her world.  She was breathing heavy and we could hear the clomp clomp of her feet.  Grandma had said one part of the floor was dangerous and not to step on it and we feared for Mom.  We had to get her attention and get her to come out and get us to be with her.

Max howled.  Long and low he began like a wolf with his head thrown back and kept it up as he sat beside the fence that bordered the new property.  I looked to him and realized what he was doing.  He'd never howled before and so, like him, I sat and threw my head back and together we howled in unison as a pair of wolves.

I don't know how long we sung in unison.  We mixed our voices until Grandma came out and yelled at us.  It was, too late.  Mom had fallen through the floor.  She'd taken one too many steps and went through the floor, a warning Max and I had tried to give her, and she'd been so far gone she'd not heard us.

Our summer would continue that way.  Warning!  Oooops.  Sorry Mom.  It would end in late Fall with Mom trying to step past Max the night before her birthday and seriously injuring herself.

She had been struggling with a huge set of changes and I had been listening to her talking to Jack, her therapist, about them.  One was the change in location and focusing her energy on building her training center.  It took all of her energy away from focused training and her client base just fell away.  It bothers Mom, but she has only so much mental and physical energy to dedicate to a single project - training, building the training center or rebuilding her life.  She can't do it all at once.

Matter of fact, she can't engage in personal life activities, train dogs and do a third major thing in her life.  It's one major thing at a time.  Period and she needs time to make choices and changes.

So, when she changed from working at Diamonds in the Ruff to working at her own location and needing to building up her center, a lot of her focus got changed.  Then she got a personal home care giver.  A lot of adjusting to having a person help with small things around the house had to happen.  Mom isn't used to strangers coming around and helping, so that was new.

When she fell she seriously injured her shoulder.  She had to train me to work on the right side instead of the left.  She couldn't though because she could barely use her left shoulder.  Aunt Diane came out and worked me, THANK YOU, and I learned how to work on Mom's right side.

Meanwhile Mom had to be showered by her caregiver and was coming off of her medications.  This was was because of the pain center she was going to closing.  She was sent to a new pain center, but that center and her didn't get along.  The person running it was very intrusive in Mom's mental health, refused to continue Mom's current medication, even the non-narcotic, and she was coming cold turkey off of major medications which mad Mom very snarky.

She was fighting for her Food Benefits, learning how her SSDI would be dispensed, figuring out how to pay her bills with the "Every 4th Wednesday" pay period and just starting therapy.  I had to work overtime keeping Mom calm and in her skin.  I did a lot of chin rests, eye contact, getting her out of bed when she was over-sleeping and more to keep Mom going.  I was truly glad Jack was there the day she broke down when she had a blow out with the pain doctor.  She just hit her stress limit and couldn't take anymore and Jack and I worked overtime calming her.

She lost her primary doctor too.  He dropped her because the pain doctor and her didn't get along.  Jerk.  She got a new doctor who was great.  She filled all but one prescription and Mom said she wasn't worried about that one.  The doctor was cool with that. With those prescriptions filled and Mom happy with her new, very empathic doctor and a new referral to a pain clinic, she felt better.

Mom had some stuff done on her shoulder too.  Needles put into it and MRIs done and stuff.  So much pain.  No real pain killers, but Mom flew threw and did good.  She did have some stuff put into the joint to reduce the swelling.

Then the night before her birthday I bump-bumped her hip to tell her Dieter needed out.  Dieter is old and needs out and she doesn't always hear him when he asks.  She sleeps with her back to her side of the bed now, so I walk to that side and bump-bump her hip with my chin and then rest my chin on her hip to tell her to wake up.  If that doesn't work I stand on the bed with my front feet and see if she looks at me, if she doesn't I put my paw on her, if that doesn't work, then I lick her.  That always works.

That night I just needed to bump-bump her.  She got up and let Dieter and I out.  She waited until Dieter came back in and put him back in his crate.  She had been, ever since several of her doctors had sent her to physical therapy, working on walking different.  She has been with me and without me.  I have noticed it and so has Max.  We have been driving her nuts because we have both been walking right before her knee on the left side and she's been asking we not.  She forgot after all of this time, Max said.

I knew, I knew when we were doing physical therapy and she was trying to train me away from her leg.  The therapist asked her to make me stop my job.  I am a living brace.  Max told me so and I get it so much now.  I failed the night before Mom's birthday.  I failed so bad.

See, in physical therapy they wanted Mom to walk heal to toe and to not walk side to side like she had been.  Well, Mom had started that so Max would stop wrapping around her leg when walking forward.  If walking a bit wide legged like a penguin instead of forward like a human, then Max didn't have to wrap around Mom's leg.

When I started with Mom she already walked that way and I didn't begin the habit of wrapping around her leg.  Max, who walked closer to Mom's hand when he started with her would touch her hand when she was anxious or her leg was about to buckle, would also move into her leg when it would begin to buckle and stop it from giving out.

I walked more forward because I was longer and so I touched her knee and naturally caught her leg and would look back after it buckled.  I guess I never thought much about it until after I got older, because it was minor and hard for people to see most of the time.

That was, until her physical therapist started having her wear a gate belt and not use me to walk.  She wanted Mom to walk without waddling side to side and not have me in front of her.  Uh, wait!  What?  See, the first thing I did was default to being curved around her left leg.  I didn't even realize I did it, I just did it.

So, Mom took out the treats and we practiced Loose Leash Walking.  Oh, okay.  I can do that.  Normally Mom is more stable than this, but okay.  Off we went and she kept me from protecting that leg and it did what I knew it would do, even when I poked it once and told her it would.  It collapsed out and Mom had to catch herself with me and the person with the gate belt caught her.  OH!  THEY are going to keep Mom safe. Got It.

So, we did this over and over.  Mom rewarded me a lot for NOT alerting to when she was going to loose her balance and NOT alerting to when her leg was about to fold out from under her and NOT being close enough to be a living brace and NOT wrapping around her leg to protect her in the event of a fall because that was what the therapist wanted.

I grew lazy.  Mom and I should have retrained again AFTER all of that to what I should have been doing when NOT in therapy.  Silly us.  Because that night, after letting Dieter out, I just ignored Mom walking past Dieter's crate and Max, and didn't give her a guide to keep her safe in the dark like I normally did.  Mom was keeping her balance over the leg like the therapist said, not like she had been, which prevented what came in a few seconds, and without my wrapping around her leg on that one step I knew she took and I always wrapped around before, it happened.

Mom's leg gave out from under her.  It was like someone had turned it off and disconnected the power.  I wasn't there to stop it from going all the way to the floor, it didn't go sideways like normal and strike the bed because of the new position therapy put it in, and since she was stepping just past Max who always laid in the same spot, she knew exactly where she was stepping and how he was laying, she knew she couldn't just drop to the floor.  She broke her foot because she collapsed just over the top of it and over extended the bones.  She wouldn't have, had her living brace been doing his job.

It was a series of errors.  Mom, with her medications out of whack, couldn't think her way out of a paper sack and it was only after the break and thinking of it she told us WHY it happened.  She realized that she knew Max and her had worked out a way to prevent such an incident from happening back when her leg began doing just such a thing and she hadn't thought about it in years.

When doing therapy with her medications off, trying to comply and improve herself, not thinking of the mechanics of why she was walking the way she was and why she'd stopped the way they wanted, while walking, talking and working me, she couldn't, with her brain injury process all of those parts.  She really needs to pay attention to me more and listen; just stop and say, "Wait, Malcolm is trying to say we are about to mess something important up.  The last time I didn't listen to him I broke my foot.  Let's stop and let me think.  Why is he doing this, and why is it important I don't stop him."

In truth she said, she needs to remember the old saying, "Listen to your dog."  Sometimes we may just know something!!

Friday, September 30, 2016

36 Months: I'm a Dog

Has it really been a year since I spoke to you all?  I am so sorry.  I have been busy trying to keep this crazy woman from killing herself.  Man has she kept me busy.  Let's catch up.


