Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rough...or is it "Ruff?"

There is a glitch in our training. It's called Pleurisy and I have it. Pleurisy is a painful infection in the membrane that surrounds the lungs.
The chest pain I had for over a week climaxed Saturday morning. I felt I needed to be seen in the emergency room, but I was concerned about Eli. Unsure if he would be allowed to accompany me, the choice was made to have Eli stay home with the children.
As soon as I checked in and was brought into a room my husband inquired about the hospital's service animal policy. Security informed him that Eli would be allowed and I hoped my husband would go home to pick Eli up. He did not. Instead, we continually sent text messages to our children asking how Eli was handling himself.
After seven-and-a-half hours in the emergency room, I returned home to a very-happy-to-see-me little pup.
The children told me Eli sat at the bottom of our stairs looking up to the second floor, watching for me. I absolutely hate that our first time apart lasted such a long time. I really should have taken Eli to the emergency room with me.
The pain is exacerbating other MS symptoms. Eli seems content to just lay beside me right now, but we have work to do. I have been trying to practice Eli's stay, but I honestly have no stamina. There is no way I can work on our walking. Hopefully this pain subsides soon because the trainer, Lisa, gave me a great idea for using my cane as Eli's target when we walk and I am pretty excited to try it.
Eli had fun at Canine Good Citizen class on Friday. He got to play with Kach, Lisa's two-year-old Cocker. Eli will be so happy if Kach gets to play with him again this week. The plan, though, is that Lisa is going to try to have someone attend class and help us by being a 'friendly stranger' to practice some of the CGC test elements.
Poor little Eli is going to have a stressful week. He has his neutering on Tuesday. As if leaving him Saturday was not bad enough, Tuesday I will be leaving him in a strange place with strangers who will be doing strange things to him. Eli is going to deserve a BIG reward next weekend!
`*.¸.*´ CrystalLynn ~~~
¸.•´ Sent from my BlackBerry®

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wow, Eli!

I know I write this all the time, but Eli is such a good little dog.
I am beginning to get anxious about Eli's upcoming surgery. I have been practicing leaving Eli for a minute or two with my husband or one of the kids and Eli watches for me to come back, but he is okay. I gave no thought to leaving Eli with strangers who will be prepping him for surgery in a "strange" place AND with me out of sight. Poor puppers is going to have a heart attack. I am so nervous about it.
Eli experienced an apartment inspection this afternoon. The inspection included testing the smoke alarms. I thought for sure that Eli would bark like a madman when the alarms went off, but he proved me wrong and made me proud.
We have been practicing separation as far as Eli holding a sit while I walk away. This is an element in the Canine Good Citizen test. I have been training Eli to stay by me, so this is a tough one for us. However, I am showing him that I come right back so he is becoming a little more comfortable with it.
We have one more Canine Good Citizen class before Eli's surgery. I am a bit afraid that going through the surgery may set Eli back a little, but I hope it does not. I have a feeling that the August 5th class might be unproductive. Eli does have a way of making me feel guilty about doubting him, though.
`*.¸.*´ CrystalLynn ~~~

Monday, July 25, 2011


Eli has been a very busy tiny dog...and has been handling his full calendar extremely well.
Canine Good Citizen Class began Friday. Sadly, or perhaps fortunate for us, Eli and I were the only ones there. The trainer, Lisa, reviewed the test with me. We discussed some of the things Eli will not have a problem with and focused on the questionable areas. We did a little practicing, too. Eli and I have some tasks to strengthen, but I have confidence in his abilities.
Eli went on his first hayride and attended his first baseball game this weekend. He was around many, many strangers and handled himself beautifully. He did a little bit of barking at the Connecticut Tigers' mascot. I expected that he would not know what to make of a big tiger walking around. Of course, Eli was doing his job of protecting me from the weird thing that was walking around the ballpark. It was great, though, that I was able to assure him that the big tiger was not a threat and he accepted the mascot's presence. I was very proud of the way Eli was able to handle the crowd and all the noises that were going on at the ballgame. He was very popular and got to be friendly with a lot of people. One lady commented on how cute he is...well, a lot of people were commenting on how cute Eli is...but this lady said she has a mixed Chihuahua and could tell the difference between her mixed breed and Eli because of Eli's face. I could not bring myself to tell her that Eli is not a purebred.
I brought Eli to a local pond one very hot evening so he could swim. He gets very excited about children and loves when children pet him. I think Eli liked taking a dip in the pond with all the kids. He was pretty well behaved on the beach, but for one lady who walked behind us with a Black Lab. It was one of those situations where I was sitting on the stone wall, becoming overheated, and Eli felt he had to keep others at bay. Once again, I was able to get him to calm down and accept that we were sharing the beach with all the other people and dogs and everything was okay. It was not like he wanted to tear the other dog apart, either. Eli was just letting the other dog know that he was not welcome to visit us. I think if I had gotten up from the wall and socialized Eli would have been more accepting. However, I really was feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and very overheated. This is where my disability sometimes gets in the way of strenuous training with Eli.
Eli is super accepting of new experiences and situations. I am trying to make sure that Eli gets exposed to as many things as possible while he is still very young. He is an amazing little guy and is proof positive that Chihuahuas really are smart little dogs. Beginning to train him as soon as he came home at eight weeks old was such a benefit for both of us. I would love to help someone else adopt a Tiny but Mighty companion to be their service dog because I am so impressed by Eli's dedication and abilities. There was a time when I could not believe a Chihuahua could possibly be a service dog, nor was I thrilled about the idea of my service dog being a Chihuahua. Now, I can not imagine it any other way and I love to talk to people about how incredible Eli is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

