Saturday, July 28, 2012

Homeward Bound!

We are on our way home after a wonderful but exhausting trip! After being here so long it feels a little strange to leave. We had great families in our class and everyone at 4 Paws for Ability was helpful and encouraging. They do amazing work and we feel blessed to be part of the 4 Paws family.

I also have to give a huge shout out to Homewood Suites. They were welcoming and accommodating to all of us. Every morning started with a complimentary full breakfast buffet and the staff was so kind. It didn't take long before they figured out that Aria and Evan really liked the chocolate muffins and somehow our kids even got muffin deliveries when they were fresh from the oven! On Monday - Thursday we were greeted in the evening with a complimentary dinner complete with wine and beer! Homewood Suites quickly became a haven for us. This was also the first public place we brought Mindy and all the staff were so good about having several service dogs around. As we were checking out we complimented them on this and the reply was, "we love 4 Paws for Ability and seeing the dogs here." That's certainly a nice feeling, especially as we were learning how to work with Mindy!

It's a long trip and electronics are a great distraction!

Friday, July 27, 2012


Today was the big day! We had our public access test. The test was done at the mall and included a restaurant experience in the food court. We decided it would be easier to just send Rob and Mindy for the test and it also gave Aria and Evan a little down time. Rob said Mindy was great and made him look good. She passed with flying colors and we are an official service dog team.

After the test we went to 4 Paws for Ability to go over all the paperwork, medical history, etc. We also were given Mindy's tags and a new collar that Evan picked out from a huge bin. The afternoon ended in a graduation for all the dogs. We each received our service dog certificate and celebrated with cake and a gathering of our class, the 4 Paws trainers and staff and several puppy foster parents. It was great to have the chance to celebrate together and it felt so strange to say our goodbyes after spending so much time together. We have all come so far.

Jeremy told us the first year will be the hardest and that there will be bumps along the way. We will leave Ohio with everything we have learned...and Jeremy's cell phone number!

 We signed the Graduation Wall Hanging in permanent marker so we are official!

 Evan, Jeremy and Mindy after Graduation

 These are the two best big sisters ever! So glad they got to spend so much time together!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Training, Day 10

Wow, we've really come a long way. This was our last day of training! Tomorrow we will take a pretty intensive test to show we can do everything we need to do as a service dog team. If all goes well it will be the last day Mindy wears her "in training" card!

This morning I took Evan to see an orthopedist about his finger. They were pretty insistent in the ER about following up as soon as possible and not waiting until we got home. The doctor looked at it, verified the fracture, re-splinted it and off we went. He said it should heal completely in two weeks and said Evan can swim as long as he wears the splint. This was the best thing he could have said!

There was a news crew at 4 Paws for Ability doing a story about a little Papillion with one eye who will be a service dog one day. He is appropriately named Pirate and is so sweet! Here is the link to the story...all 5 of my family are in the video but some are more stealth appearances than others!

Channel 2 News: Pirate the Papillion Ready for Service

While Evan and I spent most if the morning in the doctor's office, Rob, Aria and Mindy were at 4 Paws for Ability. Rob and Mindy went over what we've learned. We also talked about life in general with a service dog, how long dogs will work and when to retire them. We learned about how to introduce Mindy to Dinky and what to expect when we get home.

It's been a lot of information to absorb in 10 days of training and everyone is tired! Evan and Mindy are all tucked in -- she is a bit of a pampered dog already and likes her pillow and blankets!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Training, Day 9

Practice, practice, practice! Heel, sit, down, obstacle course, lap...whew!

Evan with Mindy doing the "lap" command which is used as a way to soothe Evan during a medical procedure or after a seizure. She basically lays her head in his lap to comfort him.

Another photo of the "lap" command with Evan multitasking as he enjoys his dog and his YouTube video.

Mindy gets cold with her short haircut but is nice an cozy under a fleece blanket!