So, I got really good at doctor appointments.  She's been seeing a lot of doctors since her surgery.  I miss the nice lady who called me "Doggy" and worked on Mom's neck.  She said Mom could take off her collar right around November/December and we started to work on getting Mom in to see a cardiologist, audiologist, physical therapist.

The collar was an issue.  Mom had to sleep at a 45 degree angle and Mom was just plain uncomfortable.  She would toss and turn and cry out in pain.  I would do my best, I would lay close to her and she'd rest her hands on me or I'd put my face close to hers and she'd tell me how much she loved that.

It was during this time I learned how to wake her by placing my face on the bed and bumping my chin on the bed.  She loved it and I have been doing it since.  I sometimes put my nose on her ribs and bump my chin on her ribs or gently poke her back or rub her back with my nose.  She's so gentle when she wakes when I do that and she smiles and rubs my cheek and says she's awake or that she needs a few more minutes.  If that doesn't wake her I put my front feet on the bed and clean her face with my tongue - she hates that!  If that doesn't work I jump over her and then wrap my front paw around her forearm or gently put a paw on her ribs or chest to wake her.  Mom laughs then.

After her surgery she was pretty weak for a while.  She would get close to fainting and say she needed air, which meant she would be close to fainting.  For a long time her voice was tiny and windy and it took until almost December before it was normal.  A lot of spinal fluid and blood had ended up in her chest.

Mom got me a great Christmas gift of bones and a toy and Freyja stayed over and we had too much fun.  Sadly, Freyja and my other girlfriend fought and knocked Mom over and we think they broke Mom's hand - even though Mom, as usual, didn't see a doctor.  It was more a minor hairline thing than a full break.

We did a lot of tests too.  Big machines where I practiced laying nearby doing my Go To Mat and impressing the technicians with my dedication to my Mom.  One of the machines was testing her heart and I had to lay 10 feet away from her on a mat for 8 minutes at a time while it clanged and banged around her head.  I did and when they pulled her out and she needed to sit up, she would call me and I'd just line right up and stand so she could use my harness.  The person working with us was really amazed at how I worked.

Mom faired through the winter okay, but mostly I think she was in idol mode.  The big event of the year was I got a new niece.  Her name is Cyerra and she smells wonderful.  She's cute too.  We went out to see her when Mom was still windy voiced and weak.  She wasn't allowed to hold her yet, but Mom wouldn't hear of it.  She was too excited and couldn't hardly wait the week between when Cyerra was born and she got to see her.

Mom was holding her in her lap when I stuck my nose under her bum and snorfed and then I just got too excited and ran my nose in her little bum like I do when I am really enjoying the grass.  I really like my niece!  I wish I saw more of her.

So, we did a ton of doctor appointments since last we spoke.  We continue to see a lot of doctors.  I am really good at them and I have learned to look at the door and then at Mom and tell her when a doctor is about to come in or move my ears in a way that warns her.  It eases her anxiety and helps.

Now I get to go see my friend Jack once a week and I lay by the door while Mom talks to him.  They talk about things that upset Mom, but Jack is good about calming Mom, so I just keep the door safe and make sure no one comes in and watch her.  Jack always tells me I'm a good dog, which I love, and then I help Mom walk back to the van and off to home we go so Mom can either take a nap or we play with my chickens.

Life has become pretty set as a service dog and I love it.


Mom got into some trouble with a client whom she was helping.  A young woman with some mental health issues ended up with a very young PomChi.  I loved that little dog.  He was such a great dog.  Mom says he came from a puppymill and the people who got him got him in a parking lot.  Kinda sad.

Another client of hers kept talking about the puppy biting the kids, biting the adults and the owner being at a total loss on how to raise the puppy and having been told by her mental health provider to get a service dog.  Problem, when she went to adopt a Chihuahua at Spokanimal she was denied because of her small child and how he treated the animal.  Out of anger she had purchased the puppy mill puppy to prove Spokanimal wrong and now the small puppy was fear biting.

The clincher was when, long before he should ever have been taken in, he was taken to a groomers for nail trimming and showed serious fear of other dogs and the groomer called him Cujo.  Due to finances Mom offered free day boarding and training.

The puppy, came to stay with us and at first very afraid of all of us dogs, he soon learned we were cool and became my best friend.  We have videos of him playing with me and lots of pictures of us together.  I adored him.

Mom took him on Field Trips, to classes and taught him Sit, Down, Target, Zen, Come and Loose Leash Walking and how to lick the hand and not bite it.  At one point she noticed he was looking too thin, had an injured ear and other signs of something not good happening; plus the owner was in a high risk pregnancy and had been in and out of the hospital many times.  An offer of housing him for 3 weeks was made and accepted.

It turns out his ear was bit by a human, he was below weight by 1 pound and the management at the apartment reported he'd been loose so often she kept him for hours at a time in her office to prevent him from being hit in the parking lot.  

Mom, now aware more was happening with the puppy than she believed before, knew it would take a long time with SCRAPS to investigate and help him, so she worked up a contract where all costs for training would be dropped (the client was paying for classes at the time) and when she went to return the dog was faced with an unexpected angry parent of the client.

See, her client had misheard the referring client and thought Mom was writing up some type of horrible contract instead of the type she did.  Instead of payment for her services, Mom simply offered co-ownership during the training time until such time as the dog graduated and six months after - for that offer the owner got all of Mom's services - board and train, private training and classes at no cost.  This included helping teach her child how to behave with the dog, her how to monitor and redirect the child and dog and to train the dog to a full service dog or companion dog, whatever her choice.  Either way, the dog and SHE needed training.  

Defaults on the contract were purposeful abuse to the dog, neglect of the dog and the dog losing weight for reasons outside of illness. Other defaults included the dog escaping the apartment (after so many escapes where she didn't even know the dog was out a zero tolerance was written in, but Mom was actually going to use a "three strikes" system with her and keep a record of each escape) and missing 2 classes.  The reason for the last was because, up to that point, the client hadn't attended a single class with her dog.  The referring client and Mom had done all of the training work with the dog and the client just let the dog run wild and escape the apartment when she had him.  It was important she build and establish an understanding of how to work with her dog if she was to get any value from what Mom was offering.

All that was expected of the client in the contract was basic care for the dog.  Nothing more than would be expected of any pet owner.  Veterinary care when ill, food, water and shelter.  No  special food requirements - not even "the best the owner can afford" was written into the contract.  No, feeding schedule, no dental schedule, no shot schedule nothing like that.  Basic care.  Keep the dog alive and healthy.  That was it.  Nothing extreme was asked of the client.  It was a very simple contract!

But the father never knew that - he felt she was asking something extreme and that Mom wouldn't return the dog if she didn't sign the contract.  This was something they made up - Mom never said that, but they were claiming this the moment she got out of the car.

Max was there and he told me everything.  She had sent the dog ahead of her and didn't have him.  They demanded him and Mom said she didn't have him.  They didn't believe her.  When she opened her van door to get Max they rushed into her van without permission to get the dog, only to find Mom had told the truth.  They then threatened to call the cops and Mom said to go ahead, but she'd call SCRAPS.  They stopped and the fight, one sided, continued.  Mom ignored them.

In the end, she said she was concerned for the dog's safety and when she did and was screamed at again by the client's father, she simply went into the referring client's apartment and sat down.  That was when the dog's owner came in and talked to her.  She explained that the dog had come to her with sprained hips, a bitten ear and 1 pound underweight.  She showed her the contract and said she didn't want her to sign it that night because everything was too emotional and she wanted her to think on it.

The client had a friend there.  The friend said the contract looked good and she thought it a good idea.  They left and Mom waited.  She was waiting to return the dog, which she always planned to return.  He was never being held as ransom, but she wasn't about to hand him over in the middle of that much emotion either.

A few minutes later the owner returned and said, "I know I don't have to, but I want too." and signed the contract.  Shortly after that she sent her father away and everyone calmed enough Mom felt the dog was safe enough to be given over.  She said the dog was always going to be given to her, signed contract or not, but not in that much emotion.  The owner not only understood, but agreed she would have grabbed him so hard she would have hurt him.  He was 12 weeks old at the time.  She then asked Mom to keep him for the night so she could go out and hang with friends.

