Sunday, October 31, 2010

4 Paws Graduation!

    I was going to post as soon as we got home, but it was way too late. I should have known that it would be, but I held on to the illusion of getting the kids in bed before midnight all the way up until around 11 or so, lol! The kids were excited that Daddy was waiting up for us. I was happy to see him too after being apart for two weeks :)
    Anyway, yesterday started with our public access test! I volunteered to go first, since I still hadn't decided if we were going to stay for the graduation ceremony or had home early. We had to be at the mall at 9:30am to begin our test. Jeremy met us there and quickly reviewed the requirements with me. We had to walk through the mall, including at least one store, and incorporate all of the obedience commands that we had been working on. The dogs had to show that they would "sit," "down," and "heel" on command. At one point we were required to drop the leash and then pick it back up, to show that the dogs would stay with us. We also had to put the dogs into a "down," walk a short distance away, and call the dogs to us to show that they would come. The dogs had to be comfortable moving past people, and objects such as a stroller or shopping cart. I also had to walk Dante past another dog (Smores, who was also in our class) to show that he wouldn't be distracted.
    Dante did well during this part of the test. Then we had to go into the Food Court for the "dining" part of the test, where Dante had to go under the table and lie down, and stay there until I was ready to leave (I didn't have to actually order any food, just sit there for 30 minutes). Dante went right under, but was a bit reluctant to sit down until I was seated. Jeremy said that he might have gotten bumped with a chair sometime in the past, but since he did obey me that it was alright. He said just to make sure that we practice with really good treats when there are chairs involved :)
    Once we passed the public access test, I went back to the hotel to get Brianna and the kids. We quickly packed the rest of our stuff into the van (it only took an hour! yes, that's quick for us, lol!) and headed over to 4 Paws to complete our paperwork. Once everything was signed, Dante received his new tags and ID cards:

    Then we took the kids outside to play and have some lunch. 4 Paws has an awesome outdoor area for the kids and dogs to play. It is completely fenced in, so we were able to let Dante off leash for some play time.

    Once all the other families had completed (and passed!) their public access tests, and completed their paperwork, we all took turns signing the 4 Paws Graduates canvas:


    Then it was time for the graduation ceremony! Here is the class of October 2010:
Tristen and Dante!
Kameryn and Nestle!
Henna and Leo!
Andrew and Carina!
Emily and Cammy!
Alyssa and Cassidy!
Adeline and Smores!

    After the ceremony, we enjoyed cake and chips. Then most of the kids went outside to play together one last time. Some of us were leaving for home, some going back to the hotel, but I think all of us felt a little bittersweet about saying goodbye. It was an amazing experience, and we made some wonderful new friends :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Training Day 8

    Today was the last day of training! Tomorrow morning Dante and I have our public access test, and then it's off to 4 Paws for paperwork and then Graduation! We are going first, so we have to be at the mall at 9:30am. We'll finish testing around 10:30, and then we'll be going back to the hotel to pick up Brianna and the kids before heading to 4 Paws.
    It seems like yesterday that we were leaving to come up here, and now it's almost time to go home. It might not have been a long time, but it has definitely been tiring. I feel like I'm about to drop from sheer exhaustion. The kids are tired too. Tristen had a rough day today, and Rebecka has been getting whinier and whinier. I haven't had much patience these past couple of days either. We're definitely looking forward to going home.
    This morning we did our usual basic obedience practice drills. The afternoon was spent listening to Jeremy go over information about taking the dogs home. We talked about how to introduce them to other pets, how to keep them safe in and around the home, and how to incorporate them into our daily lives, among other things. We have to keep in mind that the dogs will be in a totally new environment, and the only thing that will be constant for them is us. It will take time for them to get used to their new home, and it's important that we are consistent with them. This means daily obedience drills, and reinforcing the "rules" with them. They have to realize that they have to listen and obey regardless of where they are. It is perfectly normal for the dogs to test the boundaries once we return home after graduation. After all, they have been around the trainers at 4 Paws for so long, and then one day they look around and think "Okay, I haven't seen Jeremy (or Jennifer, Jessa, Christie, or the other trainers) at all for several days now, I wonder if the rules still apply..." It is our job to let them know that Yes, the rules still apply.
    After class Jessa helped me give Dante a bath. I was a bit intimidated by his hair. I didn't want to end up getting it tangled, but Jessa told me that the only thing I could really do was brush it out good before wetting him down, and then brushing him again once he was completely dry. The other dogs were bathed in the dog tub that they have in one of the restrooms, but Dante fit into one of the sinks, lol! Once I toweled him off a bit we used the dog blow dryer on him. He didn't like it at all. I'm hoping he will take better to our dryer at home, or at least learn to tolerate it. At least he is small enough that he can't really put up too much of a fight. Not like Ajax who has to be manhandled into a bath, lol!
    I am packing up most of our stuff tonight and getting it loaded into the van. The more I can get done tonight, the less I will have to do in the morning. I really don't want to have to get up any earlier than absolutely necessary, so I'm fairly motivated ;)  We look forward to seeing all of our friends soon :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Training Day 7