In the afternoon we learned some tricks. We learned how to get Mindy to play dead and roll over. Then we did all the commands off leash. It was amazing to watch Mindy walk around in a heel without a leash. Rob also gave her commands from a distance and she listened beautifully. We also talked a bit about our TEST! Yes there will be a test and it looks like it is pass or fail. I don't even want to think about the fail option!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Training, Day 8

Mindy was great last night and was really tired when she went to bed. We were practicing before bed and she got excited and overtired. It roll a little whole to calm her down and then Rob was talking to her and quietly said, "Do you want to to lay down with Evan?) and off she went! He didn't even mean it as a command!

This morning we were seeing the puppy in Mindy a bit. She picked up a brush an did some substantial nibbling in record time. I can't blame her too much though, it does look a lot like a nylabone. Then when I was in the shower she did some counter surfing and got the milk steaming pot for our lattes (yes, we brought an espresso machine with us) and was lapping up milk from the floor. We are working on correcting that now and she is doing very well at resisting a freshly popped bag of popcorn on the counter. So proud of her!

Today at training we went over everything we learned and also got to help Mindy get used to umbrellas. It was raining this morning and the umbrella scared her so Jeremy took some time to demonstrate the technique of helping her to gain confidence around something unsettling. Jeremy opened the umbrella from across the room so she could approach it on her terms. Then he had Rob bring her up with a tennis ball so she could connect the new experience with something good. It's all so logical and yet I'd have never come up with this solution on my own.

After lunch we were back at the mall for more public accesstraining. Walking into the mall is funny because as we walk past people in acrowded area, I've noticed there is a chorus of "awww" as peoplewatched Mindy go past.

Mindy seems pretty comfortable in the mall!

After training we had a ride on the train that goes through the mall. This trio had a blast!

After training today we picked up a movie for the kids so we could just relax a bit before dinner. Mindy sat with Evan the whole time and they were really cute together. After dinner the kids played basketball with some new friends they've made, both from class and from the hotel. When they were done playing Evan told us his finger hurt and from the swollen look and purplish hue we knew it was a trip to the ER. He barely complained of pain but to make a long story short, it looks like it's broken. Mindy went to the ER and was absolutely perfect.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Training, Day 7

I can't believe we have completed seven days of training already! Today Jeremy increased the obstacle course challenge by having the dogs walk through a maze of dogs. Two people would work their dogs while the rest if the class created the obstacle course. We also worked on all our commands.

After lunch Karen talked about public access with service dogs and answered all our questions. She has pretty much seen / heard it all and is a wealth of information. She also shared some pretty funny stories about some if her experiences with having a device dog. It was an extremely informative afternoon.

Devyn challenged Rob to a horse race! Devyn won and challenged another dad next. 

We got back to the hotel after class and it was such a hot day that we headed straight for the pool. We put Mindy in her kennel because it was much too hot for her. Several families from our class were also at the pool and we had a great time being in the water and watching all the kids play. Two families with children in wheelchairs brought their kids down to join in the fun and they both seemed enjoy being in the water and were all smiles. Several of us ordered pizza and ate by the pool. It was the perfect end to another long day.

Back in the room we practiced with Mindy and put our very tired kids to bed!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Training, Day 6

This morning during class Jeremy set up an obstacle course of temptation and distraction for the dogs. We had to walk the dogs toys, a ball, a jar of peanut butter and a pile of Beggin' Strips. At some points there were even two dogs at a time walking through. Rob and Mindy did well and she responded to his corrections. It's so impressive to watch all the dogs do this! As the finished the course Rob had Mindy sit in front of the Beggin' Strips and she did it perfectly.

In the afternoon we went back to the mall and she did really well and this time she didn't relieve herself in the middle of the mall -- progress for all of us! Rob and I are starting to know her schedule and recognize her ways of telling us what she needs.

We also got to meet Jeremy's wife today. They fostered Mindy so it was great to talk to her and hear her talk about what a wonderful girl Mindy is. She liked seeing Mindy and Mindy was so happy to see Jennifer.

After class we all got together for a cookout hosted by a family in our class who lives a half hour away. They have a lot of land and the dogs all loved running and playing. Mindy is super fast and likes to get the other dogs to chase her as she runs off with a ball. They had a baby pool set up and a few of the dogs wasted no time before jumping in! The dogs had a serious party! Mindy wasn't too interested in getting wet and our new car thanks her for that! As soon as we got in the car she started drifting off to sleep.