One week later the dog's Mom had allowed her son to put items in the dog's water and to solve it would take his water away from him and put the dog in his crate. She had been told he was so fearful he wouldn't eat, and that the owner had admitted to biting the dog's ear the first time.

See, when Mom had said she knew he had been bitten by a human and they thought it was the child, the owner was really upset. She kept asking Mom over and over how she knew a human has bitten the dog. Mom was too tired to pick up on the repeat questioning or she would have asked WHY she was so focused on that point.  It was near 10:00 P.M. when they resolved the issue with the contract and by that point she was being grilled on "How do you know it was a human bite?" and Mom was not picking up her anxiety.

Two days later, after the contract was signed, she told two people she was the one who had bitten the dog on the ear and hadn't realized she had caused him such injury.  She did it to calm herself.  Mom became concerned.  A child could be a once up thing; an adult calming themselves by biting a dog is a whole different story.  The dog was in much greater danger, especially if the human was so willing to sit and bold face lie.

That was when Mom was told about the dog not eating well, fearful in the crate and the child chasing the dog.  Mom had to talk to the client, but her schedule was full until Wednesday.  The client also wanted to talk to her it turned out.   That meant they could setup a schedule and begin training.

The first class had gone extremely well and she was a natural with timing and energy with the tiny dog, so all should go well if Mom could just get her past her worst behaviors and help her redirect her anxieties.

Then Mom got the report on the water and how she's taking it from the dog, the dog is still not eating and she's now begging the referring client to help feed him so he won't lose weight because he won't eat a bite in her home.  That told Mom he was too stressed in her home to function and he was not coming to day training like he was supposed to.

Mom finally went to see her late, after a long day and heard the child chasing the dog and the dog scream.  She had a client consult before she could see her.  She went in and was handed the dog, who was thin, bit her on the ear and had a bite mark in his ear.  She confirmed he hadn't been eating or eating well in the home, that she'd been keeping water from him, that her son has been chasing him and told her she knew of her confession about biting the dog.  The referring client had left the apartment, the owner had a friend as a witness.

Mom told her she was in breech of contract therefore she was taking the dog and the owner told Mom to leave.  Mom turned to leave, the owner jumped in Mom's ways and tried to push Mom off her feet and grab the dog and since Mom had opened the door to leave and saw the referring client waiting for her she passed the dog to her so she wouldn't fall on him and she could catch her balance.  The owner turned away from Mom and body slammed the referring client and started to claw at her and continued to claw at her as she walked away while Mom side stepped around her and out of the apartment and left.  The referring client was telling the owner to stop assaulting her and passed the dog to a third party.  That ended the ordeal.

Or so Mom thought.  She would end up charged with First Degree Burglary originally.  The owner claimed that the referring client twisted her fingers while IN her apartment and Mom and the other person ran out with the dog.  After many trips to the Court House and visits with Mom's Public Defender, Kevin Griffin, the charges got dropped down to Trespass.  Mom was trespassing when she didn't leave when she was told to leave and the owner of the dog blocked her.  Go figure.

The dog is with the owner still.  This story isn't over.  But I learned a lot.  I learned how to calmly lay in the pews of a court room.  How to do a security station quickly.  I am an expert at the court house and beloved by many a security guard.  I got my practice on with the buttons as we did this and got good at them.  What I did learn is, Mom cared enough about one of the people involved she was more than willing to compromise her position to get him off completely.

Uncle Mark was the third person and because of his brain injury and how he talks he doesn't always represent himself well.  Also, he's had some bad stuff on his record in the past, which meant he would have had the worst sentence of all involved.  Mom had NEVER been in trouble with the law ever.

All Uncle Mark did was get handed a puppy, but his lawyer just told him to sign the papers for Guilty and go to prison.  Really?  NO!

So, Mom fought for Uncle Mark from her position.  She worked with the prosecutor that she'd plead to a lessor charge, nothing with a "theft" in it, if Uncle Mark got off 100%.  It worked and she held up her end.  No way Uncle Mark was going to prison for being handed a puppy!

In one year the trespassing charge will be off her record and it will be as if it never happened.  Other than a great story for her kids to tell.

Mom was at the same time coming up on her SSDI hearing and for 2 years had a lawyer for that upcoming hearing.  That is, until 4 months out.  Then she gets a letter in the mail and her lawyer had dropped her.  GO figure.

She then scrambled around for a lawyer and three tell her no and finally she gets one that says yes.  This is all around the same time she's fighting for Uncle Mark, trying to keep her client from going off the deep end in anxiety (yep, the client got caught and understood it was an accident) and her meds are under major adjustment.  Excitement.

Dana Madison took her on, scrambled 3 months out from her hearing and got all of her ducks in a row and she won her SSDI hearing.  Mom is officially disabled. Nice work Mr. Madison!


Mom has had some upheaval in her medications.  The doctors upped one medication that causes her memory issues, speech issues and balance issues.

They also, without informing her, increased the level of hydrocodone she was taking, which increased her need for naps.  It also affected her ability to drive.  Mom started to fall asleep behind the wheel.  Good thing she is working next door now and doesn't need to drive as much!

Overall, the medications are helping, but they make her sleepy and silly.  I spend a lot of my day making sure she doesn't fall, doesn't walk into things and helping her around the house.

Service Work:

That leads to me.  In the past year I have really learned what it means to be a service dog.  I am more in sync with Mom and we walk and work like a team now.  It's nice.  We almost think like one person.  She does a lot of refresh training with me and if I am sketchy on something instead of getting mad at me she just pulls out the treats and we add pennies to my bank.

Part of my work is visiting my Grandma Foster.  She's 88 and in a nursing home and I get to eat foods that are bad for me because it makes Grandma feel better.  I am many dogs to Grandma, but my chin rest and my laying quiet by Grandma is something that makes Grandma happy too.  Because I am a service dog I am allowed in the building.  Grandma has other old people friends and sometimes I greet them, but my goal person is my Grandma.

Sometimes I walk with her wheelchair.  I am so glad Mom taught me to walk with them and I am not weirded out by them.  Sometimes I get to help her eat her lunch.  Sometimes I just lay by her and keep her company and listen to her stories.

With Mom I help with yard work, herding chickens (we have six), picking up things off of shelves, most of my work is helping her walk and I even learned to do it from both the left and the right sides, passive blocking, grounding and alerting to people coming in the room and more.

I tell her when to wake, tell her when Dieter needs out or when he's had a seizure.  I even howled to warn her to sit down the day she fell through the floor.  Didn't work.

I do silly things to cheer her up and I do gentle things to calm her down.  Mom says I do so much for her, but I just see it as being her friend, her partner and her dog.

I hope to share more often now that Mom is back to feeling stronger and more like herself.  It's been a tough recovery since the surgery; but I am so glad I have my Mom.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

24 Month: After Surgery

Yo, just chill man.
On August 27th, 2015 we did our last training with the ambulance.  This time I had no problem with the idea of loading into a running ambulance.  I was also happy to see all of the other dogs an no longer smack talking like I used to do.  Mom made it clear that smack talk was not very service dog like and got me in trouble.

I kissed Kenobe on the face and was even nice to Baer, who I used to not like. He doesn't smell bad  now and Max said I can't be smack talking all of the dogs I am mentoring, it's just rude.  He says if I am going to be helping Mom I just have to give that up and be a good boy and mellow out.

So I hung out with Mom and watched all of the other dogs do their bit with the ambulance, cause Mom is the instructor and wants everyone to get their chance first, and then in we went.  I loaded like a champ, laid right down and then we did something the others didn't.  I got to have the siren run!

How cool was that!  Mom put treats on the floor and the siren ran and it was no big deal.  We had fun with it.  I am going to be the best ambulance dog now that I get the rules.  Mom is so proud of me.  She said I sure gave her a lot to think about and she's so glad I showed off that it's important we do this training - as far in my training as I was, I was the one that needed the training the most!  Go figure!

