Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honoring What They Do


Paw Print Tattoo 2

After the first tattoo I realized that if I really wanted EMS to know I was diabetic I should do something on both wrist’s.  However, I wanted something different.  The above is what I came up with.  Those are Bravo and Radar’s actual paw prints, reduced down to fit.  Now not only are they engraved on my heart…they are engraved on my arm.

I am sure there are folks that are wondering if I have lost my mind.  Well many have wondered that for years!!  Maybe I am just confirming it now.  What Bravo and Radar do is so IMPORTANT to me…this seems trivial in comparison.  I have had some amazing dogs in my life but these 2 go beyond amazing…they are my life line in so many ways.

On the day that I got this tattoo I went down to Animal Control to get Bravo’s license.  There was a long line and the usual uncontrollable family pets.  There was a pit bull right in front of me that kept wanting to play with any dog around including Bravo.  Bravo ignored him and everyone else except for a gentleman that was ahead of me in line.  He had some sort of mixed breed on a leash next to him.  The line moved slowly. Bravo kept watching what I thought was the dog next to the gentleman.  He wouldn’t stay sitting, he wouldn’t stay down, and at that point in my eyes he was being a very BAD dog.  I was about ready to take him out to the truck. The line inched forward and suddenly the gentleman with the mixed breed sort of collapsed at the counter.  A fireman who was behind me in line stepped forward to assist the gentleman when I hear “diabetic”.  I look at Bravo and suddenly realize it is out of character for him to be such an unruly dog and that he was alerting on someone else.  DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Sometimes I wish I was as smart and as compassionate as my dog! All I can do is get a tattoo that reminds me of how wonderful they are!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Having Fun Is Important!



Bravo and Radar had an awesome weekend!  We spent the weekend at the Shamrock Splash put on by Splash Dogs and at the International Sportsman's Expo doing Dock Dogs. 

I firmly believe that while Bravo may be a full working dog he needs to have fun as well!  Bravo’s best jump this weekend was well off his personal best but still a respectable jump of 21’4” in Big Air and 6 feet in Extreme Vertical!  Our local newspaper The Deseret News has some great video clips of the Dock Dog event.  About halfway through there are some great shots of Bravo doing the Extreme Vertical.   Click Here!

Radar is a fair weather dog!  He likes to jump when the water is warm or when there is something that really gets his attention…like a remote control speed boat!  His big thing this weekend was Course-A-Lure.  I call it “crack for terriers”!  Below is a video of Radar attempting Course-A-Lure.


As you can see from the opening picture Bravo had a very respectable weekend!  Dock Dogs has an event called Speed Retrieve.  We had never seen this event before, let alone try it.  The jest of it is that a “flappy” (bumper) is suspended from a electronic timer box at the end of a 40’ pool.  The dog must be behind a electronic eye at 20’ on the dock.  There is a light that blinks yellow 3 times and then turns green and you release your dog to go.  The dog then must jump in the water and swim to the object and grab it thus stopping the timer.  Bravo’s first attempt was a little over 8 seconds!  Not blazing fast but still respectable!

Bravo qualified for the finals in both Big Air and Speed Retrieve.  During the Big Air Finals we were just getting ready to attempt our first jump when I felt my blood sugar dropping.  I decided to go ahead and try and push through it.  I set Bravo at his normal start place of 32’feet on the dock, walked to the end of the dock, and called him hard to come jump.  He raced to me…threw the brakes on, stopped at the edge of the dock, looked me in the eye, and then jumped 7’.  “Excuse me, mom…..I like this stuff but your blood sugar is low!” I came off the dock ate 2 bags of gummy bears, 4 tabs, and a bag of peanut mix. Round 2 went better, but Bravo’s heart still wasn’t into jumping.  He jumped a little over 17’ and took 8th in the finals. I on the other hand went and took a glucagon shot!

In spite of the low blood sugar attack, we had a awesome weekend.  It never ceases to amaze me how Bravo can override all of his training in other venues and still tell me when my sugars are low!  He was trained in obedience, field, agility, and jumping long before he started alerting…yet somehow he overrides all of that training to tell me when my sugars are low!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


For those of you that know me, you know I don’t usually act without good reason.  I seldom do things on a whim!  This past week I did something totally out of character for me.  I GOT A TATOO!!!!!!

It isn’t any tattoo… it is a medical alert tattoo!  I had been thinking about getting a tattoo, as I hate to wear jewelry.  It seems like when I do wear jewelry, it is constantly getting tangled up in something…a dog leash or my hair are the 2 favorites.  When that happens it often hurts.  I know that I need to have something that would warn EMS or other pertinent individuals that I have diabetes but I just hate jewelry!   So my solution to this was a tattoo.  I talked to my doctor, I researched a reputable artist, and I made sure that it was a clean environment!

