Barnum Assists with Post-Party Payback

I had a birthday a couple of days ago. A few friends came over for latkes, cake, and a game of poker. I had a lot of fun, and I knew I was overexerting, using pain and migraine meds to keep me going when I should have been in bed. But I was having such a good time.

You see, I live in the House of Capricorn. Barnum, Betsy, and I were all born in the latter half of December, and all on or around major holidays. I don’t post anywhere on the internet when my birthday actually is, for identity theft protection, but because our birthdays fall on or near major holidays, we often don’t hold our celebrations on the actual day. So, it remains to be seen when we’ll hold Betsy’s and Barnum’s parties.

Anyway, I woke up yesterday in immobilizing pain throughout my body and no ability to speak, which are two of the more common “crash” symptoms for me (along with exhaustion, nausea, brain fog, weakness, blah blah blah). Barnum was a bit of a challenge during some of it, because he needed some activity, but fortunately the new IQ Treat Ball I’d gotten for him kept him busy, playing doggy nose soccer.

Two hard plastic balls, one blue, one orange. Each has a transparent hemisphere and then a divider inside with an opaque hemisphere below. There is a hole in the divider that can be adjusted in size, and the transparent hemishere has one hole in it as well.

Can be made difficult or moderately easy to get treats out, depending on how you adjust the size of the inner hole, and how big your treats are. I usually set it to moderately difficult.

(This was definitely a good pick and has confirmed my decision of putting dog puzzles on his birthday wish list.) I am not doing so fabulous today, either. These are the kinds of days when every little movement or expenditure of energy is a big deal. So, these are the days when I get to assess how my working partnership with Barnum is going. Our progress report is that we have made a lot of progress, and we still have a long way to go.

When I can’t speak, I get to test his understanding of signed cues. Most cues he seems to know, and others he’s a bit unsure of.

He has also helped several times with transfers to and from the toilet; he is very solid on this skill. That’s an important one, especially when I am between PCA shifts.

An even more important skill — one that I will use constantly once he knows it, and which I’m already using every day, at least — is shutting my bedroom door. He is extremely comfortable and enthusiastic with this skill when I’m in my p-chair, but becomes hesitant when I ask him to do it from bed. This is because we once had an unfortunate coinciding of my saying the cue from bed at the exact moment that he somehow managed (I still don’t know how he did this), to swing the door and himself in such a way that the door came from behind and smacked him in the butt.

Be that as it shouldn’t be, Barnum easily and enthusiastically shuts the door on cue most of the time, but if I’m in bed, and he’s not “in the groove,” I have to shape it with a few clicks and treats for him to have the confidence to finish the task. But we’re on our way to him shutting it with gusto when I’m in bed, as well.

He also has retrieved a couple of items I’ve dropped (a pen, a clicker, and a walkie-talkie), turned on the bathroom light, and alerted me to the oven timer going off. Yes, we still have a ways to go, but on the hard days, every little bit counts.

And now, a nap.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT and nose-footballer

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5 Responses to “Barnum Assists with Post-Party Payback”


  1. 1 Kathy December 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Happy birthday, Sharon! And happy to hear from you 🙂 glad you got to do something fun…even if you had to pay for it. That part sucks, but I’m glad Barnum is helping.
    Best wishes!!

  2. 2 eileenanddogs December 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sharon! I’m so glad Barnum is becoming a help. You’ve worked long and hard for that. I’m a Capricorn, too! One of the January ones.

  3. 3 Sharon December 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you, Kathy! Yes, it’s been a relatively heavy-duty payback, but totally worth it. Had a great time. And hoping to get more card games in in the future.

  4. 4 Sharon December 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Eileen,
    Thank you! Happy birthday (upcoming) to you, too! You have been a big help to Barnum and me in learning new and better ways of training. I’m enjoying watching you raise Clara, your “wild child”!

  5. 5 Sharon December 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    P.S. Don’t know if you celebrate Christmas or not, but if so, Merry Christmas to you! (I still need to write my post on Occupy and Disability for the carnival!)


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