I have gotten good at my playing with other dogs, helping with mentoring while out on field trips and doing the CGC training we've been doing on Saturdays when attending.  The very last one my best buddy Yoda arrived.  I was so stoked I almost couldn't contain myself and Mom could see that.  She let me run across the park to Yoda and greet him and then I ran back to her all happy as a clam.

See, Yoda is my other adult male buddy.  He helped raise me and I just love the dickens out of the dude.  So, when I saw him and Uncle John crossing the park I crouched in my play mode and Mom looked up and saw them and then called out if they were ready for me to be incoming.  Uncle John stopped and said Yes and Mom dropped my lead and said, "Go" and off I went.

I ran up to Yoda and stuck my nose under his jaw and we did our hellos, I helloed Uncle John and then ran back to Mom with my ears pinned back to my head all joyful and happy in my "puppy joy" state and she took my lead back up.  Everyone was laughing and I heard her joke, "Malcolm can't stand Yoda, as you can see."  Haha, Mom.

She worked on tightening up my retrieve a bit more, my harness a bit more cause I was slacking again and praised me when I got it and started to talk to me about all of these doctor's appointments I was taking her too.  I was starting to get worried by them.

See, Mom had been going to a LOT more doctor's appointments and I wasn't telling Max and Dieter.  I didn't know what was happening, but I knew she was having something big come up cause she was suddenly getting ready for a big change in our lives.

Turns out Mom was having something call surgery and it would be on her neck.  Part of getting ready was they took her bathroom apart in August.  They took the tub out, the floor out, put new braces in for the floor and then a new floor, built a new ceiling and put in new lights and a fan, put in a new toilet and then built new walls and put in cement for a new shower floor.  They were building Mom a new safer shower.  What was happening to Mom?

That work would continue into September!  Wow!

Mom the day before her surgery super cleaned the house!

She told me I would need to take care of Max and Dieter, cause I was the big man now, and she would be gone for two days.  Okay.  I heard that for two or three days before she left.

Then she was gone.  My brother Walter came and took care of us.  She had left notes on our care, on things she needed done while she was gone.  I was a pest to Max so he wouldn't worry about her until she came back.  It was Grandma who brought her back and she was wearing a brace on her neck.

She had neck fusion surgery and for one week she just slept.  Max and I took turns watching her.  It was hard on her.  She would roll on her back and couldn't roll back and then she'd choke on her spit. We'd try to tell Walter, but he didn't understand.

For a while she would move her fingers and hands and lips in her sleep and be restless and Max or I would touch her and make her calm.  By the end of the week she'd open her eyes and see us and calm and that was good.

She's getting stronger now we are going into the third week of the September.  She had help from Aunt Cherie for the first week of classes and people has helped her shop and get things done.  She's doing more each day and her humor is good.

She's tough, but she needs me and Max.  We help with picking up things, helping her walk (that's my big job) and helping her stand.  I have been helping pull doors open and she's been really loosing her balance, but I got her.  I get lots of hugs for catching her and she's in a great mood really.

Her voice is funny.  Her doctor told her she has fluid in her chest.  I am watching her and taking care of her.  Don't you worry.  I am the top dog in this house and I'll make sure my Mom is okay.

Malcolm Reynolds, Super Service Dog signing off.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

23 Months: Graduation

See anything different?
I am a service dog!  Mom was talking to Aunt Robin about when she and Uncle Bill would be coming into town to run my Public Access Test and found out another delay had sprung up.  See, Aunt Robin depends on Uncle Bill driving due to her being blind and his work couldn't give him time off to come this way until October.  Mom felt defeated, since the July graduation date had been pushed to September and now to October and truthfully I could hear a tiedness in her voice as she explained that she was waiting to test me out so I could have my In Training patch off.  She was tired of people asking "who is he going to" and "has his person been picked out" questions.  It scared me too.  Was Mom sending me away?  I thought I was Mom's service dog and then I would hear her very defensive and firm statement, "He's MY service dog."

It was so nice to hear Mom claim me with such fever, but I could tell she was tired of having to do so.  People could tell I was ready, they were asking WHY I had the patch now when it was clear I didn't need it and Mom was ready to have a working dog without questions.

So when she heard the next delay she asked if, until they arrived, could she remove the In Training patch?  Robin thought for a moment and said, "Yes!"  She and Bill had discussed my level of training, what I knew and what they'd seen so far in video and what Mom had shared and determined I was indeed a service dog.  Off the patch went.

I am a service dog.  For Mom that was a moment of silent pride.  It was 3 days prior to my birthday and though she didn't call anyone, didn't announce it on the internet or anything, she swelled and I could see it.

After the call she took me into a big hug and lifted me off the ground and just held me tight. I could feel the pride, love and joy in that hug.  Then she sat down and spent the time to remove the patch from my harness.  It was pretty exciting.

Once the patch was off the harness we danced around the house with it in celebration and did the "you're a service dog" song and I got lots of kisses and I could see tears in her eyes.

Wow this was a big deal for Mom.  Max said she did the same thing when he graduated and then the presents came and she was bouncing and showing him off for two weeks.  Okay, I guess we have some showing off and bouncing.  Gifts? Huh?

Friday, August 21, 2015

21 Months - 23 Months: Final Evaluation Days 445 - 479

Malcolm Reynolds at your service.
In my final evaluation before Mom talked to Aunt Robin and saw if my In Training Patch could come off, Mom worked hard on some things with me.  I was going with her daily to client consults and demos in class and I was shopping with her all the time.  Some of my days were as long as 8 or 9 hours!  It was a hard push.

To make things even harder Mom had put a mat on the floor in the training center and insisted I stay on it, even if she was working another dog and I was to be quiet.  I couldn't smack talk the dog or her if she was working with another dog and she got down right mad at me if I gave her gruff or got up and wandered on my own.  Oh, it was serious mean time on Mom's part.

She was serious about my behaviors in public too.  I was to straighten up and fly right and make her proud.  I was to ignore other dogs and when in the beginning I tried to tell her I didn't think I could,  not unless she stuffed me full of treats, because I had noticed the treats had dried up, she told me to suck it up and get over it.  Well, I guess it was time to tighten my scrotum and get my big boy attitude in place.

We went to doctor's appointments, got Mom's x-rays with my going behind the wall with the ladies while she was getting multiple shots.  I laid quiet while she worked dogs in their homes and didn't get in the way or I did my play and socialization thing and then put on my harness and headed out and worked like I hadn't just spent the last 30 minutes playing with another dog.

I laid in parks and learned to ignore passing dogs while still with the wheelchair, but I am still learning about passing dogs while the wheelchair is moving.  I barked at a Guide Dog and Mom chewed me out for an entire bridge.  My bad.

I learned that if she put me in a down/stay I was in a down/stay - period.  I learned if she asked me to do a task I was to do it then and there and no goofing off Mister - I am working now and even if I may be wearing an In Training patch, I am now a working dog polishing the very last of my higher level public access skills and ensuring I remembered my lower public access skills.

I worked with many other student dogs to ensure I could work with any dog I went out with.  I can.  I am very professional with many dogs.

I polished up my retrieve and my directional cues and started adding new skills such as pushing buttons and helping with pulling doors open.  So, now I need to just keep plugging in skills as Mom needs them and polishing up with age.

Check out my shoes!
Mom wasn't mean about it, but the boundaries were tight and it was clear I had firm, black and white boundaries.  That's when things got a big weird.  See, Mom set up for us to meet the ambulance people in July and I was okay with them and walking around the ambulance until she wanted me to walk to it on the side.  I got scared and Mom thought it was the heat of the pavement, but it wasn't, it was the sound of the engine or so she thought.  It so so much more.

See, Mom had always had the van turned off when I approached it and always made me come to a complete stopped when we heard the sound of a engine when a car or van came toward us.  So, when the ambulance was running and she went to walk me into it, well, I stopped.  The rules are black and white you see.  You can't go to a running car, van or ambulance.  End of statement.  I know the rules.