Mindy really doesn't want to go in after the ball...

 Good thing she has a friend who'll go in after it!

Happy dogs!

Mindy loves running!

...and she also loves taking the lead!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Training, Day 5

The bond between Evan and Mindy is really starting to show more. She often chooses to sit next to him and he likes to give her treats so it's a good deal for both of them!


At training today Jeremy showed us how to use a tether to attach Evan to Mindy. We will do this in crowded areas where he tends to quietly wander off. It'll be nice to know we won't loose him.

In the afternoon we talked about grooming, nail trimming, ear cleaning, flea and tick prevention, heart worm prevention and appropriate play toys and chew toys. It was a lot of information and I'm glad they gave out handouts.

Today Uncle Chuck and Aunt Debby arrived for a few days. It was a nice surprise to have the come to Ohio to offer support. So many people are responsible for us having Mindy and it's great to share the experience.

Back at the hotel Rob took the kids to the pool and Chuck, Debby and I took Mindy for a walk to pick up dinner from a Thai restaurant two blocks away. Mindy was a star! She was absolutely perfect and I was so proud! She was in a perfect heel, even walking downstairs at the hotel and maintained a "down" position while we ordered and waited for our food and then again in the dining area in the lobby of the hotel.

4 Paws for Ability trains a three unit team to work the dogs and our team is Mindy, Rob and Evan. I still have to be able to handle Mindy and she has to recognize that the rules are the same with me, but Rob has worked with her much more so she listens better to him. I work with her at the hotel and she and I are developing nicely. This is why I was so proud of how well she listened to me when we were out.

Funny story of the day: Jeremy was showing us toys to avoid like realistic looking small animals. He suggested avoiding these so the dogs aren't encouraged to chase after animals in the wild or small pets like guinea pigs. The he pulls out a fox toy as an example of what not to get and Evan doesn't miss a beat and says, "you know, we have that exact fox toy at home for Dinky and he loves it!"Where is that table to crawl under?!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Training, Day 4

Last night Mindy slept with Evan again and they continue to adorable together. He really likes having her sleep with him and hanging out with her. I love to see their bond growing and it is essential for er to connect with him in order to do her job.

We went to the mall today and practiced walking with the dogs in a public setting. Mindy did really well and even walked with Evan a little. She was a little confused walking with Evan and Rob both holding the leash but did great and Evan was happy to walk with her.

Evan gives her lots of treats to help with the bonding. They both think it's pretty cool so that makes this part of the process easy!

Jeremy came with us while we walked around the mall and gave us pointers along the way. Before we went to the mall Jeremy said to be prepared to clean up an accident, just in case, and to make sure the dogs go potty before going to the mall. He said if it happens just clean it up quickly. He was also reassuring by telling us that at some point over the years it will happen to everyone.

Before entering the mall Mindy walked around outside twice but didn't do anything. To make a long story short, we don't have to wonder when an accident in public will happen. And, just to show how brilliant we are, it happened right in front of Jeremy!

Like I said before, we are learning.

After practicing we took a break at Starbucks and Mindy was perfect snoozing under the table while Aria and Evan sipped their smoothies and Rob and I re-caffeinated!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Training, Day 3

Last night Mindy slept with Evan and she seemed to do very well relaxing on the bed. It was great to see Evan and Mindy forming their bond.

In class today we got to hear about each family's experience at the hotel. We practiced obedience and they gave us each a Mutt Mat and Evan picked a bright green one. Mindy seemed quite comfortable in her place on it!

Aria volunteered again today and spent a lot of time with a puppy named Rainbow. She had trouble getting her back in the cage so she climbed in to demonstrate -- what a funny sight to find them both in the cage!

We also worked on getting Mindy to lay down under a table. This will be especially good at restaurants but we'll use this at home too. We also learned the command, "lap" for Mindy to lay her head on Evan's lap for soothing and behavior disruption. Evan liked petting her and giving her treats. He told Jeremy, the trainer, how helpful this will be when he has to get shots.