    Only 2 days left to go! Well, technically only one, since Friday we aren't in class but taking our public access tests. This morning was spent practicing the same things that we've been working on all along. If we want to form the working relationship with the dogs that we need to be an effective team we must practice, practice, practice. Dante and I are doing pretty well, we're definitely bonding, and more and more he's looking to me for direction and reassurance instead of the trainers. He is still a bit skittish when Tristen makes sudden movements, but I can't say that I blame him; Tristen is a pretty intense kid at times ;)  He does know that Tristen has the best treats, and Tristen is the "keeper of the toys", so they are bonding well too. I don't play with Dante, I will pet him and give him love, but if he wants to play he has to seek out Tristen. This is one thing that will really help them bond; Dante absolutely loves his ball, and Tristen loves throwing it :)
    Karen came in and talked with us about some of the legal aspects of public access. She also shared some of her personal experiences with her service dogs. There were several amusing stories, as well as tales of struggles and challenges. It's really important for us to understand that there will be times that we are challenged, and to know the best ways to deal with those times. It's a tight-rope walk of sorts: you can't allow your child's civil rights to be violated, but at the same time we are ambassadors for service dogs everywhere, and want people to have positive experiences with us and the dogs. We need to educate the public whenever possible.
    After lunch we went back to the mall for more practice. Dante did a lot better heeling today. He is getting more confident each time we go out. He did especially well ignoring all the distractions at the mall. The area where we meet is right by the food court and the children's play area, so there's no shortage of distractions, lol! It's incredible just how many people will try to get a dog's attention when they see them out and about. It feels like I'm constantly hearing "Oh what a pretty dog!", "Come here pretty dog!", or sometimes people will just make smooching noises or even bark at the dog (little old men and teenage boys are especially bad about this). I get pretty proud of Dante for ignoring all of it :)
    Once class was over, Dante and I stopped at Wal*Mart to pick up a few things. Dante was perfectly behaved :) He heeled perfectly, he sat perfectly, he was just awesome :) Of course, everyone was staring at us in there too. There were a few negative comments about him being in the store, from customers, not associates, but I just ignored them. I did hear this one woman say "THAT'S A DOG! A DOG!" in a really disgusted manner. I was really tempted to look at Dante and say "Don't let her fool you, you know you're a cat," but I was a good girl and held my tongue. I can already tell that it's going to be a lot different taking Dante with us than it was taking Ajax. Many people don't seem to believe that such a little dog can be a real service dog. But yes, he is a real service dog, and he knows his job and does it well :)
    The kids and I went back to the training center after dinner for some playtime. It has become part of our routine here, and I'm so glad that we are able to go over there! It definitely helps for the kids, and Dante, to get some of that energy out. Rebecka played with Daisy while we were there. She is so excited that Daddy agreed to let her bring Daisy home :) When it was time to leave, she gave her a hug and a kiss goodbye and said "Bye Daisy! I love you, and will take you home with me on Friday!" It was so cute :)

Training Day 6

    Okay, okay, I know... I skipped days 4 and 5. But in all honesty I have been absolutely exhausted, and I've had homework to do as well. I finally finished all of my statistics homework at about 12:30am, so it was a half an hour late. Hopefully my professor won't hold it against me, seeing as how it's not like she's grading our work at 12:30am, lol.
    We practiced our basic obedience this morning. We heeled the dogs around the room while Jennifer (one of the trainers) threw out distractions like humongous piles of treats and different toys that the dogs like. Then we put our dogs in a down and walked around the room, watching them to make sure they stayed put. Dante did really well. He still has a tendency to stand up whenever someone (or another dog) walks too close to him, but I don't think it's disobedience so much as self-preservation, lol.
    This afternoon we went to the mall to practice working the dogs in public. Dante and I worked especially hard on heeling, as he likes to try to walk in front of me instead of beside me at the mall. Everywhere else he does great heeling, but I think he's a bit intimidated in the mall with all the people. Honestly, I can't say that I blame the little guy. Jeremy told me that there would be certain times and situations where it would just be best for me to pick Dante up and carry him to prevent him from being stepped on. I can totally see me doing that from time to time. But he has to walk in the mall during our public access test on Friday, so we'll continue practicing. I think we'll do just fine :)
    After dinner, we went to the training center to let the kids, and Dante, run off some energy. Rebecka spent the entire time there holding her kitty. She has named her Daisy.

