Happy Birthday!

Kris here,

Tina thought she was being hilarious and posted like a 2 sentence blog earlier about it being her birthday but c’mon now, we gotta do more than that. Even though she did, I can’t just right out put a number to my wife’s age, but I can hint that it’s somewhere roughly exactly at the square root of 30². It feels like we just started dating and we’ve already been married for about 64 years now – look at us during Christmastime in Oklahoma City when we were just kids. How adorable!

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You can really tell a lot from this picture. Tina loves holidays, I love taking glamorous selfies, and dignified is my best pose. Also I think that little girl in the background was being attacked by wild turkeys or something but she’s probably fine.

Tina is an amazing wife and an amazing friend to share my life with. She and I have been on some hilarious adventures together

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and she’s a master craftsman

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One time she even befriended the ghost of a Pikachu

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She’s a woman of many talents, and I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do if she puts her mind to it. Everyone be sure to take a moment to wish Tina a happy 19th-ish birthday and we’ll get you some more Izzy updates in a couple of days.

 

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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.

 

Alma- Chapter 1

Whenever Alma thought of an adult, she thought of the firm stiff nature that her mother possessed. Her mother was a force. She could hold people at bay with nothing but the sound of her firm voice. She never wavered when she had made up her mind and she never backed down. Alma often thought of her mother when she was out shopping and someone snagged the last roll of bread or butted into her conversation with the butcher to order their own meat. Alma never had to be hard. She was soft spoken and soft in spirit. She followed readily down any path that others had already made a trail for. Alma was soft in the ways of dealing with anyone. She often saw herself as a cloud and her mother as a tall mountain. The clouds would never break through the mountains, she just had to bend and split and make her way around them. Conforming to the needs and wants that lay before her.

It was a sad but easy life for Alma. Until the day mother died. The brisk men in dark suits showed up and demanded this or that. Stating that her mother had no right to keep them from it. Alma could do nothing but sit by as the men took things from her home to pay for the rest of the debt on the house. She would get to keep living there but with far less of the art and specialty pieces her mother had fawned over. She was left with her own meager mattress and the books. Her father had loved books. He had spent his whole life learning and collecting as many stories as he could. He was a dreamer and very soft as well. Alma supposed that is why mother was so hard, to counter father’s soft. Father passed away when Alma was only 10 years of age. Her mother had made talk of taking out the books and turning the room into a rented room for extra income. That was the only day that little Alma took a stand. Well, rather a sit. She sat in front of the doors to the office all day and night. Refusing to move, no matter the beating promised or candies offered. She sat there clutching tightly the last story her father had read to her.

If she thought back carefully she supposes that one could say mother was proud of Alma for finding something to hold on to. Even mother had hated the idea of getting rid of such a large collection that was such a part of their lives. So she gave in on this one thing, with the solid understanding that Alma was to be the sole owner of the office and as such, it was her job to keep it neat and tidy. Every morning Alma would set to work dusting off all the shelves of books, stacking neatly the last round of reading, shoveling out the ash from the fireplace and hauling it all out. She made sure that nothing was out of place or kept incorrectly. One small thing for her mother to latch onto and Alma feared she would take all of her joy.

The books were a shared world where Alma didn’t feel small. She felt as brave as the young lost boy on a magical island, or as fearless as the small girl who followed a rabbit. She would find herself wondering how such wonderful and amazing people were even thought up. The only people around her were all quite practical and reasonable people who kept to themselves and worked hard to keep their reputations quite high. She never was able to find people like in her book. Until the night she met Ro’dan. Ro’dan was a young boy who had attempted to cut her purse. Alma having read every book in the large office found many that talked about how to avoid such things from happening. She also realised that this boy likely didn’t have any choice in the matter and was doing so just to save his own skin. Alma caught Ro’dan’s hand swiftly and pulled him close.

“Listen closely, I will make it seem as if I am so upset at what you are doing and hauling you off. You must follow and make it look good for whoever might be watching you.”

Ro’dan was just confused and shocked at the speed of this younger looking lady. By the way she dressed and acted he had thought her to be a spinster for sure. Now looking at her closely he could tell that her eyes and face showed a much younger and lively looking young woman. He wasn’t sure what she was talking about but when she started making a fuss and talking about constables, he was pulling as hard as he could to get away from her shrill voice of alarm. However, her arms and hands were much stronger than he suspected and she easily pulled him down the street and around to an ally way out of sight of his crew. He looked up in worry as this crazed young woman watched people running around and looking confused. She had managed to cause chaos as people started to notice their own pouches emptied. She had a mad smile spread across her face and she turned to face him with those excited eyes.

“You are someone I have been waiting to meet for a long time. Please come with me and have tea.” Before Ro’dan could give a response, Alma took him once again leadingly by the wrist and dragged him all the way to her home.

From the outside, Ro’dan could tell this girl was well enough off. She should have been no different than the average victim of his snatches. However, this girl had reflexes too fast for him to see and a power that rivaled even his own master’s power. She was strong in a surprising way that kept Ro’dan silently waiting for an opening to get away.

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!

The Grumpy Penguin

Kris here,

So some time ago while we were all hanging around and I was probably doing some manly dad things, like grilling outdoors or twisting off tight jar lids or something, when I had the bright idea “Hey Nik and I should write a story!” So I then said aloud “Hey Nik and I should write a story!”

Tina was totally down with this on account of it not including any work on her part, but Nikolai was apparently heartbroken. Do you know how long he’d waited to play with those toys? It might’ve been watching his tablet too but let’s go with the toys thing. He was yelling and crying and calling 911 and generally just making a ruckus that I don’t think was necessarily apt for the situation. So, of course, I sat down and started writing the story about him, out loud, while writing everything to paper. He gradually grew less and less fussy and started laughing because I’m the best and we all learned something at the end (dad had to google because he was making outlandish allegations that nobody was sure of.)

Right after we’d finished writing it down to paper, Nik and I read the story to Tina as a whole instead of the broken sentences I used while I was actually writing it down. Tina did that thing she does where she’s the best and there were suddenly illustrations! And now we have a brief and amusing story that still gets told before bed from time to time – we thought we’d post it on our blog here, in case anyone else was able to make their toddler giggle at the antics of The Grumpy Penguin.

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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!