Posts Tagged 'service dogs'

When Your Service Dog Is Too “Smart”….

OK, so now you know I’m writing and blogging elsewhere, although I still plan to do my service dog blogging (and related stuff) here until I can get my own domain set up. Except for today’s post, because it turns out that won’t work. So I’m posting it on my writing blog, SharonWachsler.blogspot.com. I apologize for the inconvenience. Future Gadget- and Barnum-related posts will be back here at After Gadget!

You asked so many great questions about my experiences as a service dog (SD) partner and trainer that it is taking quite some time for me to write all my answers. I am also still finishing Barnum’s training. Until now I wanted to wait to train him to open the outside door to let himself out because I wanted to make sure he was really solid on having his door-opening behaviors under stimulus control. Which leads me to today’s topic.

Two of you asked about my funniest or most embarrassing experience as a SD handler, and that brought to mind this story which I’ve posted at SharonWachsler.blogspot.com.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT (who will hopefully know better)

It’s Carnival Time! #ADBC and PFAM

Martha at Believe in Who You Are is the host of the October edition of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Even though she is between dogs right now, she has taken up the challenge and come up with a great theme: Moments. Please visit her Call for Entries for topic ideas, guidelines, the deadline, etc. Thank you, Martha!

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

Is this the Moment for you to get involved?

Lately it has struck me how many people follow assistance dog blogs (mine or others) who are not assistance dog partners. I know a lot of wonderful dog trainers and lovers of dogs who follow After Gadget here or on Facebook. When I learned of the topic for the next ADBC, I thought, “Anyone can write on this!” I mean, I know some of you who train assistance dogs or who train pet dogs but read about service dogs on lists or blogs or Facebook must have moments you want to share — don’t you? Moments where you read something about assistance dogs or training that made you stop and think? Moments where you read an idea relating to a service dog issue and you realized it could apply to your pet dog or you? Moments that moved, inspired, or irked you?

Why not join the carnival? Come on over, the moment’s right!

And speaking of getting more people involved in the ADBC, I’ve decided to introduce the hashtag #ADBC on Twitter so that people who are tweeting about the Carnival can more easily spread the word. So please, if you write a post for the ADBC or you read a post about it you like, retweet and add the hashtag #ADBC. I am very fond of everyone who participates regularly (or sporadically) and always look forward to their take on the new topic. At the same time, I think it would be fun to expand our family and get new people reading and posting every quarter. Thank you for your help! (By the way, my handle is @aftergadget.)

Green and white rectangular badge. On top, "Patients" is written in all capital letters, in Times New Roman font in white on a kelly-green background. Below, on a white background, "for a moment" is written in green, slanted up from lower left to upper right, in a more casual, slightly scrawled font.

Meanwhile, another blog carnival is taking place now. The monthly Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival is being hosted today by Selena of Oh My Aches & Pains! She has done an amazing job of putting together a really big and fantastic(ally frightening!) carnival of The Fright Files: Stories of Medical Mistakes. Don’t miss it!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Mr. Barnum, SD/SDiT

Guest Post: Dealing with Second Dog Syndrome

I’m delighted to be able to offer this guest post today by psychologist and long-time guide dog partner, Kathie Schneider. You’ll learn more about Kathie and her new blog in her bio at the bottom of this post.

Reading Kathie’s article made me aware that one can go through “Second Dog Syndrome” with any successor dog — not necessarily only the second. I experienced virtually every emotional twist and turn she describes below when I got Barnum, even though he was my third dog, not my second.

I hope you will find this post as supportive and informative as I have. If so, give Kathie some love in the comments. And I hope Kathie will return with future guest posts about assistance dog grief, loss, or transition.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

Three Steps to Dealing with Second Dog Syndrome

By Katherine Schneider, Ph.D and guide dog user for 39 years

If you’ve had more than one service/assistance dog and someone brings up the subject of second dog syndrome (SDS), I’ll bet you know exactly what they’re talking about. Maybe you didn’t have it a lot or maybe it didn’t hit you until your third dog; but comparing, and finding you don’t love or like second dog as much as first dog, is as natural as dogs greeting by smelling each others’ back ends, but not nearly as much fun.

