Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today's blog was supposed to be all about my volunteer shift at PAALS and Mr. Kyo, but so much has happened in such a short time, that this will be a mishmash of a little bit of everything.

Let's start with Balloo. Yesterday morning when I left for PAALS everything was fine. All dogs were fed, watered and had been out twice. I put him and Aria in their respective crates and Roscoe went to bed on his blanket beside the bed since Mr. K was still sleeping. When I returned home, Mr. K informed me that Balloo had been bitten by something-at the time we thought fire ants-and that he wasn't walking properly. I examined the bumps on his head and they did look like insect bites. We gave him a bit of Bennadrill in the hopes of it counteracting some of the allergic reaction. I didn't really see how he was walking, but upon palpation, his leg seemed fine. He didn't complain or anything, but Mr. K said he was lifting it strangely when he was walking. This morning, the bites were bigger and they almost looked like tooth marks, but I could be wrong. It's hard differentiating between things like that when you can't actually see them. I covered them in T-tree oil because it has anti-bacterial properties. I thought is is better because it is more natural and gentler than using rubbing alcohol or something. I also had a better opportunity to observe his gait. He walks along on three legs and holds up the back leg, or lets it limply hang down. I'm a bit concerned he tore something or worse, maybe there is some neurological damage. He kind of whines a bit if you move him too quickly and put pressure on his haunch area. I've decided to see how he does this morning and then call the vet when they open. His eating and drinking are both fine, but he is really lethargic. He also shivers and I'm not sure if he's cold, in shock or in pain-maybe all three. I have been keeping him wrapped in a blanket and letting him rest and hopefully we see some improvements today.

On a lighter note, Aria is a little trouble maker. She thinks that going out to potty means digging holes in the mud and coming inside with it caked to her lovely, long chocolate fur. I had to give her a kitchen sink bath to get the mud off because the wipes just weren't removing the crud at all. She acted all indignant and as if I were inconveniencing her and I tried to explain to her that ladies do not dig in the dirt. She looked at me as if to say, "look who's talking," and my lecture became a mute point. I've never been one to be afraid to get my hands dirty. :) That said, she is the sweetest little girl ever. When I carried Balloo out in his crate to take him out for his first bathroom break, she climbed in with him once I opened the door, to check on him. She seems very concerned about her little buddy.

Aside from Balloo's health issues, yesterday was actually a really great day. I got to PAALS around 9:15 or so and stayed until just after 3. I spent the day folding pamphlets and bundling Christmas cards that PAALS is selling as a fundraiser. The cards feature three of their puppies all decked out in Holiday splendor. (If I can figure out how to add their site to my links, I will. You can purchase the cards online). I also learned that Akira is pregnant for sure and so one of my tasks involved ripping newspaper into long strips in preparation for the puppies' arrival on December tenth. Some people may think that this would be boring, but there is something satisfying to tearing paper. lol Not to mention, it's kind of neat to think that I'm a part of the puppy process, regardless of how small. I was assigned the fun task of opening new toys for the dogs. J had ordered a bunch of new ones since a lot of their old ones were unrecognizable and they had just arrived. It was neat for me to play with the new toys and see what they looked like. A lot of the time, it's hard for me to pick out toys for Glacier (or any of my other dogs for that matter) because I can't see what they look like through the excessive packaging that they are usually wrapped in.
The one toy that I think I'll invest in is called a "Busy Buddy." They come in several different sizes and they are an interactive toy; or an "enrichment" toy as PAALS calls them. The middle is a big, solid rubber ball and the ends rotate-they are bone shaped. The handler can untwist the ends and put rawhide rings on an arm type thing against the ball and then screw the ends back on. The dog's job is to chew the rawhide off. Once the dog has been successful, the handler can repeat the process and even clean the toy easier with the ends off. There were a few other cool toys-they were glow in the dark-but I'm pretty sure Glacier will wreck them in less than twenty minutes. I think I'll let some of the PAALS stronger chewers have a go at them and then see how they hold up. I'm pretty sure they don't rival Glacier's chewing abilities, but at least I can get an idea for their durability.
The best part of the day was seeing Kyo. I can't tell you how happy he is and how far he's come. He's not a completely different dog because I knew that dog was in there, but he's challenged now and that makes for a much better behaved Moose. He's the biggest guy in training, which is no surprise, but J says that he is one of the best players out in the backyard. This floors me because he used to be so rough with Glacier and Roscoe, but especially Glacier. He has the best recall, which I pride myself on. That is something I work really hard with all of my dogs. J let me come up to the training room and watch Kyo's daily training session and I was blown away.
He did everything she asked with only being asked once. Even "off" only took her saying it once. J is using a clicker stick to teach him to "touch" out far from her body. This allows her to move him around her without physically moving him herself. I wish our guide dogs came with this. We're always coaxing and manipulating their bodies to where we want them, but "touch" J can get him to move an entire circle around her without placing a hand on him. I like that. Here are the "cues" I observed Kyo do yesterday.
Touch: as explained before it's for moving the dog to where you want him/her. It also will eventually teach him targeting which is used in more advanced training.
Place: this is when Kyo goes to a spot and stays there. In the beginning stages, his "place" is slightly elevated so that he can differentiate it from the rest of the floor, but eventually the elevated bed will be removed and he will be expected to do "place" wherever he is directed.
Sit: he was already good at this, but his response time has improved.
Down: Again he was good at it, but he used to pop up sometimes after he had gone down. Now, he stays there until he is given the release command.
All right: release command. I had started using this with him when we first thought he may go to PAALS.
Drop: I had worked on this with him and e would do it, but he would think about it first and sometimes roll the object around in his mouth. Now, he just hands it over.
Wait: he stops moving. So, if he walking along and J says "wait," he stops dead in his tracks. This can be used at doors, street curbs, elevators Etc.
Stand: he gets up from a sit or down into a stand. Used for grooming or vet visits. It has other functions, but I'm not sure what they are.