Mom didn't get it, but she accepted my telling her not to go to the running ambulance and we went to the sidewalk.  She was really stressed and tired that day and had a lot of worries.  She, she had her surgery coming and was still arranging that and trying to get her bathroom setup to be done into a handicap accessible bathroom for the surgery and was working with SNAP and all.  A lot was happening and my Mom was under so much stress and her brain was fried.

She watched all of the other dogs go into the ambulance no problem and finally solved why I didn't.  She took me there and I drug her to the van and she brought me back and asked for the engine to be turned off and in I went.  Uh huh.  She got it.  After that she taught me with ambulances it is okay to go in them with the engine running and I am okay with it now, but boy, for a bit, it was freaky.

Then we worked on my helping other dogs learning how to play and socialize and that seemed to help me and then it happened.  See, Mom thought I may not be allergic to duck eggs, so she bought me some and gave me some.  I was.  I am allergic to the proteins in all eggs.  At the same time I either ate or was stung by a bee.  I won't tell.

I ended up with the hives running along my entire spine so thickly that you couldn't find a spot that wasn't a hive.  Some of them got so deep that I lost all of the hair and top layer of skin and down into the moist layer of tissue underneath.

The beginning of my tail problems.

The worst problem happened at my tail.  In a short period of Mom napping, which was happening more due to Mom not sleeping well, being over tired from working so hard and needing extra sleep and thus laying down in the middle of the day for a quick nap to recharge.  In the 30 minutes she had napped the first time I had torn a hank of fur out of my tail and left it bloody.  Within a short time I would leave myself bloody and in danger of infection.

Mom would end up shaving my butt, a lot, and I would be in horrible pain due to hive breaking out on my horse tail nerve system and oozing and gooing all over.  The first time she shaved me Aunt Kim Imel had shared her shaver and given Mom a special wash that kept me from getting an infection.  Boy did that sting!

The beginning of the end of them.
I ended up landing myself in Mom's lap when Grandma poured it over my tail to clean it up.  By the end of the week, when the last of the hives had broken out and Aunt Diana had brought her clippers and scissors to trim me up and clear up my bum so I could heal and get out of what I was certain was a torture device, the cone, I threw Mom to the floor and bruised her bum and was screaming and crying and licking faces to escape the pain.

Each time for another week Mom cleaned my bum I cried and it was a total of 2 almost 3 weeks I was on medial leave before I could go back to work for Mom and help her.  It would be before my birthday and before the final ambulance run, but I was really out of the service dog job for a while, even helping in the home, because I felt so bad I was not even interested in eating.  Mom ended up putting me on steroids and antibiotics just to finish making me better and by then I had cleared up on my bum, but she'd spent a lot of time fixing me up.

She never complained.  She cried because I was in pain.  She loved on me and did my care like I was her baby, but not once was she mad that I couldn't help her.

The day I returned to work she was beaming.  Just beaming.  I had some work on tightening up my skills again, but it didn't take much.  I wasn't far off from graduation, I was able to pick up like I hadn't left pretty much and the break seemed to reset me.

She had put me on probiotics and that seemed to really do my mood good and we ended with her telling and showing Aunt Robin where I was.  Aunt Robin had Uncle Bill tell her how I looked and they talked about it.

Mom was told that her surgery would happen on August 31st, 2015 and sometime in September I was looking at having my Public Access Test when Uncle Bill could get time off.  I was pretty stoked.  I was looking at getting my In Training patch off.  I felt ready.  I was doing the job.  I am a service dog.  Just let me be one!

So now is the perfect time, ask me your questions on how Mom got me ready, cause the next step is the big one.  What do you want to know that Mom did in the last 35 days with me before it happened - cause you'll see in my next post - I made it.  What do you want to know?

Monday, June 22, 2015

19 Months - 21 Months: Proofing Days 390 - 444

I learned to wear socks!
Have I really let the blog fall that far behind?  WOW!  Mom and I have really been busy!  We aren't even doing public access updates anymore.  Between going on daily shopping trips and classes and going to help client dogs, we've been just to busy to update the Facebook page and the blog.  Hopefully, that will change and I will get back to updating you all on how things are going.  I can't even tell you all of the great things we have been doing since April when I updated you last, so no May and no June updates, just one big update on how it's been since last I chatted you up.

So, let's talk Proofing. What does it really mean?  Mom changed it on my title when I started working on it, but never really explained it well.  When she put that up there she said I knew my Retrieve, basic skills and Harness well enough to start working on making them default behaviors.  Those were the basic skills she'd need daily when we worked in public.  I still had things to learn, like how to carry a message or item to someone else or push a button to open a door, but Mom said I could work on those over time.  The things she needed the most, the items that made her day to day life easier, I had.  As a result, she wanted to work on them and make us a full team.  To do that we needed to work on them harder and work daily on them until we go that almost telepathic feeling as a team.

That meant I went out with her each time she went out and I gained more endurance, I started to work with less treats and in more distractions and during more regular working hours, like when the stores were busier.  To do this, Mom had to take me out when it was all times of the day or night.  When I was freshly exercised or not, when I was hungry or tired or when I was having a good day or not.  See, I needed to work under a lot of different conditions.

At first she carried her treat pouch with her all the time, but then she started to leave it in the van about a 1/3rd of the time and then 1/2 the time and the 3/4ths of the time and the all the time and soon she wasn't even putting it on when she left the house.  Huh.  How weird.

She had started this thing were she was wearing the treat pouch, but most of the time I was getting praise or a good rub on the chin or under the collar for a retrieve for closing the door in the store and that seemed strange too.  Then one day I realized she wasn't treating me, even though she had the treat pouch on her, she wasn't treating me unless she asked me for something really new and I hadn't done it before.  Huh.

Refresh training at the park.
She was teaching me that I needed to walk closer to the cart and tuck in when people passed when it was a crowded day.  I had learned to tuck under the belt of the conveyor when we checked out and between her when she paid and I was learning to relax when she was talking to people.  She reminded me to not sniff people and items and only to touch things on shelves when she asked for them.  It was hard at first because I really liked children and it took a bit for me to stop wanting to sniff them.  I got it, but Mom was serious about me not reaching out to say hi to them.

She also told me it was rude to people to stare up in their faces.  I like looking in their faces, but Mom had to convince me it scared some of them and it pulled me out of position when we walked by in harness.  She taught me to "line up" when I did that and to "stay on task" and soon I learned to not weave in my harness and "take the lead" when I got distracted.  I learned "Hard Left" and "Hard Right" meant a 90 degree left turn or right turn and About Face was to turn 180 degrees and About Left was 180 degrees Left and About Right was 180 degrees Right.  Stop was to stop in my tracks and Wait was to pause and wait for a new cue and check in with Mom.  She hates it when I turn and poke her knew to often and I am to walk close to her side and avoid items on our left, including people.

In the power chair I am to walk close to the chair and not be away from it so people don't have to walk around me and I don't have to drift out of position.  I do have to drift behind the chair if it is a hard barrier like a door or wall, but if I am almost touching the chair like I do Mom's leg, then people won't have to go around me.  It took me a bit to learn my position, but I was 18 months when I was learning wheelchair positioning at Radcon and now I am 21 months and I have it.  I was drifting too far to the side in Radcon and Mom knew she could fix it then, so wasn't too worried about it, since I was just beginning to learn my new job as a wheelchair dog.

I haven't learned about right side widths in the harness yet nor overheads, but Mom wants to film that and says we'll do that shortly.  She also says she wants to film training me backing up with the chair, so she hasn't taught that yet, so we'll learn that shortly.

The learning to walk close the chair simply happened by reinforcing my position by always rewarding me where she wanted me to walk.  That was it.  She kept me feeling safe by the chair, always reinforced my head by the edge of the armrest and far enough to keep from running over my feet.  She taught me to step back and keep from running over my feet on a left turn and how to do a right turn and not run over my back feet.  After that it was a lot of roadwork all last summer and taking me out to ensure I got enough practice to know where she wanted me.