For me, the pain was the equivalent of a road rash and hardly worse than all the finger sticking I have to do to test my blood sugar.  It is on the inside of my wrist on my right arm and it is 1 ¾” wide and 2 ½” tall.  I like it so much that I have decided to do another one on my left wrist!  The next one is my own design, but that will be a later post!

Below is a picture of the tattoo!

Bad Reasons For Getting a Diabetic Alert Dog

I was at a doctor’s office this week when the following conversation came up with a perfect stranger. She is telling me she has a 17-year-old son who is going to college and that her daughter is getting up and testing this kid every hour in the middle of the night.  She is also telling me that her daughter is moving so her son can live with her while going to college and she can continue to check him.  I ask how old the daughter was….she was 23.  I ask what her role was in all this…”she says oh I have to work and to be honest “I just can’t handle it”.  She says “we should get a D.A.D., it would make my daughters life easier”. The conversation goes on… she says “How often do your dogs miss a low?” I hedged and replied “well I always try to remember they are dogs first and foremost!”  She says “well why would you put all that time and effort if they are not going to do their job?”  “ I would have to get rid of them if they aren’t going to help!”  “Would you be willing to sell your dog?” “Can I get your number?”

Thank You, Lord I was called back to see the doctor, but I will tell you my blood pressure was high! It is not my place to judge anyone else.  Hey this disease is a horrible thing for everyone involved…but there is just so many things that bugs me about what she said to me.  In her case, hiring a personal assistant would be a better idea.  I just wonder how long it will be before the personal assistant says DO IT YOURSELF!  I guess just about anything can be bought now days, but it would be a very cold day before I allowed any dog that I have control over into an environment like that!

Can you imagine the dog’s perspective of trying to alert when someone is yelling at the diabetic for not taking better care of their self?  Can you imagine what happens if a D.A.D.,  misses an alert and all the sudden they are blamed for a low blood sugar?  The sad thing is that I hear stories like this all to often.  Either families are not emotionally, physically, or mentally able to take on another challenge…or all their hopes are pinned on a D.A.D.,  and when it doesn’t work out it is the dogs fault.  THEY ARE DOGS!!!!!  DOGS ARE ANOTHER TOOL IN THE BATTLE AGAINST THIS CRUMMY DISEASE!  THEY ARE A FRIEND IN A TIME OF NEED!!!  They are many things, but always and ever a dog! Just like us they have good days and bad days.   Even when a dog is fully trained, training always continues.  It is fined tuned or something new is taught.  Just like us if the dog gets stagnant, they get bored!

Training a dog is never an easy task.  I get many questions about how to train a diabetic alert dog…I get even more questions about how to train a dog.  I have been pondering these questions a lot lately.  It seems I always answer this question by asking a question…ARE YOU READY FOR A DOG?  Or ARE YOU READY TO MAKE SOME VERY SERIOUS CHANGES IN ORDER TO GET A DOG WHERE YOU WANT THEM TO BE?

Obtaining a dog should require A LOT of forethought before bringing one home.  It is not a decision that should be made lightly!  Yes dogs are humankind’s best friend but we also have RESONSIBILITY about how we interact with them.  If your home is utter chaos with tempers flaring, lots of yelling, and in general an unhappy place to be…do you really think that a dog is a good idea?  If your home is a place where no one can make a decision and no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions or where one person is trying to fix everyone else’s problems…do you really think a dog is a good idea?  In the case of a DAD, if the active diabetic really doesn’t want a dog and doesn’t want the added responsibility of a dog or doesn’t have the wherewithal to build a active relationship with a dog…do you really think that getting a dog is a good idea? The whole idea of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILTY and dogs is CRITICAL!

Diabetic Alert Dogs in particular require HOURS AND HOURS of TRAINING and CARE!  Their needs must be met as well…as much of a blessing my guys are to me, they are also a lot of work.  I don’t mind it one bit as what I give to them seems so pale as to what I receive from them…but I thought I would give you a breakdown of a fairly typical day for me.  I wake up around 6 AM, go to bathroom, let dogs out, check my blood glucose, and let dogs back in. I then feed the dogs and while they eat I take a shower.  I then eat breakfast and take dogs for a walk or some sort of exercise.  I come back and do some sort of training.  It might be obedience, agility, field, or scent.  Sometimes I just use the time to teach Radar some stupid pet trick.  I then go to work.  One of the dogs then goes to work with me while the other one is in a port a kennel at home.  As soon as I get home from work the morning process repeats its self.  I let dogs out, feed, and then do more training.  Even though both dogs are alerting, THE TRAINING PROCESS NEVER ENDS!  Even when I am not formally training there are still certain standards that must be met and adhered to or I might just have to have a “in the moment” training session.  SIT always should mean SIT.  HERE should always mean come right now.  Every command needs to be responded to.  It should be prompt and not when the dog decides it is good and ready to do it. 