The first step in dealing with second dog syndrome is accepting it as real and forgivable. Of course you compare; young children learn to pick out what’s different in a picture and we praise them for noticing differences. New Dog may look different, act different, work different, and even smell different. You had history with Old Dog. All you have with New Dog is hopes and dreams. As Old Dog gets further in the past, memories of the bad things they did fade first; in other words, they become a saint. New Dog is young and foolish and the bad things they do are right here and now.

Most of all, you have changed. You’re older and perhaps less flexible, both physically and mentally. If Old Dog worked well for you, it was a life changer for you, kind of like first love. Now you’ve come to expect that level of dignity and independence in a functioning service/assistance dog. New Dog has big shoes to fill. If Old Dog didn’t work out well, you’ve got a million ideas of what you and New Dog need to do differently this time.

So when you think those thoughts of “Old Dog would never have done that,” “I don’t love/like New Dog,” and “I wish I still had Old Dog,” chalk it up to second dog syndrome and say to yourself, to New Dog, or to a friend who might understand, “I’m having a SDS moment, forgive me.”

If you acknowledge those second dog syndrome thoughts instead of trying to fight them, they lose some of their power. You’re not wasting your time and energy feeling guilty. Instead you can begin step two: When you find yourself comparing, try to add an “and” occasionally. Old Dog was better at this and New Dog is good at this. On a really bad day it may be, “And New Dog looks cute when he/she is asleep.” When others point out, “Old dog would never have done that” about your New Dog, all you can say is, “Yes and I really miss Old Dog too.” Unless of course you have time to educate the thoughtless passer-by about second dog syndrome. Included in that education could be the fact that New Dog is not a replacement, but a successor. Old Dog will never be replaced.

The third step is give it time and work. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are relationships. Gradually you may notice more things about New Dog that you like and they will grow up and settle into their job. If you take care of them like a valued employee, they’ll work to earn your trust and love. In my experience, they’re quicker to love than I am anyway, so as I find myself with each successor dog in the middle of my heart I learn that I have a big heart. Then when people ask, “Which was your favorite, really?” I can truthfully say: “It’s just like your kids; they are each my favorite in different ways.”

* * *

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D. is a retired clinical psychologist, blind from birth and living with fibromyalgia. She’s written a memoir, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities, and a children’s book, Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold. She’s had Seeing Eye dogs for 39 years. Her latest writing venture is a blog, Kathie Comments, about subjects ranging from aging with disabilities to assistance/service dogs to disability activism.

Signal Boost: IAADP’s Assistance Dog Grief Pilot Program

I’ve posted previously about the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), and I frequently encourage people involved with assistance dogs to join the organization. Why? It’s a unique organization in that it represents and supports all people with assistance dogs (ADs), regardless of the type (guide, hearing, service, or combo) or training (private-trained, program-trained, partner-trained, or a combination) of the AD. And, while most members live in the US, like its name says, it is an international organization.

IAADP provides benefits to partner members, including an information help line and discounts for certain supplies and veterinary products. It’s also a terrifically effective activist organization. And it has a great newsletter, Partner’s Forum, that is entertaining and very informative.

Anyone can join IAADP, although to be a partner member (to receive partner-member benefits and to vote in elections), you must be a disabled person partnered with an adult working service dog who meets certain criteria. However, trainers, puppy raisers, AD programs, and other interested parties can get a lot out of a friend membership or provider membership, as well as supporting an excellent cause.

I’ve been an IAADP member since I trained my first service dog in 1999. Toni Eames — one of the founders and long-time officer of the organization — used to be listed as the person to call for grief support. Sadly, three weeks before Gadget died, Toni’s husband, Ed Eames, the president of IAADP, died. Obviously I did not call her for grief support. I figured she had more than enough grief to deal with on her own. Ed’s loss was a loss to the entire assistance dog community, in fact.