Off for another adventure.
But at Radcon I hadn't had the practice, position training or experience needed.  I was just beginning my training.  The difference in my training between 18 months and 21 months is huge.

The same with my harness training at the beginning and now.  I was sloppy and inconsistent when I started.  Mom spent time teaching me nothing but how much pressure how to apply into the breast plate starting at 14 months.  I didn't walk in my harness then, just learned how to apply pressure.  It wasn't more than enough to straighten the handle and feel the breast plate on my chest.  Mom has a bad shoulder see, it dislocates easily due to a bit of missing bone, so she can't take a lot of pressure on that shoulder.  She also can't take a lot of side motion on it, so it has to be in a certain angle to keep it in socket.  I apply less pressure on my breast plate than most dogs do on their H harness when walking on a normal walk.

She then taught me how to take only a couple of steps and keep the pressure on the breast plate, but she wasn't even facing forward at the time.  See, she'll be making videos of our training to show how to train it.  The harness is designed to apply pressure on my strongest bone in m body, my chest bone, and not on my shoulders or hips.  My vet and Mom talked all through my life about how much I could do with my joints and how long.  Mom didn't even walk me at a trot on pavement until the vet approved it and didn't even do it for 1/2 mile until the vet said it was okay.  She didn't want to harm my bone plates.

I was almost 12 to 14 months before I was out on pavement at a trot and only for 1/2 a mile and only for short, 5 minute spurts and then walk, then trot, then walk to prevent bone damage.  The training for early harness was approved because Mom was putting no weight or pressure on my joints for more than a few seconds at a time and the harness weighs nothing.  Mom didn't use me for harness work until 16 months, with vet permission.

My joints were manually worked without clicks, hitches or signs of issues.  The vet could tell they were tight and since I had already cleared a 4 foot fence and could stand straight up with my hips, it was decided my hips were in good shape.  The vet wanted to wait until I was 2 to x-ray, but all manual exams showed my hips were sound and showed no indications of health issues.  Mom had done everything right to ensure good joint development all of my life and the next stage of my harness training was still not full harness work.

Waiting rooms have become my specialty.
Mom was now having me take up to 10 steps while holding the handle.  She worked along a wall and had me work along a wall while I worked along a wall for 5 to 10 steps while maintaining pressure into the breast plate.  She had her cane and would drop the harness handle on the way back and we'd redo the lesson and I would work the wall again.  These lessons were short and I was learning to walk in a straight line and walk a longer distance while maintaining pressure in the harness.

We didn't do these lessons daily, since I needed time to think on the lesson between each one and we still had other items we were working on.  I was still getting used to wearing a harness and the feel of a handle on my back, so Mom was using her cane still, as she had most of our training time all of my life, when out.

At this point I was just getting the idea of working with the power chair, getting good at walking and turning with it, but not close to it.  I hadn't worked in crowds with it and I hadn't really gotten the idea of working full time as a service dog with it.  It was just another part of our life to go out and explore the world.

By 18 months of age I was up to walking 15 feet with the harness and my joints had, according to the vet, closed.  I could work full time in the harness now and Mom was now working on my taking over for the cane.  It was then she decided it was time for her to simply put the cane up and begin the job of training me to be a harness dog.  I had the basics, but I needed the experience.  That was the day we began becoming a team, but she hadn't yet put the word proofing into my title of my blog.

It was the day she did a full shopping trip and realized she didn't need to reinforce any harness behavior anymore that she could.  We were slowly becoming a team and we were on our way.  She accessed where we were and realized she had the basics of what she needed.  I could close the doors in the freezer section, pick up items from the baskets and shelves, retrieve items that dropped, did counter balance in and out of the store and even helped her up from when she needed and blocked her automatically when she was anxious and tired.  I had what she needed and I was settled and doing the job well.  I just needed experience and endurance.

So, proofing, which means, adding the experience and endurance, began.  We began doing our daily routines like a team.  Going to Winco, Walmart, Rite Aid and class.  We did our Field Trips and client consults and other tiny errands.  We spent our time together and built our relationship.  I got used to her getting ready and knowing she'd pick up my harness.  I even got less upset over her putting it on.  I settled more in the van, got used to being seat belted in and became a "Seen that, Done that" dog.

At first it was weird.  Out all the time.  I hadn't thought my life would be so busy.  I tired easily and would want to go home early.  I got the "Are we done yet?" paw going.  I tend to wrap my front paw around her forearm like I want to shake her hand and give her a long look like I am suffering from lack of food.  She knows it means I am tired and tells me so.  I used to do it after a couple of stores, but now it can take up to six or seven stores before I do it.

Today in class we are going to NOT bark. 
I love going to class and even the Field Trips.  At first I was pretty sure my job was to be vocal at the dogs, but she told me she has thumbs and she has it covered.  She's made it pretty clear lately that I am not to make a fuss over the other dogs, no Scorpion Tail or Ruff standing just because she's working with another dog.  No barking or grumbling either.  I am to lay on my mat and be quiet.  Got it.

I am also not to protect the treat pouch on her hip.  If another dog comes near it and I do, no treats for me.  I am to keep a relaxed open mouth, no scary eyes, not flying ears and no stiff body.  I am to remain relaxed, happy face and no grouching and I get treats.  Otherwise, nothing.  Whew.  Lots of rules.

When I pick up things I am NOT to throw them on the ground, on her toes and I AM to pick them up high enough to put them in her hands and give them to her and wait for a Thank You.  Lots of rules.

I am still learning if a dog is in the store I am to pretend I didn't see it and not get so happy about seeing it.  I don't make any noise or anything, but I get all tall and want to say hi and look at them.  I don't leave Mom's side, but I do look over my shoulder and get a bit out of position.  Mom is NOT happy with that and says I need to stop that.  More rules.

But what did happen is this.  We became a team.  I can read Mom's mind almost.  I know when she's tired and hurting.  I know when she's about to turn left or right and just turn with her.  We move like a unit and we flow together.  Most things don't bug me.  I don't mind kids running or big crowds or noises.  I don't mind carts or cars or any of that.

When Mom was having a really horrible day at her doctor's appointment for her pap smear I knew.  I normally am not asked to climb into her lap for Deep Pressure Therapy, but Mom asked me and I did it.  She wrapped her arms around me and hugged me really super tight.  I wasn't sure about that, but I knew she needed me to do it for some reason, cause Mom was really upset.  I climbed down and I sat in between her legs and she wrapped around me and hugged me tight again.  I let her, even though it made me uncomfortable and I didn't move.  Then I laid down and put myself on her feet, something I normally don't do.  It helped her calm down and she was better after that.  Mom said I helped her get through that day.  I am glad.

Mom continued to work with me on pushing on buttons and I did get better at aiming at them.  She wants me to push the buttons for doors going into buildings, but my aim was bad.  I am getting better and just recently I got one.  She was very proud of me.  She said she'll work with me on that and finish up my harness behavior and a couple of other things she needs.

She also had a MRI.  She had Aunt Shari stay with me and I was a good boy.  I helped Aunt Shari while Mom was in the MRI and when she came out the three of us left.  It was a good lesson for Aunt Shari about teaching Koda to be good about being left with others.  Well, it turns out Mom has some serious stuff happening in her neck and it's why her arms are getting weaker and her hands are going numb.  As a result, she's going to make me a special rope pull and teach me how to help her open doors that are heavy so she doesn't do more damage to her neck.  How exciting.

Here I am visiting Uncle Brady.
Uncle Brady had a stroke and I got to visit at the hospital and rehab place.  It was good for Mom to remember to tell her students about using the hand sanitizer on my feet when she left.  I was good about it, even though it felt funny to have it done.  See, there is germs there that can make me sick, so Mom always sanitizes my feet before I leave.

Then as the weather got warmer Mom got worried about burning my feet, so she bought toddler socks and in class we learned how to put them on so we'd be ready to wear dog socks.  That was fun.  Mom did it to me three times and by Saturday I was walking around with four socks on my feet.  Everyone was laughing at me cause my back feet were high stepping, but I love Mom so much I was willing to let her do anything to me.  That and she had these new liver treats she'd been making me.