    Daisy has really taken to Rebecka. She saw Rebecka walk up to the kennel and practically crawled over top of the other kittens to get to her :)  She was licking Rebecka's face and fingers, and was perfectly content to sit in Rebecka's lap or ride in her arms :)
    Good news! Nathan told Rebecka that she could bring Daisy home! I think he knew that it was going to happen one way or the other, but I'm so glad that he agreed to it willingly :)  He did say that she had to stay outside, but I think we'll be able to work around that too ;) 
    Well, it's 1am and I'm tired, so I'm going to bed. I'll do my best to not miss any more days :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Training: Day 3

    Today was day three for Dante and I. We worked on basic obedience again this morning. It's very important that we practice a lot, and the dogs learn that they have to listen to what we say. I think Dante is doing very well, especially considering that we got a late start. He is already starting to look to me for direction, which is really good. At one point today, Jeremy had me put Dante into a "down" just a few feet away from Christie (I hope I spelled her name right), who is the trainer who worked with Dante the most. Dante absolutely loves Christie, and  I was a bit concerned that he would get up and run to her as soon as he thought I wasn't looking. Nope, he did GREAT!
    After lunch we discussed healthcare and grooming, as well as what types of toys they are allowed to have. I was especially interested in the grooming part, as Dante's  coat is quite different from Ajax's. Dante is a fluffy little guy, and it was nice to hear that it won't take a lot of extra effort to keep his hair nice and neat, just a different type of brush :) I also learned that I'll need to blow dry his hair after bathing him. I might just have to give him a bath at the training center sometime in the next week, just to see how he's going to react to the dryer, lol.
    Once class was over, I went back to the hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat, then Brianna and I took the kids back to the 4 Paws training facility for about an hour or so. I wanted to give Tristen and Dante a chance to play without having to worry about all the barking, lol! I had told the trainers this morning that I was worried that Dante would get us in trouble at the hotel with all his barking when he and Tristen played in the evening. I also didn't want to stop them from playing, because they are bonding so well, and that's important too. I sat in the training room and watched Tristen and Dante play fetch with Dante's toy bear,

and Brianna sat with Rebecka in the other room while she played with a little white kitty. She is calling it "her kitty" now. I know that Nathan doesn't really want another animal in the house, but Rebecka is so in love with this kitten, and I can't tell her no. It looks like I might end up being in trouble when we get home ;)

    We got back to the hotel, and Tristen and Dante were both tuckered out :) Dante did bark a couple of times wanting to play, but it was pretty easy for me to get him to settle for sitting on the couch being petted. He's definitely getting more comfortable with Tristen petting him and holding him, even though I'm still sitting beside them to make sure everything is going okay.
    Well, I'm off to bed. I have to leave early in the morning to stop by PetSmart again. Dante needs a Nylabone to chew on, before he tears his ball up, and Rebecka wanted me to buy a pink collar for "her kitty" :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Training: Day 2

