Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another successful day....

We had another great day. This morning we started out learning behavior disruption. We now use the commands "lap" (he lays his head on Hannah's lap to help her to not melt down), "nuzzle" (goes to her and puts his nose to her for lovin') and deep pressure (he will lay on top of her, either legs, back or stomach). I think this will really be useful to help her before she gets too worked up.
The afternoon was all about health care. We learned how to care for the dogs from head to toe. It was very educational to learn exactly how to meet the dogs needs.
We tried a different harness with Blitzen tonight. We went to the mall to practice and he did fantastic! Hannah is able to walk on the other side of him with a second leash. It is better for her too. He could not have done better at the mall tonight. I was very proud of him!!!

Aunt Bev brought Josiah and Elijah to visit us and meet Blitzen tonight. It was so nice to see them. I know they were counting the days until they could come and see us. They were excited to see all the "tricks" that Blitzen can do!
Tomorrow we have class at the center in the morning and back at the mall in the afternoon....

Friday, January 30, 2009

First day in public....

Blitzen and Hannah had a wonderful night and morning of bonding. He really likes to be with her and will go in to check on her often. It is really a neat thing to watch. Last night we practiced the "seizure game" (alerting to her seizure shirts). He alerted to it right away. Then he got his reward....playing with his plush squeaky toy!!!! He goes nuts!!!

This morning in class we practiced teaching the dogs to go "under" the tables in restaurants. Blitzen did very well with this command. Legally, the dogs don't have to lay under the tables, but it is best to keep them out of the way as much as possible.

We broke for lunch and all met at the mall afterwards for our first outing in public. Blitzen is very alert to everything, so it is difficult to keep him from distractions. He "heeled" better than I expected, but still likes to pull more than he should. We are going to try a new harness tomorrow so Hannah can help walk him better. I think he pulls because she is either in front or behind me and he wants to be with her. I think this new harness will help alleviate that.

The biggest problem we had was the elevator. He is very afraid and unsure of them. He actually panicked so much he pulled me to my knees the first time. Jeremy practiced with us and we went in the elevator with one of the other dogs so Blitzen could feed off his confidence. This really helped, but we will have to practice this quite a bit.

After the mall, we went back and rested some (we were all exhausted!!). Then we went to Arby's for dinner. He did fantastic. He never got up once. Then we went to Meijer to get some snacks. He was a little unsure of the parking lot, but once inside he was great. he "heeled" right beside the cart. People seemed to clear out of the way when they saw us coming! A couple people asked to pet him, but there was absolutely no negativity. I think we will all sleep well tonight!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another wonderful day....

Day 3 was long, but extremely productive. We started out class by again, asking questions to Jeremy. We then continued with obedience as we are striving for total respect from the dogs. Blitzen is getting there. He is very sensitive and really wants to please; so therefore, he tends to be submissive most of the time. This makes him a very good alert dog. He doesn't miss a beat!!!
We practiced "heel" while walking with a shopping cart. This is gearing us for our first outing....we hit the mall tomorrow afternoon!!! I am fairly nervous, as he has to notice everything!!! (again, a good thing for detecting her seizures)

The afternoon was mostly dedicated to seizure work. One word....AMAZING!!!!! The trainers demonstrated how they train to alert to seizures. Several boxes (all identical) are put in a big circle. They all have holes cut out in the middle with something inside. One box contained the child's seizure shirt, still in the plastic baggies (these are the shirts she has been wearing for the last 6 months) and the others contained other white shirts in bags. The trainer would lead the dogs around the boxes and command "check." The dog would sniff around the box and when he got to the seizure shirt, he would stop and "paw." Each dog did this wonderfully!!! It was a sight to behold. This is the ultimate game for the dogs and do they ever get excited!!! They sent seizure shirts home with us and we practiced "check" and Blitzen immediately "pawed" me. YAY!!!! They want me to get up in the middle of the night and open the bag to get the sent in the room. He is not used to waking up in the night to alert. We will have to continue to practice with the seizure shirts until we are sure he alerts to Hannah. We are off to an encouraging start!!! Jeremy said today that they have an 85-90% success rate for seizure alerting (before the seizure occurs). He said this is because the kids begin to give off a scent before the seizure is recognizable to us. Therefore, they can tell us it is about to occur!!! How cool is that??? I have included a couple pictures of seizure alert practice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 2 goes very well....

We just completed our second day of training. Blitzen did so good today. I was extremely happy and proud of him. He is really transitioning well and beginning to really show me respect.
Once we all arrived at 4 Paws (the roads were horrible!! It took me an hour just clear the ice off the van) we went around the room and discussed questions or concerns we had from our first night with our dogs. Then we continued with basic obedience.

Blitzen can now stay in a sit or down position with me dropping his leash and walking all around the room. He follows me with his eyes, but will stay. yay!!!
Then we worked really hard on "heal." This is important so he walks with us and doesn't pull or walk ahead of us. He does extremely well with this too.

After lunch we worked on tricks that the dogs can do. We do not want Blitzen to "shake, high five, or give five" because he alerts to seizures by pawing and we don't want this to get confused. But he did roll on command and will learn "play dead" tomorrow.

At break times we have the opportunity to let the dogs off their leashes and run outside. Blitzen loves the snow!!! It is so fun to see the dogs interact.

