J-Bear and Me

learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: November 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Mental Basketcases

So I do not make any secret that I have PTSD, and that it’s a constant struggle and learning curve much like learning to work with J-Bear’s autism. Unfortunately, unlike J-Bear’s autism, it’s a lot more insidious. When J-Bear struggles we all know he struggles. When my PTSD flips out, it’s very hard for people outside my own house – and sometimes even for them – to know it’s doing so.

This is written proof that I can say it’s being difficult, and that’s putting it gently.

I am not in danger, the people around me are not in danger, etc. I spent years being told I was nothing but a horrible human being, mostly due to the struggles I have with mental illness. Strange, only this one person has ever called me these terrible things but until I had at least some control over my mental state, I believed this clown. The scars that added to scars that already ran deep ache whenever I find myself struggling. I get fearful to confess that I am having a very, very hard time. I get scared that I will immediately be gaslighted or worse, ridiculed and mocked into dust.

That person isn’t even around, nor are the people most responsible for me having PTSD in the first place, yet I still fear. It’s hard to explain why.

When things are high stress within my home, I get jumpy in ways that seem strange. My mind has already decided, based on years of living in a situation where this was often the case, that everything is going to fall apart if I do not keep every ball perfectly in the air. Violence, verbal or physical or both, is going to rain down at any moment and it will be all my fault. Is it something that I could even control? Doesn’t matter. It’d be my fault.

So you can imagine that things are a little stressful right now. They aren’t bad per se, they are just hard. We’ve added the equivalent of a new child to our home. This requires an intense adjust in routine as well every one of us adjusting to what every other person/dog around us needs. It’s different and when J is in school our routine is working great thus far. We have one more component to add, and then we’ll be good for a regular school year routine for a while… Probably in time for vacation, of course.

The moment I start to try to add in other things most people take for granted, I start to fall apart. I am failing. I am going to be in trouble, my mind screams. Everyone is going to be mad at me. I am going to be mocked, derided, and so on. Note however that the truth of this ever happening is unlikely to be true – Most if not all of my friends and family understand, but my brain has a very very hard time acknowledging that. When J screamed at his godmother and lost it in a restaurant tonight I thought I was going to fall to pieces right there. I could not see that it wasn’t my, or anyone’s, fault. It wasn’t his best day, and that happens… but my focus wasn’t strong enough to drag the thought train back onto the correct track. It was all I could do not to sink into a total panic attack.

We made it through dinner, but I am still shaken.

I am scared of the holiday season. I am scared of the pressure and expectations. Brooklyn will not be perfect, and she should not have to be yet. Her manners should be good, the training she has will fall into place over time to gel into exactly what we need in every regard from her. J-Bear will be J-Bear, relating to the world on his terms and that is right and good, but not always immediately understood or accepted by people we engage with. I will need down time to just breathe, but with deadlines for various get togethers and other things weighing heavy panic wants to take over and incapacitate me.

I am trying, but it is very, very hard right now. I have emergency “reset button” medication that helps calm me down so I sleep (exhaustion makes it SO much harder to cope!) but I try to take it as little as possible. When you come from a long line of addicts, it’s scary to take medication that could be badly addicting so I am as sparing with it as I can get away with.

I guess this is me asking for forgiveness and also offering apology. I don’t mean to fall apart, but I do, and I need room to breathe and to be okay in and of myself too. There’s nothing scarier to me than admitting that and opening myself up to potential cruel judgement but to not be truthful about it would be to go against everything I’ve written and the tone of this blog. This is my life, and part of life with J.

Free? Not So Fast…

There are many who balk at the amount of money it takes to breed/acquire, raise, train and back up a service dog through their working life. It makes sense, given that we do not generally see dogs as expensive to obtain and that their training is not a tangible object like a car or a computer.