    Tristen woke me up bright and early this morning at 6:30am. He wanted me to take Dante out to go potty so they could play with the ball again :)  They played until breakfast time. Dante didn't want to eat his food, I think he was holding out because he knew he would get lots of treats during class today. We had a bit of a power struggle over him not wanting to take the medicine that the vet provided (a precautionary antacid to prevent upset stomach from eating so many treats during training). I tried hiding it in a piece of Pupperoni, but he wasn't fooled at all. He ate the treat and spit the pill out. Luckily I'm not new to this game. I made him swallow it, and he gave me a look that said "Oh you evil woman!" LOL! He didn't hold it against me though. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, now that he knows I won't fall for any tricks ;)
    Tristen and Rebecka stayed at the hotel with Brianna today while Dante and I went to class. Most of the bonding between Tristen and Dante will take place at the hotel anyway, Tristen just gets too overstimulated at the training center, and it give Dante and I a chance to practice the skills we need without me being distracted. It's instinct for me to keep an eye on the kids, even if someone else is with them, so it was nice to be able to relax so to speak.
    We practiced some basic obedience today, mostly heeling and staying in a "down" even with distractions. After a break for lunch we all met at the mall (!) to get in some practice in an uncontrolled environment. It was crazy! Dante drew so much attention, mostly because he is so tiny and many people don't understand that service dogs come in all sizes. We heard lots of "Awwwww, he's so cute!", and more than one person came up and petted him without asking first. He behaved wonderfully though, he wouldn't even hardly pay attention to them unless I told him that he could "say hi." He was so serious while heeling too, his posture and gait clearly said "I'm working right now, that's right, I'm important."
   Once training was over, we left the mall and stopped at PetSmart before going to the hotel. I bought Dante a brush and a portable water dish, and let him pick out a new toy. He got this tiny little stuffed teddy bear with a squeaker inside. When we got back to the hotel, I handed the bear to Tristen and told him to give it to Dante. Of course Tristen heard it squeak and decided to squeeze it over and over and over again. Which Dante absolutely LOVED! He was jumping around Tristen, wanting him to throw it. So Tristen threw it and Dante ran and got it. He would bring it back to Tristen, drop it, and bark at Tristen to throw it again. They must have played for an hour total! They were both worn out by the time they were done.
 After they finished playing, we had dinner. Then they decided it was time for round 2. I don't think I've ever heard Tristen giggle and laugh as much as he did tonight :)
    I was also pleasantly surprised when Tristen ran up to Dante and started petting him. Dante didn't even try to move. This is a big deal, because Dante is such a little guy, and yesterday he was a little jumpy when Tristen would run up to him and make sudden movements. It's all about size, and the fact that Tristen was towering over him while running up. He's definitely starting to get more comfortable with Tristen. I don't think it will take too long for them to form a strong bond.
    After they finished playing again, it was time for baths and bed. We've got another long day of training ahead of us tomorrow, so I'm going to say goodnight as well :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Day at Training!

    Today started early, with Tristen telling me "Wake up Mommy, let's go get Dante!" After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel (ham, egg & cheese burritos, hash browns, bacon, and fruit cocktail) we took off for 4 Paws. I was proud of myself for not getting lost, lol, after all I haven't been here for over two years and Nathan did all the driving last time. 
    The training center is just as awesome as I remembered. We went in and the kids made a beeline for the play area. A few minutes later Jennifer, one of the trainers, brought Dante over to meet Tristen. And that's when the first meltdown happened. Honestly, I think that he was just overstimulated already, and the excitement of finally meeting "his Dante" was just too much for him to handle. It was a bad meltdown too, he was really lashing out at me (it's always aimed at me), kicking and scratching. I took him outside and we called Daddy to help calm him down. After a little bit we were ready to go back inside.
    Jennifer and I decided that it would be better to take Tristen and Dante outside to the fenced in play area so they could get to know each other a little better while having plenty of room to move around (plus we could take Dante off the leash, which Tristen was determined that HE was going to hold- yeah, tiny little dog, not gonna happen...). So we went outside and played ball with Dante for a little while before going back inside.
    I think the time outside did Tristen a lot of good too; he was a lot calmer when we went back in, and played with the toys while I worked with Dante on basic commands. I had quite a bit to go over, seeing as training actually started two days ago. It will take me a day or two, but I think we'll catch up with the rest of the class soon enough. We worked on sit, down, place, heel, and under as well as one of the behavior disruption commands- touch. Dante is an absolutely brilliant little dog, and he quickly realized that he was supposed to listen to me. One of the other trainers took me outside to work with us a bit on corrections and heeling; it's definitely a lot different working with a tiny dog like Dante than it is a huge dog like Ajax! I wanted to make sure that I was correcting him properly; I was so afraid of hurting the little guy accidentally!
    I was glad that training ended when it did. Tristen was getting a bit overwhelmed again (there were several wheelchairs and a couple of walkers, and my guy is obsessed with wheels), and it seemed like Dante was too. I think he was happy to get back to the hotel, away from all the hustle and bustle.
    He and Tristen spent a little time relaxing on the sofa 

And then I put him in the crate while we had dinner. That's when Tristen had meltdown #2. Dante needed a break, and Tristen just didn't want to give it to him. But I was determined to give Dante a little down time and we finally got everyone calmed down (Yeah, I was getting a bit worked up too, we were all tired, overwhelmed, and stressed out).
    The trainers told me that Dante really likes balls, so I bought him one this evening. It's red (Tristen's favorite color) and has a little bell in it. He absolutely loves it, and I had Tristen rolling it for him. They had so much fun playing with the ball! I really think that it will help them bond with each other. But then Dante got so excited that he started barking and I couldn't get him to stop! I finally had to take the ball and put it up because between Dante barking and Tristen laughing, it was getting way too loud in here!
    Dante still isn't too sure about being close to Tristen without me right there with him. I can't say I blame him, Tristen is a lot bigger than him and when he moves fast it startles Dante. They just need time to get to know each other better; I know the bond will come eventually. It just takes time and work. So when bedtime came, I went and laid down with Tristen, because he wanted Dante to lay down with him. 
    Now he's asleep

And I'm going to go take a long warm bath :) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leaving tomorrow!