However, in the years since then, Partner’s Forum has had some articles — and referred to pamphlets — about grief-related issues. I’m hoping they’ll eventually appear on the IAADP website. Meanwhile, in the April 2012 edition of the newsletter, the following information appeared:

Pilot Program for Grieving Partners

Are you grieving the loss or the impending retirement of your assistance dog? Would you like to participate in a monthly support group by phone with others in the same situation? A committee of the IAADP will start offering these phone calls in June, 2012. If interested, email ADLC[at]iaadp.org and one of the call facilitators will be in touch with you to see if the group is right for you. Since the committee has no idea how many assistance dog partners may be interested in this service, the first ones who contact ADLC[at]iaadp.org will be served first.

If you’ve been through the loss of an assistance dog and would like to  consider helping the committee, please also contact us at the above e-mail address or call 888-544-2237 and leave your name and phone number for a return call.

We want to be there for you in this time of transition.

So, if you’re interested in offering or receiving support on assistance dog loss, and you are not yet a member of IAADP, this is a good time to look into that. You can also find the announcement at the IAADP website’s Assistance Dog Loss Committee page.

– Sharon, remembering Jersey and Gadget, and currently partnered with Barnum, SD/SDiT

Prize Update! Call for Entries: 8th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Now there is a raffle, too! Anyone who submits a post to the Carnival will also be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! Read Brooke’s announcement here. Please spread the word about the ADBC!

* * *

Brooke at ruled by paws has swooped in to take on hosting the July Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Thank you, Brooke! Check out her this thorough and enticing call for submissions that she just posted.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

March to Your Own Drum!

Brooke has selected a really fun theme with a lot of possibilities for diverse topics: Marchin’ to Your Own Drum. You can find out all the details, including how to submit a post, the deadline for submissions, and topic ideas at her call for submissions.

Please spread the word to other bloggers you know and people with an interest in assistance dogs. I’m optimistic that this will be a great carnival. Not only do we have a great topic and a very able host, but I think we will probably have some new participants because of the “buzz” I’ve already seen on this topic on Twitter and because the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) just published an article on the carnival in their newsletter.

So, fellow partners, trainers, puppy raisers, friends, allies, and others, please talk up the ADBC on your social media or elsewhere. And for those who want to participate, please start thinking about what you want to write. If you are new to the carnival and want to see past issues or learn other details about how it works, please check out the carnival home page. If you have any further comments or questions, please comment below!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum SD/SDiT

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival #6 Seeking Entries!

It’s ADBC time again, folks! (If you’re not familiar with the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, you can read all about it here.)

The host for this edition is Cait at Dogstar Academy. The theme she’s chosen is “Obstacles,” and she has some nifty thoughts to ponder on the topic.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

There should be no obstacles to a great carnival!

I didn’t see a deadline in her call for entries, but she indicates she plans to publish the carnival on January 29, so assume you have to get your posts to her before that date, at the very least. (If she posts an update, I’ll modify this post to give the deadline.)

Check out her call for submissions!

And please share, tweet, and generally spread the word about this carnival so that anyone who might like to participate has time. For those who are planning on posting, may you find no obstacles in your path.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

The 5th ADBC – Achievement – Is Up!

I’m about two weeks late in announcing this. I was without power due to the freak October snow storm that slammed us in New England, and then my internet was down for another week or so. But even after my satellite connection was fixed, the only site I could not access was Cyndy Otty’s blog, Gentle Wit, where the new Assistance Dog Blog Carnival was posted! Frustrating!

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

We've achieved another great carnival!

Fortunately, Cyndy is a tech wizard, and she gave me some suggestions for messing with my browser that fixed the problem (emptied cache and cleared cookies). Now I am devouring the posts — it’s a delicious carnival! There is definitely a celebratory feel to this one, thanks to the theme of “Achievement.” Cyndy did a fabulous job of promoting and hosting and presenting the content. I definitely encourage you to hop over and check it out.

The next ADBC will go up in January. Look for an announcement of the theme and deadline by its host, Cait at Dogstar Academy, some time in December. To read past editions of ADBC or to learn what it’s about, visit the carnival’s home page.