It took us six months of fundraising to meet the $13,000 we’d committed to fundraise in J’s name for 4 Paws for Ability. That’s a little under half the full cost of what it took for them to give Brooklyn all she needed and then for them to back her up during her service life. When I say “back her up”, I mean that anything that happens that we struggle with we can call the trainers and get assistance. If there is an emergency with her, they will assist us where they can. If she needs refresher training or something happens that means J needs a new skill from her, she can go back to their facility, learn the skill then rejoin our family. Brooklyn is expected to have a career that lasts around eight to ten years, ten being a longshot. Realizing that what we fundraises goes into 4 Paws for Ability being by our side in her working life for that long suddenly puts the amount raised into sharp perspective.

There are organizations that can, and will, prey upon the desperation of parents. The moment you hear your child is disabled, you become painfully familiar with the word “no” or worse, being told “yes” but price, distance or other factors making the resource you’d been approved for next to impossible to obtain. When you are willing to do anything for your child and are acting out of haste rather than carefully planning your next step and choice, you’re susceptible to snake oil salesmen. They prey on our community hard selling anything from supplements that range from useless to harmful to even offering “free” service dogs that turn out to be ill-matched, ill trained and potentially even a hazard for the household in which they are placed.

Please, if you feel the service dog road is one you’d like to explore for your child, I urge you to do your homework. Contact several organizations. Learn their credentials and see if you can talk to families who have worked with them. You can check out Canines for Disabled Kids (http://www.caninesforkids.org) for information as well. They work to support teams of service dogs with children, be they in a 3 party team like Brooklyn and J or be the child old enough to handle the dog on their own. They can offer some perspective on various agencies, though they may not know every agency as some of the more shifty ones pop up as fast as dandelions in summer. Check out the organizations non-profit status and explore their ratings online. There’s information out there that will help you make the best choice for your child.

It’s tempted to go the easiest road, but that road in this case might be the worst thing for your child in family. I know it’s hard to face the idea of fundraising so much money, then to wait a year to a year and a half until the dog is actually in your home. That process can be painful at times, yet the moment  your child and dog meet there will be little sweeter in your life. The process also enables you to get a taste of what the work load will be like once you bring your child’s service dog home. It is not easy, or free, but it is worth every single moment put into it.

kisses

This meeting was 18 months, thousands of dollars, countless hours of work and worry in the making. It is worth all of it and so much more.

Preschool 2014-2015

Sometimes, a picture says it all.

This is J’s school photo from this year. O’Connor Photography owns the image, etc. and so forth.

school20142015

Apologies for low quality, it was a poor man scanning job done via the camera on my phone.

This kid. Sometimes, he just completely surprises me. The moment I saw this this morning I laughed so hard I had to take a minute to catch my breath. This is so absolutely, completely him right now on so many levels.

Life at Home

Welcome to life with the Bumpuss Hounds. I’ll be your host this evening…

So this is life with J-Bear and B-Dog right now. Whenever they are interacting together they are bouncing off the walls. It’d be funny if this apartment weren’t so small and crowded! They are interacting though and that is the important part.

When a lot of families might go into a process such as this they may have this Norman Rockwell-esque vision of the outcome.

I’m here to warn you that that’s highly unlikely to be the truth of what happens when you bring your dog home and there is a chance it might never be.

Having Brooklyn home this past week  has been amazing and exhausting. This week promises more of the same as we get into a very firm training routine. We did a practice track with her this afternoon that was… rough to say the least. She had the scent, she lost the scent, she had the scent, she lost it again, then she used her sight rather than her nose to find her boy. Not perfect, but I felt reassured that I could at least read what she was doing with a sense of almost complete confidence so that I can work on the problems we had. Training will be essential, which means hours carved out of the week to devote to it. Not tons, because a lot of her skills remain sharp by doing every day life things with us, but some of the others will need refreshers and reinforcing.

Their bond is not perfect, either. They seek each other out for fun, yes. They love to play with one another and to cuddle when J is in the mood for that, but they’re still learning one another. The affection is there, and the concern about one another is obvious. J cries, she generally searches him out to see what’s happening. Tonight he screamed over getting his hair washed and she bolted to the bathroom door, peering in with alert interest and ready to work. That’s a wonderful sign. He’s taken to cuddling her and patting her face and holding her paw. She enjoys the way he “speaks” with her when he does that so it’s very encouraging to watch.

