Thursday, 26 July 2012

26th July - Aargh - I can't keep up with life! Bring on the summer :)

Life is moving so fast. Can someone please stop the rollercoaster for just a minute to let me get off. Every day I start with a mass of good intentions, and by evening I am a dribbling mess wondering why item two on my 'to do' list didn't get done. And so it is with this blog, I want to write every day, but kids, dogs and my garden all seem to be stealing my time.

My days start around 5.30 on average, which is the point I realise Alex has snuck into our bed at goodness knows what time....the early morning sun wakes me, and I reach out expecting the long arm of Dave and instead I feel a little soft Alex all snuggled up. More often than not at this point I realise Tom has also wriggled in next to Dave, and there is a cat on my feet and a dog on the floor - so much for the marital boudoir, which appears to now be shared by six of us by morning. What was the point of the big house move last year to get a four bedroom house, when apparently one bedroom is all that is needed? So I stir at this early hour, and muddle through till Dave rises at 6am, and graciously takes over the chaos of the zoo. I pretend to still be asleep if I can get away with it till 7 when Dave leaves, and I reluctantly spring (!) into action.

More often than not the early start is on the back of a couple of disturbances in the night. And last night was no 3am I woke up to a sound. An odd sound I couldn't make out, so I put the light on and listened. Not the usual boiler noises, or kids, this was more of a banging with a scratching sound. So I wandered into Alex's room, where Lucie was sleeping soundly on her bed on the floor. The sound turned out to be her in full dream mode, and her paws were going ten to the dozen as in a top sprint, scratching against the wall, and her tail was wagging and thumping on the bed. What a racket. So I woke her up to ask her to dream more quietly. I didn't expect Lucie's dreams to keep me up...she will be sleep barking soon.

I am very happy at the moment, and I suspect it is a result of being very active, and also enjoying the time of year we can get outdoors. Not that I am a sun lover - just as well in Lancashire - but I do think we all need a dose of Vitamin D, and warmth on our skin at least 4 hours of the year. We have had Lucie for two months now, and I can hand on heart say it is the best thing to have happened in years. I enjoy her company, the walks, and most of all the optimism she has given me in going out and about with my family. It is a huge commitment, and at times downright irritating dealing with a princess with a stubborn attitude - but having a go at Lucie being awkward would be the pot calling the kettle black - so I'll cut her some slack!

The last time I wrote I was due to go to Sheffield for a day. I was sharing our experiences as part of staff training for new recruits at Support Dogs. And I also caught up on some practice work for myself. I had such a great day, just being back at the training centre, and seeing Lucie on great form. Yet again, Michelle helped me deal with another area I was struggling with. This time it was reinforcing the 'leave it' command, which was getting ineffective, as Lucie felt sniffing around for a snack was fair game. A few tips in place, and we are now getting back on track.

I feel now we are finally settling into a routine with Lucie, and the initial ups and downs are being ironed out. For me it has been trying to strike the right balance between letting her be a dog, chilling and playing, and maintaining the standards and respect to work. She continues to try her luck, but my boundaries are much clearer now I know what to expect of her. It has got more relaxing as I have grown in confidence.

Alex seems to be getting more engaged with her all the time. In his own discreet way, he is letting her into his world. A little more touching and interaction each week, and they really seem to be edging closer together. I am keen not to rush them into 'being together' and hope they seek each other out as and when that company works for them.

And so now it is the school holidays, and usual routines get thrown in the air, and we see what fallout will come. But for me I am feeling uncharacteristically optimistic this season, and think we will have some fun and enjoy the break. A time of year traditionally I fear and go underground, but with the help of a light summery rose wine, my garden being more safe and habitable (long story - don't ask), I think we can relax and get into the summer groove.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

11th July What a long week!

Its seems a while since I wrote, the last week or two seems to have just been a blur. There are some days you have to remind yourself which month you are in, let alone which day it is. I sometimes get to nighttime and just at the point you are supposed to relax and muse about your day, my head would surge with thoughts of tomorrow, and work out which rollercoaster I had to get on. I love the question I get asked by some 'What do you do with your day, sleep, read magazines?' Ha! I wish.