Through: this is used specifically for elevators. The dog goes in first, giving the person room for their wheelchair. Once the dog is through the door, he sits down and waits until is handler comes through. It's pretty cool because the dog turns and faces their handler.
Belly: the dog lays on his back and stays still This can be used for nail trims or pelvis examinations. Kyo rolled around and snorted the first time J asked him to do this, but did it properly the second time. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at him because I knew exactly what those noises meant. J laughed even harder.
Jump: all four paws up on something; a bed, counter, car Etc.
Let's Get Dressed: the cue for putting his cape and/or seatbelt on. He sits for the cape and then stands up for his seatbelt.
Heel: stick to the handler's side with loose leash. And yes! Kyo can walk on a loose leash without a gentle leader! I am so happy about that.
There might be a few more, but those are the ones I can remember. I was so impressed. J said that he is a quick learner and very smart. His barking/whining has decreased a lot. I even noticed a huge improvement. He settles down much better and will listen when someone says "quiet." All of the volunteers love him. J thinks he is a "doll,"and wishes all dogs were as excited about learning as he is. This just makes me feel so much better. I knew he had potential, I am just so thankful he has been given a chance.
Very soon, he will leave J's house and go and live with a trainer for a few weeks. This way, he can get some one on one training and so that he can get used to change. He may be leaving as soon as today, so I am just glad I got to see him yesterday before he left. He will be back and hopefully by then, he will be able to go out into public places. J thinks he will be able to soon because he is such a fast learner. She taught him the cue "under" yesterday in less than five minutes. He's not perfect at it yet obviously,but he gets it.
She did say that he didn't like being stepped over and I told her that was probably my fault. Because neither I nor Mr. K can see, we taught him to get out of our way. So, if we were coming towards him he would jump up and move. She was glad to know where it came from and was able to step over him three times yesterday without him hopping to his feet. They also tried him with different stimuli this past weekend and they discovered he does not like leaf blowers or hammering. I'm not surprised about the leaf blowers since he used to be scared of cars, but eh hammering surprised me. When we were living in our little apartment there was construction going on and it didn't seem to bother him. She doesn't think it'll take him long to get over these things. After the training session, Kyo was allowed to come and see Glacier and I as a reward. He went through his entire session with us sitting there and hardly strayed from his task and when he did, he was easily brought back with a "watch me," or "pup pup" from J.

Last but not least, Mr. K and I are going to foster puppies on the weekends. PAALS does their fostering program differently in that the dogs stay at J's house during the week and then go off to their foster parents' house on the weekends or holidays. There is also a system set up if foster parents can't watch a dog one weekend, a pup sitter will take over. The pup sitters don't have public access with the dogs and only watch the dogs when the fosters need a weekend off. Mr. K and I will start off as pup sitters, like all of the other foster parents, and then graduate to foster parents. One of the dog's foster parents were no longer able to be involved. So, we are getting Chloe, a little yellow lab female, for the long weekend. We'll pick her up today and she will go back either Sunday or Monday.
So, wish us luck. Between Miss "Likes to Dig Holes" Aria, Mr. "I keep hurting Myself" Balloo, Miss "This Is New" Chloe and Mr.s "Laid Back" Glacier and Roscoe, we're going to have a few very interesting days ahead of us to say the least. lol

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