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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Do You Have This Misconception About Children Living with Type 1?

I believe a common misconception about children living with Type 1 Diabetes is that they are 'use to' getting shots and therefore are not afraid of getting vaccinations. I saw this misconception play out at the pediatrician's office with Austin this afternoon. Austin was very anxious about his 11 year vaccination shots. He had been worrying about getting them for months leading up to today's appointment. Trying to relieve some of his stress and set his expectations, I told him he would only be getting three State required vaccines. When we got to his appointment the medical assistant explained there were five shots that his doctor recommended. This news was extremely upsetting to Austin and he cried upon hearing it. As much as he tried to hide his upset when the doctor entered the room there was no hiding his teary, red eyes and sniffles. 

Instead of showing empathy, his doctor suggested that the shots would not be a big deal because Austin is use to getting shots.  That message may have been intended to make Austin feel better but I don't think it did. In fact, it might have even made him feel worse. I think people, doctors especially, should recognize that just because a child lives with Type 1 Diabetes and has to endure multiple finger pricks, shots, and or site changes every day, it doesn't make vaccinations, blood draws or IVs any less scary or painful. 

And now for the tie-in between this story and Bo... 

This evening Austin was in bed and in pain from his tetanus shot. He called me into his room to talk with him. I sat on the edge of his bed and offered up some TLC. While we were talking, Bo came up to me and paw swiped my leg. I checked Austin and he was 100; it was 7:49 pm. (We reward Bo for lows that are 100 or lower.) We treated Bo and Austin ate some popcorn. Austin and I then started playing a game of Monopoly. Bo was on his mat at my side but shortly into the game he got up and went to Austin. He was sniffing around Austin. I didn't direct him back to his mat but instead just waited. He then came around the table to me and nose bumped my leg before paw swiping me. We checked and Austin was 89; it was 8:13 pm. Bo got another low party and Austin got another snack. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Watching Out for Other Dogs While Working in Public

We worked Bo at the outlet malls this afternoon and the experience reminded me how important it is to protect Bo from other dogs.  We walked into one store and there was a dog and its owner in the front of the store. The dog was in a down stay and I noticed it before we opened the door to enter. I had my clicker and treats ready to 'click and treat' Bo past the dog. I had a tight heel on Bo. He saw the other dog and was doing fine until the dog got up and started walking toward him. (The dog's owner was not paying attention and did not notice her dog was breaking his down to approach us.) To Austin's embarrassment, I firmly exclaimed, 'Keep your dog away." The other dog didn't bark at Bo and the owner kept the dog from reaching Bo (once I said something) but the experience made me realize how important it is for me to always anticipate the worst and be ready to react. The idea of Austin handling Bo through such a scenario is scary to me because I don't know if he would be able to react quickly or be as bold with his words. 

Not long after this incident, we encountered another dog in the outside mall area. Again, I saw the dog in advance of passing it with Bo. I was prepared to 'click and treat' Bo past the dog. Bo was doing great and then the other dog started barking wildly and trying to make its way to Bo. That got Bo's attention and he stopped walking with me for a moment and looked at the other dog. He didn't bark and I was very happy about that. 

Overall Bo did really well at the outlet mall. Being the weekend before the start of school, the place was a mob scene. There were lots of multi-sensory distractions and Bo did great with all of them. At times, he pulled on the leash (the leash was attached to his Freedom Harness rather than his Gentle Leader)  but overall he walked 'with me' and represented service dogs in training very well.  When we got home he was happy to take a frozen, food-filled Kong into his crate and relax. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Video: Bo Alerting

Today I captured this video of Bo alerting. Bo's first paw swipe is at the start of the video. He then goes to Austin and sniffs him before coming back to me and paw swiping again. Finally, he bumps my leg with his nose and paws me before letting out a bark. Unfortunately my phone battery died and the video got cut short. Austin's blood sugar was 80 when we checked. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Never Would Have Expected this Alert