  The time just seems to have flown by! It doesn't seem like it's been that long since we decided to undertake this trip to Ohio to get Tristen a new service dog. But here we are, ready to get on the road as early as possible tomorrow. I'm hoping to arrive at the hotel early enough to get us settled in time for my classes tomorrow evening.
  It also doesn't seem possible that I am now 35 weeks pregnant with our third child! I have to admit, I've spent the last few days wondering how I'm ever going to be comfortable away from home for the next week and a half. I definitely plan on taking several different pillows and such in hopes of being at least semi-comfy! Nathan is going to have his hands full while we are gone. There are still many things to do before the baby is born, and I'll be just 2 days shy of 37 weeks when we get home.
  Tristen is so darn excited about going to get Dante that he had trouble getting to sleep tonight :)  Heck, it's all he's talked about for weeks now. Every day he's asked me if it's time to go to 4 Paws and get Dante yet. It was so great today to be able to tell him "Just one more sleep, sweetie, just one more sleep." I just know that he's going to be upset tomorrow though, when we get to the hotel and he realizes that he won't actually get to see Dante until Thursday. Oh well, I suppose I'll deal with that when we get there. Hopefully the other families will understand when I make the kids stay in our room with Brianna while I go to say hello to everyone. I just don't want Tristen to see the other dogs if at all possible until it's actually time to go meet Dante. He doesn't know that the training class actually started today, and we were just given a 2 day grace period.
  Well, I had better try to get some sleep. We've got an early morning and a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Keep us in your prayers, it's gonna be an interesting 10 days :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Only 2 days left, and so much to do!

  That's right, only 2 days left! We have a ton of things to do on Monday and Tuesday, and then we'll be leaving Wednesday for Ohio! Thursday morning we'll get to meet Dante for the first time. Tristen is so excited, he's been bugging me nonstop wanting to leave early :)
  I will do my absolute best to update both here and on Facebook every evening, but no promises, lol! It will be a very busy 10 days. They are letting us arrive two days late to training (it actually starts on Tuesday), so I had to promise to work extra hard while we are there. On the 29th, Dante and I will have to take, and pass, the public access test in order to qualify for public certification.
  To say we are excited is an understatement. We have seen the amazing progress that Tristen made thanks to Ajax. Now we are anticipating the changes that Dante will bring to Tristen's life.
  Thank you Lord, for creating this opportunity for us, and for providing everything we needed to make this happen. Thank you friends, for supporting our family, and me, through this process. We couldn't have done it without you :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

And the countdown has begun!

  I know I haven't posted in a long time, but we've had quite a bit going on. We finished up the Avon fundrasier. Unfortunately, it didn't do as well as I had hoped, but it did raise $30 towards our trip. We've also had a few people donate some money. Between the money that our church generously gave us, donations from individuals, the fundrasier, and what Nathan and I have managed to put back, we have just about enough money to go. Which is good since we leave in 10 days! I get paid the day we leave, so hopefully I'll be able to squeeze a little out of that check too.
  My awesome cousin, Brianna, is going to go with me to help with the kids. I am SO happy about this, because I really can't imagine a better person to be stuck in a hotel room with for a week and a half, lol :)  I am truly blessed to be able to call her family :)
  Every morning Tristen tells me that it's time to go to 4 Paws. He says "First, go get Brianna. Then go to 4 Paws and get Dante!" He is so ready to go. I can't wait either, I just know that this is the right thing for us to do. And even though the days at training are tiring and long, I look forward to doing it again.
  I must say that the timing of everything lately has got me a bit frazzled. When we return from training, I will be two days shy of 37 weeks pregnant. So basically, baby can come just about any time once we get home! Of course with us going to Ohio, that means that I need to get everything ready for baby BEFORE we leave! AAAHHHHHH! I don't even have the curtains up in the baby's room yet (Thank goodness baby will be sleeping with me for the first little while anyway)! And we still have boxes that we haven't unpacked from when we moved in July! Oh yeah, and I have schoolwork to do, lol!
  So much to do, so little time. And I'm tired, so I'm going to go get some sleep while I still can. Nathan can't go to Ohio with us because of work, but that also means that he'll be here to get some things done without the kids distracting him. I don't think he really understands just how long the "Honey Do" list is going to be, lol ;)