Our life is a brand new sort of “work in progress”. Our familiarity with how each member of the family interacts is increasing to more and more comfortable levels, which is great. The more we can establish a strong routine, the better we can handle everything too. This week is a regular week. No days off school, no doctor appointments, no nothing but the usual stuff we do. That will be awesome for Brooklyn and for J.

Now let’s pray J’s little cold doesn’t turn into something worse. She’ll be there to comfort him if it does, which is great, but let’s not get our carts before our horses just yet!

So that’s life in the big city. Our world is covered in a fine layer of blonde fur and I could not be happier to have it so. She is a loving girl and he is so happy to have her, so every bit of work is infinitely worth it.

Back to Reality

The two weeks you’re at training are amazing and grueling, but you’re only focused on yourselves and the dog. Then you leave this tremendous high and boom, back to real life.

With a dog.

Do you remember the day you brought your first (or subsequent!) child home? How amazing and euphoric it was as well as how scary and “oh my God this is real what am I even going to do?!” it felt? Welcome to returning home with a service dog.

It’s exactly as though I have two children instead of one. Each need their own levels of care and one is learning how to be in this house while the other has it mastered. Brooklyn is doing great and every day J seems to love her more and more. We’re all still learning how to speak Brooklyn too, but that’s coming along nicely.

I won’t say it is not exhausting though. I am up earlier, going to bed about the same time but rather than have down time it is non-stop go go go. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The phone calls have increased, the day to day needs versus can wait til later things have increased, the level of work is just higher. That’s unavoidable. We brought home a dog, not a robot. She needs care, love and attention. J needs care, love and attention. They both need discipline too.

This is an important reality to write about I feel. A lot of people enter this process with this all too perfect expectation of what will happen when they reach the day their dog comes home. It is as though the fact that they are in fact bringing home a dog, not a magical band-aid, is lost. Brooklyn means so much to us in so many ways but there’s no way she was going to show up and from day 1 be the perfect solution to … well, anything. Were you awesome the first day at every new job you ever started? Did you feel 100% on point the first day you lived in a new town and home?

I cannot expect that of her. That’s not fair to her, or to myself.

What she has done in this short time is plant a seed of confidence in J. He has always been a very self-possessed child but now he’s willing to engage with others more readily when she’s beside him. He demonstrated to a little girl in his class, a child he’s known nearly 2 years now, how to pet Brooklyn and cuddle her. He actively encouraged her, all on his own. This is usually something reserved for people much smaller than himself. He is calmer when she is around, unless there is play involved, and they cuddle together in the car. When he cries, maybe about two-thirds of the time she finds him and tries to distract him or cuddle him. When we leave him at school or therapy, she’s all about nearly bounding back to the door to get him when he’s through, eagerly awaiting her new buddy.

They’re fast friends, and she’s even managed to help him leave the house without any stuffed animals for the first time in years. Now, don’t think Miss Kitty or any of the gang are thrown to the wayside. They’re still there for bedtime, forever special to him and us.

But… it’s work. A lot of work. We’re going to get into our own training routine here now that everyone is back to their usual schedules and, I hope, make a great go of things. I’ll as always keep you all updated on the shenanigans of these two. When they’re alone together it’s very Calvin and Hobbes, so watch out world.

For Future Families

A friend asked me about things to bring when they themselves go to training soon so I figured this would be a great place to post this. I ask anyone who refers to this to remember that this is purely personal perspective. Those of you engaged in the 4 Paws for Ability journey will receive paperwork that outlines both what 4 Paws for Ability provides and what you will need at home. Also, while in Ohio, they will give you loan of a food bowl plus a kennel. You return these in the last two days you are there. They will give you food and have treats available at the training center for you to give the dogs.