During class we also watched a Golden Retriever who is trained to pick up dropped items for a boy in a wheelchair and a Papillion who is trained as a hearing dog for a college student. It was amazing to watch these dogs do their jobs!

When we left 4 Paws for Ability today we were all tired. Back at the hotel we had dinner and practiced our homework so we are ready for tomorrow. We will have our first public access (except for the hotel) tomorrow at the Mall! Nine families with nine service dogs in training at a mall -- what a sight we will be!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Training, Day 2

Today we showed up at 4 Paws for Ability ready to go. We worked on lots of commands: sit, down, heel, jump, shake hands, give five and high five.

Aria volunteered to help with some if the dogs today. She spent a lot of time with Mallow who was really sweet and enjoyed her attention. Aria loved it too!

In the afternoon Evan helped Jeremy with training by working with Mindy to demonstrate how to get the dogs to bark on command. From there we moved onto seizure response and Evan pretended to have a seizure and Mindy barked in response. Pretty amazing stuff. Evan is due for a seizure any day so we'll be really interested to see what Mindy does.



 Evan's special trick: "Which hand is the teat in?"

Today we also got to bring Mindy back to the hotel with us! Before we left we took her outside and Evan played with Mindy with a ball. They both loved it!

When we got to the hotel Mindy was really confused. We left her in the kennel when we went to dinner downstairs because she seemed apprehensive. We'll try bringing her to breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Evan met Mindy today!

The long awaited day finally arrived...Evan got to meet his service dog, Mindy. It was an amazing experience. When we got to 4 Paws for Ability, Evan went straight to Mindy's crate to coo at her. The day was full of sensory overload as we met Mindy and worked on some basic obedience skills. Mindy of course knows everything, it's just a matter of convincing her that we are worthy handlers.

Evan was overwhelmed and having a lot of trouble focusing, so watching him meet Mindy for the first time wasn't the magical boy and his dog moment everyone probably imagines. But go ahead and imagine that anyway, it makes for a better story.

Mindy is small-ish Goldendoodle with a velvety smooth coat and a sweet personality. She was groomed right before we got to Ohio and they clipped her pretty short and put pink ribbons in her hair. She is so cute and I'm looking forward to seeing her with more curls! The little pink bows didn't last long but Aria thought they were pretty cute.

Evan wasn't very interested in having his picture taken today so I had to be stealth! I'm looking forward to getting a nice portrait of the two of them together!

Mindy is sleeping at 4 Paws for Ability tonight and will come back to the hotel with us tomorrow after we have a little more experience and confidence. I'm guessing the magic will happen then when we have downtime with Mindy in a more calm environment. The day was thrilling and tiring and we came back to the hotel for dinner and a dip in the pool before bed.

While we were in training a girl in our class had a seizure and her dog alerted an hour before it started and then responded when she started seizing. When the seizure started Mindy started barking and we aren't sure if it was due to the seizure or just a random bark, but she didn't bark much except for that time.It was almost spooky to see the dogs react like that. Evan seems like he is gearing up for a seizure and I'm hoping he waits until after tonight so we'll have Mindy at the hotel and can see how she does.

Bonus for the day: my cousin Paul, his wife Pam and their son Andy were at 4 Paws for Ability to adopt a dog that didn't make it as a service dog. Her name is Vroom and I think she will be the perfect addition to their family! Which one has a bigger smile? I can't tell!

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Mindy is my heart"

Tomorrow morning Evan will meet Mindy. This has been a much anticipated day to say the least. Tonight as Evan got ready for bed we took a photo of Mindy's new ID tag and Evan looked at me and said, "Mindy is my heart." I kissed him on the head and told him I know how he feels but to be honest sometimes he says things that stop me in my tracks.

Five minutes later he was in tears. The anticipation and expectation just caught up with him. It was hard for him to be in Ohio and not get to meet Mindy. Add that to three hours in the pool and the meltdown was inevitable. Rob calmed him down and we read and as soon as his head hit the pillow he was asleep.

Evan usually struggles with insomnia due to one of his medications so this is a pretty remarkable site. Sweet dreams to the boy who is my heart.