Bone appetit!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

Washing Out: Make or (Heart)Break Time

It’s been a very rough time for me lately, on a lot of fronts. However, I’m focusing this post on The Barnum Situation, which is that I’m considering washing him out. This has involved a lot of thought, crying, evaluation, crying, strategizing, crying, asking opinions from other experienced trainers I respect, and more crying.

For those who don’t know what this means, or who have strong feelings about this, I’ve decided to do a series on the issue of washouts. This post lays the groundwork of what it means when a dog is washed out, and how that tends to come about. I’ll write further posts on why I’m considering this with Barnum.

“Wash out” is the term used in the assistance dog world for a dog being trained — or already working — as a guide, hearing, or service dog, who is deemed unsuitable to continue training or working.

What I’m going through, as the owner-trainer of a service-dog-in-training (SDiT) is not unique. In fact, I’d say it’s probably more common than not. However, most people I know who have faced this issue have not spoken about it publicly, in part because the general public (those not partnered with assistance dogs) don’t tend to understand the complexity and difficulty of the situation. This often leads to judgemental comments that make an already painful situation even worse. But, I’m putting my trust in you, readers, to hear me out.

I am also going to provide background and explanation, so that those of you who are not in the assistance-dog world will understand why the situation I’m facing is so huge and potentially heartbreaking, even if I end up keeping Barnum as a pet or part-time SD.

What Goes Into a Service Dog?

Here’s the deal: I got Barnum to be my service dog (SD). Everything I did, starting with work I put in years before he was born, was with the plan of my successor SD to Gadget. (It actually goes back farther than that, to the late 90s, when I was researching acquiring a SD and what breed would most suit me, etc.)

What do I mean by “everything”? The breeder I chose, the puppy the breeder and I picked based on her observations and testing, the socialization efforts I put in when Barnum was a puppy, all the training I’ve done with him. All of this time, money, physical, emotional, and mental energy has been spent to create a willing, eager, competent, full-time SD.

A full-time SD is one who is available when I ask for assistance — to shut or open a door, to turn a light on or off, to help me get to the bathroom or pull of my sweatshirt. He is also “on call” for alerts — when my infusion pump alarm goes off and I’m asleep, or the phone rings when I’m in the bathroom — and it’s his job to leap into action and alert me to the pump or bring me the phone. He also has to be able to go with me in public, anywhere (except an operating room or some similar place), and carry things in a pack, bring me things I drop or point out, open doors, and at all times pay close attention to me, behave with control and decorum, and follow all cues to keep out of others’ way and to be calm and reliable.

This is a tall order. I knew that going in. I knew it with Jersey and Gadget, although I was willing to take the risk with Jersey that she would just be a pet. With Gadget, I chose him as a SDiT. A puppy is even more of a crapshoot than a young adult, like Gadget, because you don’t know how they’ll turn out. I knew there were many reasons the dog I chose could wash out.

What Causes a Washout?

Health problems account for a lot of washouts — especially structural issues, with hip dysplasia being probably the most common. Vision problems, hearing problems, or medical conditions that can’t be controlled can trigger a washout.

Behavioral issues are equally frequent as the culprits. Dogs who show aggression to people, other dogs, or household animals (such as cats), or who are timid or anxious at new sights, sounds, smells, or locations will likely not work out as SDs.

A physically and temperamentally sound dog is usually considered the most basic requirement for a SD to successfully graduate and have a long career as a working dog. However, there are other considerations that are more subtle.

For a guide dog, a high prey drive can be a problem. Since most (but not all!) guide dogs work in urban environments, a predilection for chasing squirrels (or any other fast-moving, erratic object, such as cyclists or skate-boarders) could put the handler at risk if the dog is too distracted to pay attention to his job.

Barking is desirable for certain assistance dogs, but considered unacceptable for others. For example, many guide and service dog schools train their dogs not to bark. However, my first SD, Jersey, never barked, and this prevented her from doing some of the useful tasks that Gadget later took on. These included running to my landlord’s house and barking to alert him that he had a note from me, or sounding the alarm when a bear climbed onto my porch or a person walked into my house. Gadget was also slightly hard-of-hearing, which was not a problem for me, but would be if he was a hearing dog.