Here is a list of what we brought to OH for Brooklyn and/or what we purchased while there:

  • A flat collar (traditional dog collar for tags) – we had chosen this long before we knew we were getting Brooklyn and it happened to work for our lady dog. Not a necessity.
  • Travel food and water bowls. We use collapsible bowls like these: Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Rosh Silicone Pet Expandable/Collapsible Travel Bowl with Carabineer for Leash – Size: 1.5 Cups, Color: Green I brought 2 with us and it came in very handy when we needed to stop on the way home for an overnight. They clean easy and hang off my backpack.
  • Backpack/Bag: Those of you who are used to carrying around a lot of stuff for your children/family are used to carrying an accommodating bag. Now is the time to consider how to carry such a bag while managing a child and a dog. Will you need to be hands free? Will you have a stroller or wheelchair on which to place it? I bought a backpack from LL Bean that is phenomenal for all I need, however backpacks are not always for everyone.
  • Toys: Some toys for the dogs can be universal. KONG toys and Nylabones are what is directed as good for the dogs. If you are getting a larger breed dog it is best to err on the side of caution and purchase bones for heavy/powerful chewers. Brooklyn isn’t powerful per se, but she is persistent. They are always clearly labelled. This is one of Brooklyn’s faves:KONG Extreme Dog Toy, Large, Black If you choose to go the Nylabone route be wary of “flexichew” or any almost translucent seeming bones. These are good for mild chewers but retrievers and doodles can go through these like milk bones. You want the opaque, hard versions for strong chewers.
  • Heavy duty work gloves: This applies if your dog is doing tracking work. If not, you can skip this! When you handle the flexi during an outdoor track you WILL need this. I had thinner gloves and burned a finger on the flexi midtrack one day. Learned my lesson good! A suggestion: G & F 5015L-5 Regular Cowhide Leather Palm Gloves with rubberized safety cuff Large, 5-Pair pack – The reinforced palm and thumb are critical. They do have gloves you can use while there but you’re going to need them at some point anyway.
  • Poop bags and dispenser: They will provide you some but you have to go back to the hotel at some point. It’s super convenient to hang the dispenser off your leash. That way, you always have them with you. I also keep a spare roll in the backpack just in case. We use these: 900-Count Earth Rated® Lavender-Scented Dog Waste Bags, 60 Refill Rolls (no, I did not buy 900, there’s other options 😉

A side note: All links in this post are Amazon Associates links and contribute to the J-Bear and Brooklyn Necessities Fund ™. Such links give small amounts of Amazon credit when used to make a purchase from. 

There are probably a thousand niceties I am forgetting but honestly, this is a great start. Fellow past families, anything you’d like to add? Comment here or on Facebook, I can add to the list continually!

Other things you should know:

  • If you forget anything, there’s a store that has your back nearby. The only thing you might have a slight struggle with would be medical or incontinence supplies but most families dealing with that have themselves covered. There’s also several pharmacies near the hotels and a large hospital right near the mall in which we do public access. Dayton Children’s is not too far off too.
  • All weather gear. Unless you’re in the heart of winter or depths of summer during your class, weather will vary wildly. I went from winter gear to rain gear to no gear but plain clothes through the course of our class. Pack layers that work well together and make sure you have at least two pairs of shoes you don’t mine getting muddy/wet/possibly poop bombed. Layers for the kids are great too and even just inexpensive ponchos for family members hiding during tracking practice can work a treat.
  • Make sure the people you are rooming with are people with whom you have a strong relationship and who are comfortable looking after your child in every respect. If they are not willing to change diapers, to dispense discipline as your family handles discipline or maintain your child’s needs class is going to be twice as hard for you. Two weeks in an environment like this tests any relationship, so if you’re not going in strong you’re going to get frazzled. Reduce your own stress, prepare everyone going beforehand to be all hands in and aware that sometimes, whoever is the primary handler is going to need to be fully focused elsewhere and not helping them through. This doesn’t mean you’re unable to do anything for your child, you just won’t be able to do kids 24/7 as you may at home. This was hard on J-Bear. He’s never shared me before, so we’re learning.
  • Pee and poop can and likely will happen in public at some point. You’re new, your dog is young and you’re learning each other’s language. Make sure you have a means to clean it up. We used a diaper, a poop bag and wipes to make it like Brooklyn had never lost control of her pea sized bladder. It’s since grown to roughly the size of a golf ball 😉
  • Stuffed animals can be a blessing and a curse. If your child is very, very stuffed animal oriented you’re going to learn very, very quickly about distraction training. J is after all very attached to Miss Kitty, and Miss Kitty has zero back up waiting in case something ever happens. We’ve tried, it never works. Brooklyn went after her once and we started distraction training with stuffed animals on the spot. It’s a very difficult process, especially when you have a very young child, but one you need to be aware of. If stuffed animals aren’t a big deal in your home you might be best leaving them behind when you come to training.
  • There will be dog hair everywhere. If you’re bothered by this, start getting ready for it as of this post. Seriously. You cannot escape it. It will be on your clothes, in your car, in your food…. It will be everywhere, and you oddly will feel so happy to see it once you see your dog and child meet.
  • You are going to meet a group of diverse families with children who have a wide range of needs. You will learn more in these two weeks about humanity than you might ever learn again in your life. You will see families gel in ways you think you only see on TV. I saw a family without a word rally around their daughter as she suffered a seizure, each fitting together like a piece of a perfect puzzle to make sure the daughter was beautifully looked after. I learned more about seizure disorders in those two weeks than I have in my whole life until this point. I saw the broad spectrum of autism displayed before my eyes and saw what Fetal Alcohol Syndrome really means. It was incredible. The children and families will cement a special place in your heart, which will grow exponentially from the experience.
  • The trainers are as invested as you are. They want your success as much as you do. They are there for you. They will help you with anything you need in terms of working with your dog. It does not matter if you’ve been around animals your whole life or never been in the same room with a dog alone before… They have got your back, as do your fellow families.

This experience is intense to say the least. I likely left out a lot, so this post may see a lot of edits. I hope this can help those looking forward to their training classes!

An Ending and A Beginning

offforadventure

Preparing to start our lives together. (Thanks to Jaki W. for taking this)

Today marked the end of our two weeks here at 4 Paws for Ability. It was not without random adventure, for we were forced out of the building we started in and back into a much smaller space for class yet in the end it all worked out perfectly as it ought to have.

We met a lot of kids, a lot of families and a lot of dogs. We met the dozens of people behind each and every dog who have been dedicated to improving the lives of our children long before they even knew them. We saw the faces of those who do not say “no” to children and families with very particular, very complicated needs… We found the one place that says “yes”.

It has been two weeks of acceptance, of hard work, of encouragement, of laughter and of tears. We have communicated in barks, in yells, in hand flapping, in clicking, in screams, in whistles and in sighs. We have stood at the start, shoulder to shoulder, nearly all thinking “there is no way I can do this” while talented trainers and staff stood in front of us saying “there’s no way you can fail” while taking our proverbial hands and guiding us along.

There’s not a tool left out of our toolbox to work with these dogs and our children alongside them now. If we find down the road there is, it just takes a phone call to work on getting it in place. The investment each member of the 4 Paws staff has made in each and every dog shines with every lesson given. They know these dogs carry a large burden and they know they can carry it and then some thanks to their hard work and most importantly, their love.

Their love shines through in their dogs. It shines through in the delight on our children’s faces seeing the only friend they might have known thus far in their lives. It shines through in the hope it plants in every family they touch.

All because they love what they do.

This isn’t just a punch the clock job for these men and women, these volunteers and staff. This is all heart. This is all passion. The dogs feel it from birth to the day they go to their forever family, whatever their future may hold and it shows.

Now J is a part of it. J and Brooklyn are a perfect match. Brooklyn is not who I necessarily envisioned but then again, I do not know what I envisioned… They gave us exactly the dog we needed though.