See, Mom has been making liver treats with oatmeal and they are amazingly yummy and I'll do anything for them!!!!

She also started having Kenobe come to visit at the house so she could teach him how to walk with the power chair.  That was fun.  I learned he is fun to play with, even if he's got all his parts, and we ran around the yard and goofed off and I even licked his face.  After that I decided maybe he wasn't so stinky as before and I he was okay in class too.

Mom has been working one on one with students in class on hand positions with treats, timing and other things.  They are all improving.  It was a matter of getting the idea.  She has a couple of new students she really needs to focus on, but she doesn't have a good feel for them yet.  I can tell, but she can see they are working hard with their dogs and she doesn't want them to fall behind or feel left out.

She also has been working hard with SNAP and DVR on getting her ducks in a row with the business.  It's all falling into place finally and soon she'll have it all put together and nicely packaged up like she needs.  She's worked 4 hard years starting with a single client and a dream and is now really seeing the fruition of her dream unfold before her.

A new dog came to us, a girl German Shepherd that Mom really likes.  At first I didn't know if I liked her.  Max did.  He could see she had been hurt somehow and her human needed help, but I am young and didn't see it.  Now I do.  When I heard Mom explain what happened to her I felt bad; some dog was really mean to her.

See, when she was just a puppy some dog attacked her and tore out all her stitches and took out her insides.  It scared her owner badly and her too.  I bet it would have scared me too!  She was rushed to the vet by her owner and then she went to this daycare place where she was in a room where 30 other dogs were.  It was scary for her she said.  Lots of stress.  I could see that.

Mom had the family take her out of the daycare and she's now staying with them at their office.  She even has her very own room where she can relax or be with her human during the day.  She tells me it's much nicer and she's much happier.  That's good.  She's in the quiet class with me and Davi.  Her name is Frejya and when she first came all she could do was bark and be behind a gate.  Now she can lay still and focus.

I'm supervising Field Trip Day.
Her coat was sick, she was thinner, dry and lighter in color.  Now it's thicker, darker and no longer dry.  She looks so pretty.  She's put on weight and within no time she settles.  She learned Look At That, but thought she needed to do one bark to get a treat, so Mom had her learn she didn't need to do that.  She's so smart.  Now she's learning to walk on a loose lead.

I get to play with her in my yard too.  She's a lot of fun and we meet at the dog park and work on her learning dogs are safe now.  She's really improving and learning how to calm down in lots of new places.  I am glad to be her mentor.

Funny thing is, she is great with dogs when she's not on a leash, she is just not good on a leash.  She loves people, is brave about everything else, just have issues with dogs on a leash.  Another trainer accessed her also and both Mom and that trainer said she can fully recover, she just needs counter conditioning and the tools to do it.  She just needs time for her stress hormones to come down.  She's on month 2 of her stress hormones coming down and she's now able to really learn and she's making amazing progress.  She's off to a special trainer who'll give her a great lesson on how to deal with seeing dogs when on leash and then Mom will pick up again with her training, which she's been doing, and continue with counter conditioning and LAT and finish her off.  What a lucky girl to have such support.

My gal Cleo unfortunately had to move on.  She ended up moving with her handler into a home where other dogs were picking on her and the other humans where being mean to her and she got where she couldn't be trusted in public.  Mom had to career change her.  It made me sad.  I liked her.  She was a nice dog and I liked how she smelled.

But that brought in Paz, the puppy.  He was so tiny, so cute smelling and so much fun.  He had a tiny brown heart in his fur and I just wanted to pull him close to me with my paw and lick him.  That's just what I did the first time I met him.  I pulled him close and licked and loved him and turned him over and cleaned him.  See, I love puppies and I just wanted to take Paz home.  He was MY puppy and I almost didn't let his owner take him home.  Mom said I couldn't keep him.  She was mean.

I have had many chances to play with him since and she says I am doing a great job of teaching him the rules of dog language so he doesn't get beaten up when he grows up.  Paz is a bully breed and he won't go running up to other dogs outside of his breed and greet them wrong because of me.  That's good.  I would hate that.

Mom's shoes from last year went bad and no longer were making her feet feel good, so she made an appointment to get new ones.  It turns out she wrote the address down wrong and we got lost.  We ended up at the other location late and the people were really nice and still took care of Mom's feet.  She had her stand in foam and took a mold of her feet.  The doctor was on his knees while she did this, so I moved by him and watched.  He thought that was funny.  Mom picked out some nice shoes and was pretty excited about getting new shoes.  They wouldn't come in until her old ones caused some damage to her feet though.  Too bad, Mom was really hoping to avoid that.

The shoes did finally come in and she says they are amazingly comfortable.  She loves that she doesn't have to tie them, since her hands have gotten harder to use and they have bungees on them.  She was given shoe laces for them, but she just hung them where she puts her keys.  The inserts they put in her shoes only got more comfortable the more she wore her shoes and she isn't feeling her brace like she used to and her feet don't hurt like they used to.  That's good, cause Mom's feet were really starting to make her stay awake at night again.

Then my sister Rachael came to see Mom over Mom's Day and told us all she is having a baby!  Yep, she's growing a human in her.  Mom was so excited!  I am too!  I love babies!  Mom is making a blanket for the baby.

Time for more shopping.
I guess Mom has been wanting to be a grandma for a long time.  I didn't know that.  Max said she has been secretly sad that she hasn't had a grandchild, but didn't want to pressure her kids.  She says that's not fair to her kids cause it's their lives and their choice to have kids.  But when Rachael said she was making a baby it really made Mom happy.  She woke the next day having an urge to dance and smiling all day long.  She was in a happy mood and couldn't wait to tell people, but Rachael wanted her to wait until she'd told some others, so she had to wait a while until she could share.

But mostly it's been going to do our normal stuff.  Going to class, visiting with clients and living life.  I have gotten used to our life as a team.  Problem was, Mom was so busy she didn't take the time to keep up my training.  She let me get a bit sloppy with my retrieves and my Zen and some other areas.  I have three roles in her business and she said I was starting to blur my lines in those roles.  See, I am Mom's service dog, her demo dog in class and her socialization dog with some of her client dogs.

Well, as a result, I wasn't keeping my Down/Stays like I should, my "hey, you shouldn't do that" bubble was expanding, my desire to socialize with other dogs was getting a bit too much and I was starting to want to play more than work.  Mom could see she needed to tighten up my work ethic, so she decided to show the class how to "refresh" a dog's training and guess who got picked for that?

Yep.  She had a mostly full bottle of tea and set it on a shelf.  She asked me to pick it up and if I knocked it on the floor, no treat.  Oh man, Mom was being Mean Mom again.  Didn't take long for me to realize I was back to the old criteria of "only the best retrieves got treats" and by the end of the week I was back to my old self on retrieves after showing everyone how to tighten up a retrieve.

Then Mom put a mat on the floor and MAN did she get mean.  I am to stay on that man NO MATTER WHAT she does.  End of statement.  If I bark, grumble or make a fuss, no treats.  Man, Mom has gotten TOUGH.  I get treats if I am in a Flat and quiet.  End of statement.  That's it.  Mom can work with another dog, anywhere in the room, but if I get up I am in trouble.  MEAN MOM!

Criteria was talked with and she told the class my criteria was changed and set.  I am at a higher level of training and thus can do a higher level of performance.  I am doing it too.  The class is holding their dogs to higher levels as a result and boy is every dog tightening up as a result.

Whew, it has been hard becoming a service dog!
See, proofing is pretty much working.  It's going out every day and doing the job and making certain there are no holes in the tasks or work that needs to be daily.  If there is, they need to be filled and then proofed and new ones found and filled until the team is working smoothly and ready to test out.

I have a few things left to train.  My PAT tester told us they are coming in September.  Mom has a schedule now to finish my training for completing my training and having me ready.  There are just a few things to tighten me up.  She wants to be certain if a plate of food is put before me or food is bounced off of me I won't flinch.  She wants to be certain I won't walk her into an overhang or someone on the right and she wants to have me help her with buttons and heavy doors.  She wants me to pick up items a bit higher and hand them to her a bit better, deliver items and she wants to clean up a couple of things with dogs with me.  Outside of that, I am done.  She has until September to finish me off.