I’ve heard of guide dogs being washed out for pulling too hard in harness or not pulling hard enough, for walking too fast. There are also a lot of individual preferences — an exuberant dog versus a quiet one, a dog who is “on” all the time versus one who prefers a good amount of power-napping.

Owner-Trainers Versus SD Programs

Whether a dog is washed out depends a lot on who is training her, too. There are obvious differences between owner-trainers and program trainers.

A program has many more dogs to choose among, and has limited resources to allocate to a certain number of graduates. Therefore, they cull the dogs who don’t fit the most neatly into the program, even if there is a dog who — with extra time and trouble, or if that certain special human partner came along — would otherwise work out well. A program trainer is also not living, sleeping, eating, and spending all their own money, time, and love on one dog. They are working several dogs as part of a job, dogs whom they know will end up with someone else. They are not relying on the dogs they train for their increased mobility, safety, freedom, independence, or quality of life.

The owner-trainer, on the other hand, has much more invested in a single dog — hopes and dreams, but also an enormous amount of time, money, and energy. This makes us much more motivated to “make it work” with the dog we’re training, which has both positive and negative aspects. The negative is that we may keep training or working a dog who is really not happy as a SD or who is not serving us as well as we need. The positive is that we have the time and motivation to work through behavioral issues that programs would not consider resource-worthy.

In fact, I am positive that neither Jersey nor Gadget would have been graduated by a SD school. Jersey needed confidence-building, and soon after she was working full-time, she lost an eye to glaucoma. Gadget had gastrointestinal issues, allergies, and put his herding drive to work in his first few months by nipping my landlord and one of my friends! However, I was able to work through the behavioral issues and keep the medical problems controlled. If Jersey had been a guide dog, losing half her vision would  have been a deal-breaker. On the other hand, Ed Eames, the former President and one of the founders of International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), continued to work with his guide, Kirby, even after Kirby lost a leg to osteosarcoma. For a mobility assistance dog, being three-limbed would  have been a bigger problem.

The next post in this series will be Barnum’s Balance Sheet, and the steps I’m taking to try to save our partnership.

As always, I welcome comments and questions. However, I prefer you hold your questions about Barnum’s situation, specifically, until I have a chance to write that post.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum (SDiT?)

The Puppy Ate My Keyboard

[Barnum arrived February 27. I started this post on March 2. I added to it and revised it many times throughout the month of March but never published it because, well, you’ll find out when you read it that I was a mess and couldn’t keep track of anything, which also included that I forgot I wrote it and just came across it. Thus, please keep in mind that these were my thoughts when Barnum was between nine and twelve weeks’ old. He’s now four-and-a-half months’ old and a much different dog!]

I wasn’t going to write a blog today because I can hardly form a thought, let alone a sentence. Typing these fragments had barely occurred to me. In fact, I am moving my lips as I type this (I just realized) because apparently some part of my brain has regressed to a first-grade level.

I’d tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had anything remotely resembling a normal night’s sleep (which, given my multiple forms of insomnia and sleep disturbance, is not so normal to begin with), but I have no idea what day it is or when Barnum arrived and the toileting accidents and his heart-rending yelping of being crated without litter mates and dog mama has occurred and at what frequency and which days, except I have lost all sense of time. And I’m not even going to attempt to edit or proof this, and I know I’m creating appalling run-on sentences, but you’ll just have to put up with that for a while.  Maybe a year or two.

As an example, while I was typing the above sentence, I reached for my “lunch-time pills,” and it is now 6:54PM, although I did — thank you so much, my PCA Gloria! — actually eat lunch around half an hour ago. But of course I forgot to take the pills with the food, as I’m supposed to. So, I had the cup with the dog kibble, and my fingers digging into it, halfway up to my mouth before I thought, “Wait a minute. Why . . . am . . . I . . . eating . . . kibble?” I waited for that thought to gently float to the part of my brain that could handle it, and realized that I was trying to swallow a handful of other small, round objects. “Pills! Yes! . . . Wait a minute, these are not my pills.”