The torch has now been passed as Brooklyn is now a full-fledged certified 4 Paws service dog. It is in our hands now to continue with what they started. We must maintain her impeccable training and manners and show those we encounter just how incredible and life changing these dogs are. I would say it is a daunting thing to face, turning to look towards the future, but it’s not. The love the 4 Paws for Ability staff gave our dogs in their upbringing they gave to us as families during the training. Jeremy, Brit, Shelby, Jessa, Y, Lindsey, Jennifer, all the kennel and training staff… They gave us everything we need. The future can only be amazing from here, all for the love they showed.

Thank you, 4 Paws for Ability. Thank you for believing in our children and our families. Thank you for this gift of hope, love and joy in the shape of a beautiful golden retriever named Brooklyn. Thank you for what you do every day.

goodmorningma

gradiating

present

Training: Days 9 and 10

I am not even going to attempt anything close to doing a full and detailed account of each of these days separately. I can’t. My brain, she done checked out and ran for cover somewhere far from where we are at. It’s been 10 days now of intense information, practice and trying to accommodate maybe half of the stuff you do in your regular life into busy training days.

It’s tough stuff. Forever and always worth it, but this is my boot camp and I am getting schooled hard in service dog handling life.

The past couple of days have included two practice tracks, one of which J was allowed (while supervised) to run pretty solo towards a playground on which he could stay so Brooklyn and I could track him. This is one of the single most real world scenarios we’ve done yet for J in terms of how we’d use Brooklyn’s search and rescue skills. J is attracted to slides, swings, bodies of water, trains, large vehicles and buildings that look like farms (sheds, etc.). Him being in constant motion on the playground was extremely like him and gave me a very, very good idea of her true focus – was it on J or on another family member?

I am pleased to report she sure did find her boy. She waffled a little when the path got overwhelmed with scent from an outbuilding but picked it right back up. A squeaky swing also drew her attention but not only did she snap back to tracking mode, we had a learning opportunity to bring her to the swing and create a positive experience so she’s less likely to be distracted by it again.

We have done a lot of obedience work. This does not end when we go home, nor does tracking or tethering training. We will always be finely tuning our skills as a team and her skills as a service dog. Here are some of the newer commands:

  • “force push”/side: When commanded with a hand gesture while she is in a “down” position, she will roll onto her side, relaxed like she were knocked over by someone using “the force” Star Wars style. Brooklyn struggles with this and ends up laying on her back paws in the air. It’s pretty funny. I told the trainer I broke my dog.
  • roll over: Exactly as the command implies, Brooklyn rolls over. She loves this command! She does it giddily!
  • over: J is a deep pressure guy. When he’s unsettled, there’s little that calms him more than squeezes or a weighted blanket or both. Enter Brooklyn. When J is sitting with his legs straight out or on the bed laying down, she can be directed to lay across his legs, applying her body weight like she were a warm, fuzzy, loving weighted blanket. She adores this as well as the lap command as she knows it means cuddles. Cuddles are huge to her, their own treat really!

We’ve done a lot of our beginning commands off leash as well as just on a training collar now (commonly referred to as a choke collar but suffice to say if it’s earning this name, you’re using it wrong). Brooklyn aces this in class but kind of goes full goofball at home. Like J in a new place, she’s testing her limits and learning them piece by piece.

The not so glamorous part of dog life is that Brooklyn is young. We’re new to her and she is new to us. Accidents were highly likely and we’ve had two now. The head trainer explained that whenever something goes goofy, analyze the befores and afters. What was different? What was the same? Can you establish a pattern? We’ve now learned when to take up Brooklyn’s water and also that she needs to go out a few more times. She does not have a distinctive “pee impending” set of behaviors. It’s calm one moment, the dam breaking the next. Now we know, and now we also know how to play cool, clean up and move on with our lives.

Here’s some pictures, none of which are of potty fail:

carride

racing and stimming!

dawwkitty

Totally NOT going to touch the kitty (and she didn’t, she aced this test by completely ignoring her)

pawhold

J’s favorite thing to do with her? High fives or holding her paw. <3

Training Interlude

In lieu of a proper training post, please accept the musical stylings of J-Bear as seen by our class this morning. Mama is tired, and posts will resume tomorrow:

 

Training: Day 8

The days, they blur.

