Flavoring your life

Tina Here.

 

When you are sick or broken as often as me. You start to loose hope in things quickly. Goals that once seemed doable are now far out of reach. You loose the motivation to push on for the things you care about. You loose a large part of what you feel makes you. I push and push when it comes to dealing with just everyday life. I am so sick of my personal daily grind of just convincing myself that getting out of bed is worth the effort.

When you have to push to get every little bit you can, finding the drive to do the things you want to do becomes nearly impossible. However, When you find people to support you and understand you, you can make a sucky outlook seem like the past.

I just got done working at RTX for my 3rd year. I love working at conventions because they show you how much a group of strangers can come togeather like a family to support a cause they love. I enjoyed every second of my time at RTX this year and even with my limitations I knew that I could rely on my RTX family to have my back.

Izzy was a huge help and loved by everyone. She alerted not only to my anxiety and things but also when someone else would come in and they were battling things too. She just looked at each person and seemed to give more attention to those who later told me they had been having a really hard time until they saw Izzy. That warmed my heart more than anything. My service dog was not just a service to me, but to my extended family as well. She never barked at another dog or person. She waited for me to tell her to say hello before she walked over to people. She was the most amazing 5-month-old Great Dane puppy that I could have ever asked for. She set a standard that I was proud to see was so much more than I could have hoped. We educated, we loved, and we took care of everyone. Those are the things I love doing the most. So because of Izzy, I had the best RTX ever and I can’t wait for next year.

Things like RTX and PAXSouth are events I look forward to every year. I push myself to go to them despite how my body is feeling or how many things I think will go wrong. I use it to push myself past my limits and show myself that I am capable of working with my environment.

Now to start working on my book… Oh man. I just opened a can on myself there. Well, time to get writing on that.

Izzy – Week 4

Izzy is gaining traction this week with her learning. We need to start practicing outside but for now, we are impressing our SD trainers with how well she handles new people and situations. She also has several of the more advanced things happening, which means that now that she has gotten her booster she should be good to start working in the public! A very exciting step for both of us as it means she is getting closer to being able to work with me everywhere. She is still only 3 months old but she is making some amazing progress. She is also progressing in her height and weight.

 

Digging and chewing on things we don’t want her to have, like my lawn butterfly. I got a chance to have my cousin and son work with her and see what training her is like. So here are some more fun pictures from that.

Also, she has figured out she is now tall enough to put her paws up on the counter and peek what might be up there for her. Which means we need to control that now or risk never being able to hide anything from her again!

HOMEWORK:

  1. Continue to work on being able to open the front door without her trying to get out or say hello to whoever is there.
  2. Continue practice on heel and keeping her next to my side when training.
  3. Keep up the invisible barriers
  4. Recall!!!!!!!!!
  5. Recall!!!!!!
  6. and RECALL!

If you can’t tell, recall is going to be one we need quite a lot and she needs to know it without any issues. I hope to start taking her to what my trainers keep calling, “The depot” which, I don’t know what that means but apparently it is a place where lots of service dog teams meet up for socializing and working with their pups and getting tips from old pros who might offer some help.

Either way, Izzy and I are stoked to get out there and start meeting other people and teams and get our training some practice.

Izzy – Week 3

This week saw a lot of growth. We got ready to go to OKC (Oklahoma City) to pick up my oldest child and my sweet cousin, I took Izzy to get a full check up and to make sure she would be okay to travel. The vet let us know that she did have a blatter infection and that she was all set to travel. We knew that we would have to make frequent stops and allow her time to try to go potty as many times as she needed. I also found she had grown another whopping 4lbs, bringing her total up to 28.6. With a nearly 30lb puppy, I knew she had to be restrained in the car so we could keep her safe and everyone happy on the road. I got a seat cover, and harness seatbelt latching system for her. I laid down her bed since she understands that as a place to relax.

Well, it worked well enough. I ended up with two sleepy heads on our way into town.

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Nik having decided to color on himself and the dog ended up with the markers revoked but they still had a fun time togeather. When we got into town, Kris took out her playpen and set it up into a travel kennel, since her’s was too big to fit in the car. She wasn’t so sure about it at first, so Zac and Nik climbed in and hung out in there to show her it was a nice place to go. Being the puppy that loves everyone that she is, she walked right in with them. I was tempted to leave them all there and go see a movie but, my mother guilt kicked in.

We packed everyone up and moved Izzy to the back with a blanket blocking the back window to help keep her shaded. We checked on her several times but she seemed to enjoy being able to sit up and check on her boys at any time. This lead to several very cute moments where the boys had their arms stretched behind them as they loved on her or played tug over the seat. But as I was the driver of our trip I couldn’t get all the cuteness in pictures. I did manage, however, to get Kris to snag this cute one.