At this point we work like we've been together forever because we've put in enough hours in public.  We have done almost 200 hours in public now.  Now it's time to finish the last of the polish, spit and shine.  Not sure what Mom is going to call that, but we are moving to the final stages of my training.

Malcolm Reynolds signing off

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Public Access: Visiting Davi and Milo

I love playtime.

I was laying watching Mom sleep when she rolled and looked me in the eye.  Oh oh, I was caught not doing my job.  She smiled and said I am slacking and gave me a small touch on the side of my face.  I may have to go back to waking her in the morning, but I do enjoy watching her sleep.

She got up and let us out.  It was a slow start to the morning, but a normal one.  Supervise the doling of food, which meant her medicine was on board and then picking up of the bowls.  My medicine is working and my skin is feeling better.  Mom had noticed the new Flaxseed Oil is really making my skin an coat soft and was happy.

She was on her second cup of coffee, curled up on the love seat and deep in her computer when Max stood and started to limp really bad.  She stopped what she was doing and watched him with a big frown on her face.

She asked him what he'd done and if his shoulder was bugging him.  He struggled to go up the steps to the love seat beside her and she reached out and touched his paw and he screamed and tried to bite her.  She looked at him and said, "That's it, vet for you."

Up she got and computer was put up and she was dressed in only a couple of minutes.  Before I knew what was happening she was out the door with Max and I was left behind to sing my cowboy ditties by the water bowls with Dieter.  She'd thrown the gate by the kitchen so fast I had missed it happening and locked the door so quickly I hadn't heard it.  Wow, that was quick.

She was gone long enough for me to get a new ulcer and then she returned with a very painful Max and a really worried look.  Max had sprained his foot and was on restricted play.  Oh oh.  How'd he do that?  He said the vet blamed me.  HEY!

Mom filmed Max and called him Limpy.  She was very soft with him and clearly worried.  She even called Aunt Ronda and canceled Dakota so she could be with him until class time.  Wow.  Max means a lot to Mom.

I had jumped on him and she had taken my collar and told me to leave him alone.  Okay, I guess Max is to be left alone for real this time.  He's really not feeling well.  She won't even let me wash his face or anything.  I am worried.  He can hardly walk and she's very gentle with how she touches him and she's watching him when she lets him out.

By midday she was really tired.  She went in and laid down with us for about an hour before class.  This is starting to worry me.  She's done this before class twice now.  Why is Mom taking naps?  She says it's so her back and neck aren't hurting so bad and she has more energy for class.  I guess, cause she seems to be better by class time, but I lay and watch her when she's napping.

Max climbed into be with her and slept by her.  She had given him medicine and he said it made him sleepy, but his foot didn't hurt as bad.  Am I the only one in the house not hurt?

Then it was class time.  Mom packed up my diced ham in her pocket and put on my uniform.  Again she didn't put on her shoes with the braces and she had me walk her to the van.  Okay, but that means her feet are really bugging her.

She had me walk her into the building and there was Aunt Carol and Uncle Dana!  She showed them my naked butt.  They icked and ewwed at it and laughed at me.  We talked about how much Max and I cost Mom in vet care.  I felt bad.  Since the start of the month we have cost her $21 for my rabies shot, $65 for tags, $90 for my butt and $111 for Max's foot.  I didn't realize how much of Mom's money we were spending!

That didn't include our food!

Aunt Carol and Uncle Dana left and a new dog came in while Mom was sitting in the chair Uncle Dana bought.  I think Mom is in love with that chair.  She had put some Lamb Jerky on the floor and I didn't even bark.  She was so proud of me.

This dog's name is Frejya and the moment she came in she started to bark.  She's a big black and red German Shepherd and she was pretty scared.  I glanced at her and Mom dropped some ham on the floor and I went on watching her stuff my Kong.  Mom was pretty proud of me.  So was I.  I normally would have barked back, but I am getting this no smack talking thing down and it's getting pretty easy.

In came each dog and Mom was talking Frejya's handler through and she was doing great.  Treats down the chest line, scatter between the feet and just as they are coming in and she'd have a bit of a wind up and then calm and eat treats.  She was calm and reassuring and he was calming soon himself.  Good job, click/treat.

Koda came in all calm and under control in his new harness and even was able to walk up to me and I didn't care.  Fantastic, I am getting this down!  I am turning into the dog Mom has been working on and I am learning to share her.  It has been hard, but Max said it is important I share.  I had asked him why and he said that Mom is to be shared with other dogs and people.  Okay.  I can do this.  Sometimes I don't want to, but if that is the rules, I can learn them.

In came Molly, all excited and happy and I glanced and looked to Mom and treats came.  Yep.  I got this.  I am learning to be a good service dog and a great classroom dog!

In came Milo and Davi and I was great with them too.  Milo was just visiting so I can go visit him later.  He smells funny, but Mom said I would be okay with him for a day visit.  He's a black Standard Poodle and a teenager.  Ug.  Okay, don't pick on the teenager.  I need to learn that next.  This is going to be a hard lesson.

Again Mom shared about the Fire Department, Police Department and Ambulance companies and about needing to be separated.  She had Aunt Shari tell the story of her and I being at the MRI and then we did a fun game of watching Molly's little girl run through the building to get candy bars Mom put on chairs (her Mom had to run with her and Uncle Brady had to
feed Molly treats because the little girl got shy) and we all got treats to learn how to not chase running children.  I got lots of Lamb Jerky!

Mom played "The Game" which is squeezing my face and grabbing my lips and whacking me in the face and doing all of these things that would normally make a dog freak out and each time I got treats.  It was like a Lamb Jerky super game for me.  I got loads of Lamb Jerky and my tail was wagging and I was loving the game.  She said she started the game soft and worked up to hard with me.  She said it's important us dogs be ready for anything the public may do to us.  She even pretended to box my nose.  It was funny.

Then we went outside and each dog worked on what they needed.  She had Frejya work around the corner from the other dogs because she couldn't think and showed her handler how to get loose leash walking started.  He is so patient with her and she did so great.  They are going to really make a great team and I am so glad to be her mentor.

Then when class was over Mom had us do a play session.  That's when things got a bit weird.  See, I thought he got all freaked out because of his dog and I got mad at her.  I raised my ruff and I was going to tell her off and then I realized she was as scared as he was.  Both of the were throwing the scared smell and I didn't know what to do.  Why were they so scared?  I am young and it was then I realized THIS was the veteran Max had told me about!

Mom told everyone that Frejya needed help and understanding for a bit.  See, when she was six months old and had just been spayed she was attacked by a boy dog who opened up all of her stitches and took her insides out of her.  My ruff went down.  How awful.  How could a boy dog do that to such a sweet girl?

It hurt both of them very badly emotionally.  Frejya's Dad was so scared for her and he rushed her to the vet who saved her, but every time she plays with dogs he gets scared.  Who can blame him?  Every time she plays with dogs she gets a bit scared too.  Who can blame her?

She's so brave.  Even with such a terrible thing that happened to her, she has really come a long way and she really does want to make dog friends, but she doesn't know if we can be trusted.  Mom was so soft and gentle.  She let us sniff and then sent us away gently with treats so we never flooded her and there were only a few of us and lots of space for her.

She was allowed to just lay by her Dad if she wanted and not play and if she wanted to play she was allowed that too.  She had choices and with those choices she was feeling better.  It was a good session and whenever she had a moment she felt she needed to yell at us and say "I need space" Mom just stepped in ad put a scattering of treats between her paws and calmed her right down and the other dog was calmly redirected by it's own handler because we all knew - she was learning to trust again.

It was a great end to our week.  It was fun.

We came home and Mom did the dishes and then climbed into bed after feeding us, letting us out one last time and taking her night medicines.  Long week, but we got through.

Malcolm Reynolds, service dog with the big red cape with the big M on it, signing off.