This morning, as we will continue to do I think through Thursday, we did obedience first at the training center. What I hadn’t predicted Brooklyn and I actually had worked on today’s skill last night: We braved Target by ourselves and used a shopping cart when picking up a few things.

Friday night, Brooklyn was the anti shopping cart dog. Today, she’s rocking them! Last night she was skittish around a particularly loud one for a few minutes but with some intensely awesome treats (Bil-Jac dog food*) we went onwards without an issue. She maintained a great heel position with little correction and I let people really approach her to prepare her for real life experiences. She struggles sometimes, especially with little girls, but every opportunity we have to work with that scenario we take advantage of it. We even put J in the shopping cart at training today and she acted like she’d never ever been scared.

Perfect.

The second half of this morning was an outdoor track. I mentioned this on the Facebook page but wow. Just wow. Half of children with autism are prone to wandering. This leads them easily into dangerous situations as they move generally towards locations of fixations: water, train tracks, busy roadways or they move heedlessly across dangerous areas like highways and parking lots to reach desired locations. This is just a fact of life we must understand as part of loving J. He will always be at risk for this until the awareness of choosing differently dawns. I have full faith my son will one day life a secure and independent life, and Brooklyn’s nose being available to secure his safety is critical to that.

This dog is a little mother. She dotes on everyone around her and is a perfect example of the beautiful love only an animal can give: unconditional, undemanding and whole-hearted. The moment we started the track she was off. She was determined to find her boy, and quick. She let me determine a speed safe for myself and heeded my handling after I got the hang of it. She got hung up once when the scent trail wavered but quickly found it again, showing every tell-tale sign of having an excellent grasp of the path her boy took. The reward she receives for finding J is her most beloved treats, her most beloved ball and even more so a rain of enthusiastic praise. We really do pretty much throw a ticker tape parade every time, minus the ticker tape.

This afternoon she performed three tracks in a department store. It was incredible. We only have our small five foot leash, so it works slightly differently. We don’t hype her up quick so much but the shift in her demeanor is the same: She goes from tender docile lovebug to boisterous dog on a mission in a split second with her commands! She found J quickly and loved getting her treats even without quite the loud and crazy party she gets outdoors. J is not a fan of practicing this skill but we wouldn’t even be trying it if he hadn’t wandered in the past. He has tried to throw himself into open bodies of water, into pools, into touch tanks at the aquarium, towards roadways to see construction equipment… Now, between the tracking and the tethering, my worrying has diminished by half if not more.

I can explain tethering better later when I can show pictures. This is something not to ever, for anything, be done with a child and a pet dog and never to be done without strict adult supervision. Child and dog can find themselves either hurting themselves or hurting each other if left unsupervised. Brooklyn has spent months learning how things will work with being tethered with someone even stronger than J-Bear. He’s easy by comparison, and he’s always got at least one adult with him as well. This skill prevents him from bolting the moment I might need to attend to something like paying for groceries and gives him independence and security as well. It has the fringe benefit of being fantastic sensory input to him, for every tug fills his need for sensory input. Tug is a favorite game of his to play and she doesn’t even realize they’re playing it, she just walks along like he wasn’t there.

No pictures tonight because I have to confess, I am tired. This is Day 8 of non-stop training and even Brooklyn is wiped. It will be nice to finish the laundry I have going then lay down my head and rest. I wanted to go out to Walmart and practice alone with Brooklyn in a more stimulating environment but it can wait til tomorrow. Walmart will still be there, after all. Maybe we’ll even do an indoor track. 🙂

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If you would like to learn more about Autism please check out http://awaare.nationalautismassociation.org/

*= Bil-Jac is a frozen dog food that is… well, I think it’s super gross. You can make little pea sized meatballs for the dogs with it and they go over the MOON for it. It’s called doggie crack for a reason! 

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