The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Look Who Got His Service Dog Vest

Bo gets lots of attention in his vest.
Bo's service dog vest and patches arrived on Friday. I gave him the vest when I opened the package and he carried it around the house and then mouthed it before I put it on him. The patches were sold separately so we asked our wonderful neighbor, Sylvia, if she would stitch them on for us. Thanks to her kind heart and sewing skills, the vest was ready to wear Saturday morning.
Walking on the beach.

On Saturday, we took Bo to Hampton Beach to experience the sand and water, as well as the sights and sounds of the boardwalk. We figured dogs would be allowed on the beach in late October, but found out they are not per RSA 7301.08. A quick online search of "7301.08" and the phrase "service animals" returned information on RSA 7301.08(b), which states: Service animals shall be exempt from all prohibited areas. With this information, we headed for the sand.

Hearing music on the street.
Bo tasted the salt water, chased the receding waves, and carefully navigated his way across the jetty wall. When we finished on the beach we headed to the boardwalk and then got back into the car and went to Porstmouth for dinner. Walking in downtown Portsmouth provided many opportunities for Bo to experience people, bicycles, strollers, musicians and even a horse and carriage.

Other socialization activities included:
  • Visiting Manchester Airport and meeting "Sisky" a bomb sniffing dog, seeing luggage on wheels, and experiencing  a turn-style revolving door.
  • Attending a football game at Gil Stadium and hearing music and announcements over the public announcement system. Walking and running on the stadium bleachers.
  • Walking along a rock wall at the Village Green and climbing rock stairs.
  • Meeting other dogs and people while on a walk in the Village Green.
  • Visiting the Bedford Fire Department and seeing a firefighter in his fire gear.
A dog and his boy.
As part of his diabetes alert training Bo has been having low parties with Austin. This involves Austin blowing on Bo when his blood sugar is between 75 and 85 mg/dl and Bo receiving treats while this is happening. The idea being to associate the scent of Austin's low with the pleasure of getting treats. We are also capturing scent samples from Austin when his blood sugar is in the 70-80 mg/dl range.

A reader suggested a post from Austin. Would you like to hear from Austin? If yes, what would you like his perspective on regarding raising Bo?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teaching & Learning Sit

Bo sitting for a treat.
If I do dare say so myself, Bo has successfully learned the sit command. I read several dog training books prior to bringing Bo home and "sit" was one of the easier commands to teach because of a dog's natural inclination to relax on its hind legs when enticed with a treat above its head. Earlier this week, I put what I read into practice and much to my delight it worked!

I now have a 8-week-old puppy who sits on command and patiently waits for his treat in return.
As you can imagine, the people who have observed Bo's obedient behavior were completely impressed with his intelligence and demeanor. I'll be honest, it sure is a nice feeling to receive compliments on Bo's intelligence and temperment. However, what's even better is knowing that my prayers have been heard and our family has gotten a puppy that is demonstrating early signs of being well-suited for service work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Elevators, Wheel Chairs & Stairs Oh My!

It was another week of firsts for Bo! He went on an elevator ride, saw a woman in a wheel chair and used stairs — all for the first time. On Tuesday October 22, I took Bo to the Elliott Hospital with hopes of exposing him to people using wheel chairs, walkers and crutches.

Bo practiced entering and exiting an elevator.
 We ended up meeting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, riding an elevator, climbing cement stairs and ramps, and seeing an automatic door open and close. Bo welcomed these experiences with bravery and curiosity and I treated him generously each time he demonstrated his courage and inquisitiveness.

People commented on how calm and cute a puppy he was and he brought smiles to not only the people who stopped to pet him and say hello, but also to those that simply passed by us.

Other socialization activities this week included:
Exploring at the frog pond.
  • A play date with another dog and meeting three small dogs on a walk.
  • A visit to the frog pond at the Village Green, which included seeing the water fountains, a family of ducks and a young mother and her toddler. The mother and child were from China and Bo helped to break the language barrier between us. 
  • Seeing a fire hydrant; Bo was hesitant and afraid of the hydrant which was triple his size. Kibble treats helped entice him closer to the hydrant to find out it wasn't going to hurt him.
  • Staying quiet in his crate under the table at Shorty's restaurant while Austin and I ate dinner.
Bo has been learning the meaning of touch this week as part of diabetes alert training. He is also eating kibble out of a paper bowl that has been modified to hold a low scent sample. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Will Work for Food

Bo is learning the value of persistence by working for all of his meals and treats. If this conjures a picture in your mind of a pup on the side of the rode with a "will work for food" sign, you're not alone. That's what I first thought when I read about dogs working for their food.

Bo eating from his Kong level one food puzzle.
I learned however, it's a concept based on the idea that nature made dogs to hunt, scavenge and forage for their food not have it prepared and delivered in a bowl. Working for food involves the use of food puzzles, which require a dog to shake, paw, roll, nibble or lick the puzzles in order to get the food. A meal that would typically take Bo five minutes to eat out of a bowl, can take him 10-15 minutes to eat out of a puzzle. Persistence pays off when eating from a food puzzle. If he keeps working at it, and doesn't give up, he will be rewarded with a full meal.

Bo eats his meals in his crate.
Persistence is an important trait for a Diabetes Alert Dog because a person with a low blood sugar may not respond on the first alert. It could take multiple alerts and an escalation of alerts, before a response.  Using food puzzles is one way we are developing the trait of persistence in Bo.

How do you practice perseverance in your daily life? What drives you to keep going, rather than giving up?

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Boy and His Dog

Austin with Bo on homecoming day - October 13, 2012.
 Our family welcomed Bo, our 7-week-old, yellow Labrador puppy, into our hearts and home on October 13, 2012. At his homecoming, he weighed 10 lbs and was the largest pup in his litter. We chose him for his calm and mellow temperament and his pure cuteness. 

We fell in love with him instantly and we are hopeful that with lots of love, training and patience he will grow to be an extraordinary companion and service dog for our son Austin, who at the age of 4.5 was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

The First Week: October 13-19, 2012

Socialization is one of the most important elements of raising a service dog. Knowing this, we didn't waste any time and got right to introducing Bo to a variety of people, places, sounds, sensations and smells. The following is a list of just some of Bo's experiences this week:
  • Octoberfest celebration at our friends' home in Hooksett - children and adults of all ages were holding, petting and playing with Bo.
  • Shopping trip to Target
  • Meeting our neighbors Sylvia and Gil and exploring their sunroom and front deck.
  • Visiting the Bedford Safety Complex and taking a ride in an ambulance - the noise of the sirens and vibrations of the ambulance didn't phase Bo one bit, he was cool as a cucumber.
  • Lexi and BoVisit to Lowe'sPlaying with Leo, a Golden Retriever, and Lexi a Black Labrador Retriever.
  • Shopping cart rides at Target and Lowe's and being pet and picked-up by employees and customers.
  • Experiencing the sounds of a parking lot.
  • Walking over drain grates, wood pallets, wood beams and rocks.
  • Feeling rain drops and seeing blowing leaves.
  • Hearing the sounds of a garage door, car engine and vacuum cleaner.
So, what socialization experience do you think we should tackle with Bo next?