Bo caught a low this evening that I never would have anticipated. Before dinner Austin was 234. He ate a meal of pasta, bread and meatballs. Following dinner Bo alerted to me while I was sitting at the dining room table and Austin was downstairs playing. I thought for sure I would be dealing with a high. I grabbed Austin's meter and went to check him. To my surprise, he was 88! I gave him a 12 g carb snack and gave Bo a low party for his terrific work. After the low party, I told Bo 'all set' and put him on his mat by my side. Twelve minutes later, he paw swiped me again. I told him 'all set' again but instead of settling on his mat, he started barking at me and looking at me like he wanted me to do something. I got Austin's meter and went to check him. This time he was 72!

It's alerts like these that truly amaze me. I never would have checked Austin so shortly after a high carb meal, plus Austin didn't show any signs of being low. Bo missed some alerts on highs today but this low he caught was absolutely awesome! We love our pup!

Staying in Place

Bo is spending more time practicing staying in place on his yoga mat and on his Kuranda cot. Today, we also practiced him staying in place while two separate visitors came to our door and entered our house. It was difficult for him to stay on his Kuranda, in view of our company. Once our visitors left, I paid him for his good work with treats and lots of TLC. The purpose of this training is to get Bo used to staying in place for extended periods of time when he is working.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Classroom of Distractions

Fifteen of Austin's friends joined us at school Friday for a training session with Helen. The kids came with their book bags and pretended to be working at desks, while Austin worked Bo under Helen's direction. While Helen talked to the class about Bo's job, Austin had Bo in a down stay at his desk. Austin also practiced walking around the desks with Bo off leash. This proved to be a challenge for Bo given the food that some kids were invited to eat. So, Helen had Austin pick-up Bo's leash and walk him between the occupied desks and chairs. 

One friend was asked to come up to Austin at his desk and pretend to look at a book. The friend walked past Bo and stood next to Bo while talking with Austin. Bo did great with this distraction. He didn't break his down stay and he stayed quiet and settled from the time the friend approached to the time he returned to his seat. 

Austin practiced handling Bo at the lockers outside his classroom. Helen asked half the class to pretend to put away and take out books from the lockers, while the other half of the class looped walking past Bo and Austin. Again, Bo did excellent with this exercise. He stayed focused on Austin and was not bothered by the distraction of the kids walking past him and around him. 

Austin's friends left the classroom before our training session with Helen was over. Once they left we debriefed with Helen and Austin gave Bo a short play time in return for his hard work and concentration. Following the playtime, Bo alerted to me. We checked Austin and he was high. Bo got a high party and then Austin put him in a down stay while we finished our session with Helen. By this time, Bo had spread out on the floor and had his eyes closed. One of the parent observers asked if Bo would have a bed in the classroom. Helen explained that he would not. I added that while we want Bo to be settled and quiet in class, we don't want him to fall asleep on the job. 

Helen told us she was really pleased with Bo's work. She even admitted he did better than she expected.  She advised us to train in school with kids again before the start of school. She also suggested we pick an alias name for Bo. The purpose of an alias is to ellicit less of a response from Bo when kids walk by him and say his name.  (Of course Austin's friends will know his real name.) Austin wants Bo's school name to be 'Rudolph.'  What do you think Bo's alias should be?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Alert with Get Help

Bo alerted directly to Austin this morning with a paw swipe to Austin's leg.  Austin was sitting at the dining table with his iPad and I was in another room. When Bo alerted, Austin sent him to get help. Bo came running to me, stood directly in front of me, and looked at me like he wanted me to chase him. (The same look and stance he has when we are playing 'gonna get you.'

I didn't know he alerted to Austin and I didn't know Austin sent him for help but I did know he wanted my attention, so I started walking down the hallway with him. I stopped and he circled back to me. I followed him to Austin at the table. Austin told me Bo alerted and that he had sent Bo to get help.  I checked Austin and he was 66. Nice low Bo!