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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Wouldn't Be Telling the Truth If...

We took Bo to Austin's hair cut appointment this morning. He stayed in a down stay for about 20 minutes but never settled to a relaxed position with his head on the floor for more than a few seconds. The distractions were few, so I worked him without treats. He remained in his down stay as I left his side to look at products. He also remained in a down stay as staff and customers walked past him.

After 20 minutes, he began whining quietly. I waited for a few seconds of quiet and then cued him to stand and walk with me. We went to Austin getting his hair cut and he jumped on me and barked. He did not paw swipe, so I made an assumption that he was demonstrating adolescent dog behavior rather than a futile attempt at an alert. After walking him out of the salon and placing him in the car, I checked Austin's blood sugar. He was 144 with no insulin on board.  (Note: Bo was in the car for about 5 minutes. The temperature outside was in the mid 40s and Bo was in our complete view the entire time. ) 

Bo has demonstrated this behavior before when I've been working him in public. As you can imagine, the behavior concerns me. It concerns me because in order for Bo to work in public he will need to be able to settle quietly for extended periods of time. After all, if his training is successful, he will end up working along side Austin one day and most of his time will be spent by Austin's side being well --- bored.

I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said training sessions like the one today don't cause me to worry about Bo's ability to work in public, because I do. What I don't do however, is allow the worry to stifle me or keep me from giving 110% percent to Bo's training. I am committed to doing everything I can do to provide Bo with the skills he needs to be the best that he can be. His steady progress and willingness to learn keep me hopeful and optimistic that the challenges we face today will one day be mere blips in our journey.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Training at the Animal Hospital

As part of Bo's ongoing training, we will begin weekly visits to our local animal hospital. The purpose of this training is to desensitize him to the stress associated with a veterinarian visit. The training will start with one visit a week that consists of me bringing him into an exam room, a hospital staff member greeting him with me, and then the staff taking him to another room. He will be given high value treats like chicken, hot dogs or cheese while he experiences the sights, sounds and smells of the procedure area. He will then be walked back to the exam room where I will be waiting for him. He will get lots of praise and treats upon his return. 

Once Bo is demonstrating a comfort level with this weekly routine, the staff will perform the routine with the addition of a stressor that represents a scenario he might experience if he was being treated for a medical condition. For example, they may weigh him, open his mouth, touch his ears, hold his paws or take his temperature. Again, he will receive high value treats throughout the experience and immediately following the experience. 

This training is especially important as Bo ages and no longer has the need to visit the hospital as regularly as he did in his first year. (His vaccine schedule is now yearly.) We want to 'vaccinate' him from developing a fear of the hospital experience, which can occur when an animal associates the stress of medical procedures with a hospital visit. 

We want Bo to be comfortable going to the animal hospital. Weekly visits that turn into monthly visits, should help in building and maintaining his comfort in such an environment. We are very fortunate to have a local animal hospital staff that is supportive of this training and eager to assist us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trusting Bo's Nose

Today, I had a lesson in trusting Bo's nose. While I was at the dining room table and Austin was in his room, Bo got off his Kuranda cot to alert to me. His alert was a paw swipe to my leg as I sat at the table. I asked him if we should check his boy and proceeded to check Austin's blood sugar. I checked and Austin was 148. This is not a number we reward Bo for, so I gave Bo the 'all set' command. (We reward for alerts below 100 and above 175.) Twelve minutes later, Bo alerted to me again. I gave him the 'all set' command again but he didn't settle. In fact, he continued alerting with a paw swipe and then escalated his alert by using a low, deep vocalization. He was being persistent, so I told him we would check again. I got Austin's meter and rechecked and his meter read 174. The time between Bo's first alert and this reading was 14 minutes. Clearly, Bo's nose was smelling Austin's blood sugar rise at a rapid rate. This experience served as a reminder to me of how important it is to trust Bo's nose.