So where to start - since I last wrote Lucie has been working hard, earning her treats. I took Alex and Lucie to the cinema - take 2 after our first failed attempt a few weeks ago. It was risky as it was a documentary on African Cats, I know - how cruel to take Lucie to watch all those cats ;) Not our usual animated Disney fix, but worth a go as Alex is fascinated by animals, and in truth I suspected the cinema would be half empty as I wasn't sure this was mainstream Preston entertainment. What a fantastic morning we had. I think I got shifty in my seat before Alex (it was stunning safari filming - but there is only so many times you can watch lions mutilating impala). We did leave early but only after an hour of huge enjoyment, and Lucie not even wriggling once. I thought this time we would quit while ahead, and leave with positive memories. Very motivated to go again.

We also did another first with Lucie taking her into Chorley hospital. Of all places this was the one I most expected to be turned away. Alex had an orthotics appointment ('feet' to me! - I keep confusing it with opthalmic - I just ask them which body part the appointment is for - ears, feet or eyes is all I need to know....doctors have such fancy names for simple things). This has always been tricky, not only as hospital appointments usually incur long waits, but the clinic is next door to X-Ray. One of Alex's more amusing obsessions is crutches and wheelchairs. He grabs crutches, and climbs onto wheelchairs. Some interesting tales there of Alex surprising the odd person as he attempts to hitch a by X-ray I have real problems trying to stop Alex grabbing people going past. It takes some explaining. So on entering hospital, I brasenly marched past the reception desk looking confident, avoiding eye contact, and I figured once inside someone would be brave to approach us. The trick worked, and Lucie worked her magic. Alex even sat still in the waiting room, and the orthotist seem very surprised to see a dog when calling us in. Nonetheless (and he is a sweety - and gorgeous, but that is irrelevant!) he was very accommodating, and delighted to see how Lucie helped Alex in the appointment. What I find interesting is Alex is a toe walker, with ankles that fall in. Not helped by his erratic walking. He has insoles to help support his feet better and try and get him to walk on his heels. I mentioned that since having Lucie, he is starting to walk at a more usual pace when attached, rather than darting around, which seems to cause him to walk better on his feet. I would be delighted if the attachment walking helps Alex move away from toe walking as that would really help his tendons develop. A tenuous link, but I can make random connections between dogs and tendons if I want to! The beauty of a blog - I don't have to be factually correct, I can just summise as I please :)

And finally today, as there is no way I can fill in two weeks of action in one days blog, I'll share my epic Friday where Lucie must have thought she needed a pay rise. I attended a conference at Edge Hill University on challenging behaviour. It involved sitting in a lecture theatre all day. A big ask in itself, but the challenge was spiced up firstly by Lucie refusing to toilet in the morning, if only she knew how long she had to cross her legs/paws for....and so I set off with nervousness that there may be an accident...This was one of the days we had record breaking rain, and we are talking canoe heaven. It was a long walk on campus, and Lucie and I were drenched. I looked very odd arriving with towels to dry her down, but needs must. She was wonderful on the day, though rather limited my options to hang around the buffet table for long. The only downside for me, is everyone wants to talk about her, but I want to talk about other things, that you would normally discuss when going on courses etc. So it does limit my learning opportunities. After a remarkable day, she waited for me patiently, and we made our way home very tired. But no rest for the wicked. The evening was Tom's school concert in our local country park. He was meant to be singing with his class so my sense of duty kicked in and off we went. Tom, Lucie and I had a 3 hour epic evening in a walled garden, as the show went on. It was a swarm of little children, and at times I got more than a little direct in telling kids to give Lucie her space. 6 would pile in together wanting to stroke her, and I had to get control. So it was a little bit of marshalling on my part. I was pleased the kids managed to ask some good questions about assistance dogs, and let them know more. My favourite question was from a little girl, around 3 years old. "Why is she wearing a coat?" I try and find a quick answer she may understand, but clumsily say "Because she is working". Before I can expand on that, she replies "Does she build things, does she have bricks?" I couldn't bear to shatter such a wonderful imagination, and said " Sort of " - I think I will let her live in the world imagining dogs building houses a little longer before reality takes hold.

Enough for now. I am up early tomorrow for a special trip back to Sheffield. Lucie will be so excited to see Michelle and all her friends. I have been asked to speak to three new support dog trainers about the autism program and how it has helped us. I also have another training session in Meadowhall preparing for my final test. Very much looking forward to the trip. I shall catch up as I can catch my breath...