Several years back while at an AKC Hunt Test I and my chocolate lab named Hooter failed the test. I came off the line and mumbled something about “It is all my fault”.  A guy who I have a lot of respect for says “KC, Why do you always blame yourself when your dog fails?” I replied “cause it usually has something to do with me not teaching them all the necessary tasks that they need to know”.  He says, “well that is true most of the time, but sometimes they are just dogs!”  No matter how well trained they are, SOME TIMES THEY ARE JUST DOGS!  As a D.A.D. Bravo has missed one low since August of last year…it was a 78 (not truly considered a low) and it was due to the insulin not this other weird thing I have.  That is a pretty amazing record in my opinion. However, if he ever misses I will still love him and be grateful for what he does give me!  A diabetic alert dog can make a huge difference in a human life…but please do it for the right reason and with the right attitude!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Does He Do That?

I get the basic mechanisms and foundations for a Diabetic Alert Dog.  I have a good understanding of dog training…..but Bravo has started doing something that I can not explain. 

It starts about 2 days before a low.  Bravo gets EXTREMELY clingy.  I am talking like if I am home if I stop he is going to run into me.  He openly defies the place command but yet is very contrite about doing so.  I have a place mat in my office at work…normally he goes into the office and sleeps on this place mat.  However, on the days he is clingy he will literally belly crawl to my side when he thinks I am not looking.  If I try to leave him inside while I go take out the garbage he barks at the door. Normally Bravo is extremely complaint!!!!!

So what is it EXACTLY that he is picking up on????  How is he doing it so far in advance??????  I do not have the answer to this.  When a dog alerts for a low blood sugar there is a clear communication between dog and handler.  There is a known scent that goes with the low blood sugar.  There is a different scent that goes with a high blood sugar. Sometimes the scent alert might not be so obvious to the outsider…but sometimes it is very clear.  For example, I was in CA visiting my sister and her family.  My sister had not met Bravo before this trip.  We went to the LA County fair for a dock-jumping event.  My sister was escorting Bravo, while I had Radar. I was talking to some friends so she had started for the gate and I told her I would catch up.  I was gaining ground on them but watched as Bravo kept moving from heel position to basically blocking her path.  I watched this scene re-occur about 3 times before I caught up to them.  When I ask what was going on my sister replied “YOUR DOG WONT LET ME WALK BECAUSE MY D*(% BLOOD SUGAR IS LOW!”  I grinned and said, “Treat your low, and he will let you go!” She rolled her eyes and got a piece of candy out.  A little while later we were in the car heading to the restaurant.  Bravo was in the back on the car; he refused to lie down and just kept getting more and more agitated…pacing panting, etc.  Sure enough I was low…as soon as I treated the low he laid down and went to sleep.  Those are more clear indications that something is amiss….but just being clingy????????

I am testing the theory of his clinginess indicating a low is coming by logging his behavior from day to day.  I have a hunch that he is picking up on something that is occurring in my endocrine system that is a precursor to these lows…but I am not sure. I will keep you posted as time goes on. 

As always……while I may not be able to scientifically explain all of what Bravo is doing, I AM REALLY GLAD HE DOES!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just One of Those Days

Just one of those days!  Why is it that lately ever day seems like one of those days?  I am tired, my dogs are tired and we all have had enough of the low episodes. 

Diabetes affects every person differently…I get that.  I just would like to be a tad more normal for once.  The lows I am having appear to have NOTHING to do with what I eat, how much insulin I take or didn’t take, stress, or activity...although I have those lows sometimes…but they are different.  The lows I am having come out of nowhere and run me over like a freight train.  I have had 3 of these occurrences since Friday.  Each time they happen it gets harder and harder to harder to recover from them.  They leave me extremely tired and washed out.  My brain is in horrible fog for days after one of these kind of lows and when I have 3 in a row… I don’t even have words to explain it feels.

What bothers me even more is the toll that I see it having on my dogs…particularly Bravo.  Bravo is as wiped out as I am, but he never leaves my side unless I force him to…and then he isn’t real happy about it.  I go to work and put him on place in my office behind the counter and he sneaks in to lie at my feet.  I put him in a port-a-kennel at the house and he barks, whines and digs at the kennel to get back out. The scary thing is that as long as he is acting this way I know that I am not of the woods yet.  On a ‘normal’ day he would go in his kennel or on his place and curl up and go to sleep until I called him off.  I look at his face and I see him graying before his time and I wonder if as grateful as I am to have him if somehow I am being a horrible person for asking or allowing him to do this.   

I don’t know…maybe I am just tired or fogged out today.  I know the tone of this is very down.  It is just days like this that I realize what a gift Bravo and Radar are.  I realize what hope they bring to me.  I just wish we could figure out what is going on so they didn’t have to work so hard.