I have a nice, swollen purple bruise on my right hand where some puppy chewing got a little out of hand, next to a scratch that I’m assuming must also be puppy-play related, but I have no idea when I acquired it.

I am fighting off an incipient migraine and have over-exerted at every level far beyond anything I’ve done in at least a year. The floors are covered in mud (because, of course, I would get a new puppy whom I have to take out practically every ten minutes during mud season), because that my p-chair tires are completely caked with mud, which eventually dries and falls off all over the house.

I’m exhausted and grouchy and babbling. I’m ridiculously happy. I sing goofy made up songs — using real songs but with made-up lyrics. Example (to the tune of the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?“):

“Don’t you want it Barnum?
Don’t you want the squirrel?
Don’t you want the hedgehog?
Let’s give them a whirl.

I was looking for a puppy out in Iowa
when I found you.
We picked you up and flew you here and gave you a bath,
cuz of your smelly shampoo.

Don’t, don’t you want it?
You know I can’t believe it when you don’t want your chew toys!
Don’t? Don’t you want it?
You know I can’t believe it when you push aside your Kong toys!”

Our main focus has been on house breaking. That is such an understatement. We keep a log of dates, times and locations of output (and which type), indicators that he needs to go, and results once he’s gone. Someone in the house is always announcing, when they bring him in from outside, “He peed! But he didn’t poop,” or “He pooped! He pooped!” We are obsessed with it.

It’s been a very humbling experience! Foolish, foolish, egotistical me — I thought because I’d trained long behavior chains like, “Take note; run 1/4 mile to landlord; bark; down when landlord opens door; stay till landlord takes note; run straight home,” that I would be able to teach a puppy to poop and pee outside and not just randomly on the floor the split second I look away for one moment when he is out of the crate even though he just pooped and peed five minutes before.

I actually wrote the first part of this blog a few days ago. And now several more days have passed since I wrote a few more sentences, then a few more days, a few more sentences. Don’t ask me which days — that’s just cruel. I had Barnum up on my bed for a brief spell because he was an empty puppy — oh yes, the holy grail of house breaking — a puppy who has just peed and pooped and is therefore (theoretically) safe to be out of his crate and playing, snuggling, training, etc. He immediately started chewing my keyboard buttons. When I moved that out of reach, he attacked the telephone headset, then chewed on the mouse wire. Then it was time for puppy to go back in his crate for a nice stuffed chew toy he might or might not figure out how to chew.

Random thoughts that flit in and out of my mind:

– How can this tiny puppy ever be a service dog? I’m still teaching him that if he nudges a Kong or Biscuit Ball, kibble falls out. I didn’t think this would require actual clicker training to teach, but it has: look at ball, click/treat; move toward ball, c/t; nose ball, c/t; eat kibble that pours out of ball, c/t…. I had thought that the mere fact that kibble falls right out of the ball if you even breathe on it would be a good hint, but no.

– What was Gadget like as a puppy? Was he like this? He couldn’t possibly have been. I bet he figured out toilet training in one day. (I’m sure he didn’t, but still, I miss him. I want Gadget back. I want him here to show Barnum how it’s done.)

– Does anyone want a really cute, snuggly, adorable, pee- and poop-filled puppy?

– It’s weird to go to a door and have a dog next to me who has no earthly idea that he could learn to open it or even gets confused about how to get out of the way when it opens. In fact, one of the hardest parts of the toilet training has been getting Barnum and myself in or out the door — involving opening and shutting it, each time — before Barnum has an accident. If we pause for any reason that’s when disaster (in the form of a small, easy-to-clean-up, but oh-so-frustrating puddle) strikes.

– If I drop something, not only does Barnum not retrieve it for me, he will — if I’m lucky — not be able to find it (because, apparently, even if you drop something directly in front of their noses, puppies often can’t see it it). If he does find it, he will chew it, especially if it’s something fragile or expensive or dangerous to him, or all of the above. [Note: Eventually, I learned from reading a website what none of the many puppy-rearing books I’d read had bothered to mention — new puppies can’t see! At eight or nine weeks, their eyes are still maturing. In fact, Barnum’s were still blueish at the beginning. His eyes are now brown, and he is perfectly capable of seeing or sniffing out treats on the floor. The amount that I didn’t know about puppies was astounding. I know so much more now, and I still feel completely ignorant!]