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We met with our Service Dog trainer and she gave me a few things to work on with her. The biggest thing is controlling her boundaries with only my voice. Making invisible lines around the house and keeping her under control when opening the door. Also her general manners. Learning how to great people. Now with a house full of three very different boys, it will make her week so much more interesting.

 

Izzy – Week 2

Rounding the corner I feel we have a better understanding of how the house runs. Izzy needs to potty, she gives us a few quiet whines then squats. I’ll tell you what, we are keeping our local HEB out of paper towels… SO MANY MESSES!

Besides the battle of the bladder, we have been working hard at getting Izzy ready for service dog training by working on some basic commands. I had thought to enroll her in a class at my local Petsmart but seeing as how I have limited time this summer to spend with my boys before they both start new adventures, (Kindergarten and Jr. High!) I figured I could work most of it out on my own and get help from books, videos and my hired trainer after we get started with her.

Here are some pictures of a training session with me and Izzy.

First up. Sit.

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I try and teach a hand sign with the words so that if for some reason I couldn’t talk or thought she couldn’t hear me, I could still clearly communicate with her what I expect her to do. For sit, I face one of my hands, normally the one holding the treat, with my palm up and fingers down then pull them up in a single motion as if beckoning someone to come near.

Being a large dog she won’t be sitting much. The trainer said that we should focus more on down and heel rather than sit. Which I get. However. I expect my dogs to sit before being fed or pet. I figure I can transition this to down easily enough since she is learning both.

Which means, next up is Down.

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You can kind of see my hand here because she is still very young, I sit on the floor and use my finger to directly point where I want her face to go. I have started to slowly change this to just a flat hand, palm downward and moving downward motion. However, for now, it is easiest to get her to follow the treat and go to the ground.

Down will be useful in general transportation, meeting new people, going to a restaurant, and just the normal everyday meeting of people. People tend to be least scared of dogs if they are seen in a resting pose such as down. With a big girl like Izzy, it will be best if she defaults to down when relaxing and not focusing on a task.

Speaking of tasks, Ready, Fetch and, Leave it.

Playing tug is one of Izzy’s favorite way to spend time with her humans. As such it provides a great chance to turn her favorite game into a learning chance. She loves to bound around and play tug with her lion, but if I wait and don’t play along she will drop the toy and wait to see what I will do next. I give her a treat and tell her good leave it. Then engage in play with her again. I start using the words leave it when I stop play. Then I get her focus on the treat and my face. The last picture up there she is looking at the treat but she was splitting her focus between me and the treat. Waiting to see if she was doing the right thing.

Fetch was pretty easy. I just tossed it far enough away from me that I could easily grab it again and engage in play. Then she caught on and started to try to get it faster than me. I started throwing it farther and farther and each time she picked it up praising her and clapping and calling for her to return to play.

This is one of her favorite things to do and will play with anyone who picks up one of her fetch toys.

Next up, a silly one. Bang, Bang.

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When having fun with her my brother commented that I should teach her a silly trick that the kids might think was cute or could help break the ice with new people who might be unsure about her. His suggestion was, and I quote, “Dog. Play dead where the tongue luls out of the mouth.” Well, this was quite a task. So breaking it down into smaller parts I knew I would need her to understand what I wanted her to do when I said the phrase “Bang, Bang.” I started by having her go to down then pulled the treat along her side toward her belly till she started to lay on her back. Then I would touch her ribs and say bang bang. Now she has gotten to the point where my 5-year-old can touch her ribs with his finger and say it and she instantly falls over to her side. It amused him to no end and I am sure she gained a full pound from the treats from him because of it.

Back to the practical. Touch, Paw and, Other Paw.

This one seemed to be something she did on her own. She pawed at me for a treat when waiting for another command. I took the opportunity to put a name to it and treat her for it. Touch isn’t anything difficult for Izzy but sometimes it takes her a minute to figure out if you want Paw or touch with the nose.

The hand sign I use is a pinched pointer and thumb holding the treat and three fingers upward for a surface for her to touch.

Lastly, but most practiced! Heel and watch me.

These two are insanely important for a service dog to do. They must be able to heel at a command and with anyone and watch their person for any signs or symptoms that problems are coming up. I personally have a few ticks that I never noticed but my husband has and pointed out to me. These are some of the things she will be trained to watch for, but first, she has to learn to watch!

She has always stuck very close to whichever human is of the highest rank in her chart that is with her. I come in first, then Kris and Nik, then Watson our roommate. (because he loves on her and talks sweetly to her and she only sees him rarely) She is a velcro puppy and I am using that to my advantage to teach her that walking with us is more rewarding than trying to rebel.