5 Months Old

Eli went to a busy restaurant with me for the first time without being in his carrier. I was hesitant to leave the carrier behind, but I wanted Eli to feel the confidence I had in him. He amazed me! He laid down on the bench next to me, on top of my bag. He looked up when the waitress came over to take our drink order, which startled her. I imagine it would when you don't expect a tiny dog to be over in the corner. The waitress must have said something to the manager because he came over and politely told us that "pets" are not allowed in the restaurant. I picked him up so the manager could see his vest and also displayed Eli's badge and all was fine. Eli laid back down as if I never disturbed him. Even when a bunch of waitresses were going to the table next to ours with a birthday dessert, clapping and chanting the restaurant's birthday message, Eli did not make a sound. I was expecting him to bark a little. That is my fault for a momentary lapse of faith in him because he was perfectly behaved. I was able to have a delicious steak dinner without any disturbance whatsoever from Eli.
Yesterday afternoon was Eli's first time at the disc golf course. He got to run around with Mei-li, who gets to be off-leash at the course. I did allow Eli to be loose, just dragging his leash behind him a few times. I was pretty concerned that a hawk might swoop down and drag Eli off, though. That would have been devastating and I would never forgive myself. Eli never went too far away and repeatedly looked at me to make sure I was still there. Funny enough, a couple of times I became pretty overheated and tired and that is when Eli would stop completely and want me to pick him up. After I rested and cooled down a bit, Eli was free to romp freely through the grass again. He loved it.
Now that Eli's five months old, it is time to really get down to brass tacks. He will be getting neutered at the beginning of August and should be nicely healed by the time he is six months old on August 14th.
At six months old, and after being house-broken, well socialized and demonstrating a solid obedience skill set, the intense, specific service dog training begins. Eli's first professionally-based training will be the AKC Canine Good Citizen Course.
A service animal should be accepting of and friendly to strangers. The CGC Test, which follows the Course, shows that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation, ignoring the dog. I think that is the important part to highlight ~ IGNORING THE DOG. Eli has been doing very, very well with friendly strangers when I have given him the cue that I want him to. It is only when someone reaches for him that he will let that person know he is not receptive. This is important to public awareness of service dogs. They are NOT pets. They are working and have been trained to do a specific job. That job includes obeying the commands of their handler. Service dogs are not out in public for everyone to love.
Another portion has the dog demonstrate a welcome to being groomed and examined. Eli really surprised me when he went calmly with the groomer the other day and did not so much as flinch while she trimmed his claws. I do not think Eli will have any problem with this at all. Eli will also be looked at for how well I take care of him. He has to be clean and groomed and must appear healthy.
Some other areas of the CGC Test is the ability to walk together with a loose leash, and to be able to walk through a crowd without jumping on people or pulling the leash. I generally carry Eli because he is so small. I really do not think he would jump on other people and when I do walk with him he does pretty well on a loose leash. However, that is why we go through the Course before taking the Test.
Sitting and staying in place is something Eli does well with. Reacting to other dogs is another area that he seems to be fine with. In fact, Eli was approached by two dogs on the disc golf course. One was a Boston Terrier, the other a Labrador. In both cases, Eli reacted pretty well. He was polite, unlike Mei-li, and just waited to see if the other dogs were there to play with him. Of course, the Test looks for the dog to not want to go toward another dog. That will be an area to work on, though Eli has been recognizing that wearing his vest means that it is not playtime.
Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test will be a huge leap forward in Eli's service dog training. He certainly proves he is loyal to me, which is one of the first criteria in being a service dog. Typically, service dogs perform such tasks as pushing a lifealert button, retrieving a phone or pressing an assigned 911 button, retrieving dropped items (which Eli already does ~ my inhaler, my cell phone, pens, etc.), fetching items, retrieve the cable remote or other household items, pulling a wheelchair (which I can not imagine Eli being able to do ~ haha!), offering stability while standing or walking, grabbing clothing (another thing Eli already does), helping remove shoes, or even running for help.
The real fun is about to begin!
`*.¸.*´ CrystalLynn ~~~

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Buzz

Not only is Eli keeping me busy, the hot weather is wiping me out. Eli is really showing that he knows when I am starting to have symptoms, which is very good. Now he just needs to be praised for his behavior during the symptom and the more things occur, the earlier Eli will be able to 'warn' me.
He is on my medication schedule. When it is time for me to take my medications, Eli does not leave me alone until I take them.
Eli is learning to bring me my cell phone. We still play "bring it" with his toys and he knows what that means. He showed me that he has the ability to carry my cell phone, we just have not been able to put the whole concept together yet.
This afternoon was Eli's first time at the groomer. He was not there to be groomed. We were dropping Mei-li off. However, Julie at Wags to Whiskers offered to trim Eli's claws for me after I announced my hesitancy to tackle the task. Eli was great for her! She held him in one arm while trimming his claws with the other and commented that he did not flinch or even make a peep. She could see that Eli's a pro at being handled. Yay! 8)
I am definitely seeing that Eli's demeanor is terrific when I hand him over, providing him the cue that I want him to be friendly with someone else, and he certainly has been being a social butterfly. Eli has been making friends with new dogs and new people. Our horse moved to a different barn so Eli has been meeting new people there, as well as new horses and all sorts of other animals. He met a few chickens, a big domestic turkey who was equally interested in Eli, the turkey's wife, and a very big and very dirty pig.
On a side note; I taught Eli the sign for "sit" and he now sits when I sign. I think I will implement more sign language into Eli's command library. One thing that happens to me with multiple sclerosis is I lose my voice. It has happened more often in the past two years than it ever had. I have a feeling that teaching Eli sign language will end up being beneficial one day.
`*.¸.*´ CrystalLynn ~~~