– God, he’s so adorable, it’s practically indecent.

Baby Barnum first week home

See what I mean? Beyond, beyond cute.

– It was weird to go for my annual physical and leave a dog behind and be there without a dog and then come home to a dog who is not Gadget (and who then pooped on the floor).

– It also felt like a blissful relief to get away from him for a couple of hours and leave someone else in charge of him. Gloria, who was driving me to the doctor, said that’s how she felt when her son was really little — that going to work felt like a vacation. That’s how I felt: getting a pap smear was a vacation!

– All the women in my life who have kids keep saying everything I’m going through is typical of being a new mom: the anxiety that I’m ruining him for life with every mistake, the guilt that I sometimes just want someone to take him away for 12 hours (or perhaps forever) so I can sleep, the complete inability to think, the zombie-like facial expression, the relentless pursuit of following all the instructions in all the puppy raising books that tell you your puppy will become a horrible, out-of-control, dangerous, miserable wreck if you don’t accomplish all eight million absolutely necessary training, bonding, and socialization efforts in the first four weeks you have him; examining every single behavior or nuance as a predictor of the glorious/tragic path that lies ahead; my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. Gloria keeps telling me I have “milk brain” because I can’t think worth a damn. Maybe this is the oxytocin connection??

– I think I’ve smiled and laughed more in the last two weeks than I have in the previous five years, combined. I also think I have cried — or been too exhausted to cry, and just laid there, crying in my mind — than I have in the past year, too.

– Will all this overexerting build up my strength or tear it down in a huge crash?

– I am so not up to this task. I was a fool. I had taken leave of my senses (which I no longer possess, at all) when I decided to get a puppy.

– I love when he sticks his whole head into the snow, so all you can see is fuzzy puppy butt, back and legs.

Barnum with head in snow.

Barnum loses his head.

– I love when he pounces and leaps.

Baby Barnum leaps in snow

A bouncing baby Bouvier.

– I love when he kisses me and curls up in my lap.

Baby Barnum Kisses Sharon in the Garden

Kisses!

I love when he is sleeping, lying on his back with his paws in the air and his little white chin poking up.

Barnum at 14 weeks, sleeping on back

One very relaxed puppy!

– I love when he is tired and lies down with his back legs sprawled out behind him. We call this “Superman,” because he looks like he is flying — front and rear legs extended, very streamlined. (Don’t yet have a picture of it, or I’d show you.) He also does “frog leg,” where one leg is extended behind and the other is pulled up.

– I love that I am having to force myself to invite over every single person and dog who might remotely be willing (and even those who are not) to meet, treat, or play with him. I have socialized more in the past two weeks than in the previous few years combined.

– I hate having to deal with all these people — the exhaustion, the noise, the sensory overload, the exposures, exposures, exposures.

– I will never again take for granted a dog who is able to pee and poo outside and not inside, and to indicate when they have to go before relieving themselves on the floor, or who can “hold it” for more than two hours — or five to ten minutes or 30 seconds, depending on the circumstance.

* * * *

Guess what? I now have such a dog! (His name is Barnum.) We still have the occasional accident, but it is the exception, not the rule. He will even eliminate on cue — in our yard, that is. Elsewhere in the world he gets too distracted to pee or poo, so he holds it till we get home. Seriously

Barnum is also able to sleep through the night and is adjusting to my Vampire Girl schedule. (It’s a CFIDS/MCS/Lyme thing.)

I have only almost eaten kibble — thinking it was my pills — once or twice in the last couple of weeks.

He still attacks the headset, mouse, and keyboard when he gets on the bed. In fact, here is Barnum’s first After Gadget contribution:0000-                                                           32.

Now I just have to put his typing on cue.

As always, we welcome your comments.

-Sharon and the muse of Gadget (and Barnum, puppy-in-training)

P.S. Commenters of the previous post, I have not forgotten you! Responses forthcoming.


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