Update, The puppy nibbling has reached a slow down except for when she gets too worked up. A quick time out in her playpen for 5 to 10 mins helps her to understand that we don’t want to play with her or have her hang out with us if she is going to bite on us. Kisses have become much more common. Everyone in the house has been instructed to keep their hands away from her mouth and that if she does start to nibble to ignore her and walk away if possible.

She went to the vet for her Microchip and Rabies shot since she will be traveling out of town with me on Memorial day weekend. The bonus was we learned she has grown 4lbs since last week!

Welp, see you all next week!

Izzy – Week 1

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So as Izzy joined our house we got her all the needed things. Tons of treats for training, things to chew on, a bed and crate, and a vet appointment for her first set of puppy shots.

We were all excited! Nik was so happy to have a little puppy he could play with until she nipped him. Yes, my amazing find of a pup had a big problem with using her mouth correctly. Not a great trait for a service dog to have. The risk of biting someone when upset or startled is too high if left unchecked. So, our laundry list of things to work on with her grew. Walking on a leash (for everyone, not just Tina), Not peeing in the house (or submissively to Kris, cause he is so scary!), and not using our mouth to show how happy and excited we are to play with or meet people.

 

I can say that this week we have seen a slow change of understanding that we prefer to be licked not bit and a clear understanding that she doesn’t want to leave my side for any reason. Which I guess is good but also a bit much with a 5-year-old and a puppy.

I have been up and about around the house more often. I am getting up when my husband goes downstairs so I can take care of Izzy and I have been using muscles that had been neglected and are sharing that via the soreness and pain I feel each night.

But I mean, really, look at this girl!

Also here is a little picture of the schedule that I have been trying with her. I am sure I will end up adjusting this as we get farther along.

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And a cute little gif of my pup learning toys are for mouth not hands.

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Well, that is all for this week, I will post a new Izzy weekly update next Saturday!

Intro to Izzy

I have PTSD, anxiety, & depression. I have been in therapy for around 6 months and I have also been seeing a Psychiatrist. All of this was a pile up on me and got worse because I had refused to seek help for it. After being asked by my Therapist Jane, what I was planning on doing when Nik started school I started to worry.

 

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Making me feel older each day!

 

Not able to think of anything and being fed up with taking pills that knocked me out when I had an anxiety attack, I started searching for other ways of dealing with it.

Did you know that when you search YouTube for PTSD anxiety and ways to deal with it, a large portion of videos come up that deal with service dogs. Most of them focused on veterans, but the information was out there. The more I started to search for service dogs the more I started thinking this was a great idea. I had trained several dogs before this point and figured that training my own service dog would be a great way to spend my time.

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So after talking to my therapist Jane I agreed with her and my psychiatrist that getting a service dog could be very beneficial to me. So I began to learn how to assess service dogs and how to figure out which dog would make a good service dog then my hunt for a service dog begin. So I began to learn how to assess service dogs and how to figure out which dog would make a good service dog then my hunt for a service dog begin. I contacted several different agencies to see if they would work with me and training a service dog however majority of them prefer to work with veterans and we would not work with me and had a waiting list of up to two years. So I found a local service that helps you train a dog you already have and is based in San Antonio just south of me so I signed up for it and went in search of a service dog.

The first dog I meant was named the doctor he was a great Dane who was a year and a half all he did really well on all of the tests that I performed with him. However, when it came to dealing with my husband he wanted nothing to do with him. His barking and hiding from my husband were a sure sign that he wouldn’t be acceptable as a service dog since he would need to interact with a variety of people on a daily basis.

Then off to see a sweet little girl Great Dane pup.

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First meeting the sweet puppy, I had to take a deep calming breath as I looked at this adorable little pup with honey colored eyes. Kris looked at me and raised one eyebrow, seeming to check on my mental state. I smiled at him and then explained to the woman what tests I would be doing and that it would take a little bit of time. Each and every test I put her way she seemed to know just what I wanted. I held her and checked out her ears and mouth and saw some fleas on her chest. Well… let me tell you. I have a huge problem with fleas. To the point that my husband, therapist, and psychiatrist all thought I might have OCD because of the way I react to them. Typically by scratching off my skin or boiling myself under unhealthily hot water.

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Even with that said, I couldn’t deny how she seemed to just gravitate toward me and sat with me when I got down on the ground. She even now is super close to me at all times. She loves to just sit next to me and chew on toys or hang out in the kitchen with me.

I felt she was going to be amazing as a service dog. Everything in me told me that this was going to be awesome. So we took her home.

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I am going to hold off here and have our first week with Izzy in another blog post on Saturday. Where I will post about Izzy each week and blog about our progress into becoming a fully-fledged Service Dog!