He is bonding well with Hannah. He checks on her many times a day. He will jump up and lay with her and loves to be stroked. He seems to know that she is "his girl!" This bond will continue to grow every day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Love At First Sight!!!!!

Today was the day we were united with Blitzen! It was a morning full of nervous excitement and anticipation. The head trainer, Jeremy, brought one dog out at a time, building anticipation even more!!! Blitzen was the 5th dog brought out. He immediately "hugged" Hannah and enjoyed all the affection. He has such a nice personality and is so beautiful. Jeremy told us he chose Blitzen for Hannah because he alerts very well out of sleep. Because Hannah's hard seizures are at night he thought after a long day at school, he would still be able to wake up and alert to her.

Hannah was little overwhelmed at first, but quickly warmed up to him. The morning was filled with getting to know the dogs and for the children to start the bonding process. After lunch, we began to learn basic obedience. He will sit, lay and stay, allowing us to walk away from him. The main idea is for him to learn to take commands from us instead of the trainer.

We brought Blitzen back to the hotel with us. He was nervous at first, but seemed to relax fairly quickly. He is bonding well with Hannah. She is giving commands and he is listening very well to her. All in all, a great first day. We are very encouraged and look forward to training tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The big 9 year old!!!

Hannah turned 9 years old on Wednesday! It is hard to believe; time really does fly....She had a great day. They had a party at school with a High School Muscial cupcake cake. Tomorrow we are going to Build A Bear for a party with some of her friends. very exciting!!!

Also on Wednesday morning, I gave a presentation to the teaching staff at Hannah's school about Blitzen. We discussed ways to prepare their classes that her service dog will be attending school. Everyone was very receptive and ask some great questions! I am very encouraged that the transition will go smoothly.

I am beginning to pack for our trip!!! I cannot believe it is almost time to go. My mom is coming to our house on Sunday and we are leaving on Monday. I want to get settled in to the hotel, so Tuesday morning we won't have to rush to get to 4 Paws. I will try and post if not every day, every other day. Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Introducing Hannah's Seizure Dog.....


We got our email today with a picture and description of our new family member!!! Needless to say, we fell in love instantly. He is so handsome; even looks like he smiled for the picture!!! We made a trip to the pet store tonight to get Blitzen some toys and treats...

Blitzen was born December 10, 2006. He is an Australian Shepherd mix. He has 11 brothers and sisters; some of which are in training or already "teamed" up and some were adopted out. I think he is a perfect match and cannot wait to meet him. Hannah is thrilled to finally have a name and face to talk about. Only 11 days until we meet Blitzen..... Incredible.

Oh, by the way...Gary has deployed now and I hadn't talked to him all day but he called right when we were opening the email!! He was able to share in our excitement. If that's not meant to be......

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Home from the hospital...

Hannah and I got home from Cincinnati Children's Hospital yesterday afternoon. We had a very long week (Jan 5-12) at the hospital and didn't get very many results. We were hoping to gather enough information for the neuro surgical team to decide whether surgery is an option for Hannah. She had constant seizure activity but did not have enough "big" seizures. So this means we will have to go back, most likely in two-three months. We will try again to get the much needed information...

The weekend before we went to the hospital, we spent the weekend with daddy at an indoor waterpark. We attended his Call To Duty ceremony and saw him off on Sunday. It was a sad and tearful good-bye. He is now in Oklahoma and will train there until the end of Feb. He will then have a 4 day pass (hopefully be able to come home) and then off to Iraq.

Our attention has shifted today. Any day now, we should be finding out which dog will be Hannah's. It is so exciting to finally know his/her name and what he looks like....We leave for 4 Paws two weeks from yesterday!!! We can hardly wait!!!! more to come later.....

Beautiful Hannah...

How this journey started....

Hannah was born prematurely at 34 weeks gestation. She was a relatively healthy preemie; initially having difficulty maintaining body temperature and needing to grow. She weighed 4 pounds 9 ounces at birth. When she was four months old she began to drool, non stop. We were told the first year she was "teething." At 18 months old, we really started searching for reasons of why her shirt was always soaking wet. We saw various specialists who always sent us to another specialist, saying "everything looks okay." She spent years in oral motor/feeding therapy to help her not to drool. It wasn't until she was four years old and in preschool that we started to get some answers. Her preschool teacher commented one day that she wasn't reponding when her name was called. I took this information to her pediatrician who then orderd an EEG, "just to rule it out." Much to our shock and amazement, the results showed, she was having seizures. That is the day our journey REALLY began. Once she began taking seizure medication the drooling almost stopped completely. (She will still drool to this day when she is having seizure activity). Since then, it has been a roller coaster; countless medications and medication changes. She has never really reponded well to any medication.

About two years after she was diagnosed with epilepsy, the doctors noticed that her blood pressure was running high. After many tests, she was diagnosed with hypertension. We still are not sure why, but her cardiologist feels her blood vessels are thicker than normal.

About this same time, we also began looking into why Hannah was such a horrible sleeper. She would thrash, talk, move every which way, during her sleep. The sleep studies revealed that she has alveolar hypoventilation sydrome, which means she has too much carbon dioxide in her system when she sleeps. To help this, she wears a BI-PAP at night. This has been monumental in giving her more effective and quality of sleep.

Every day is a challenge for Hannah and our family as a whole. Blitzen has been an absolutely wonderful addition. She calms herself sometimes just by petting and loving on him. He has been trained in behavior disruptions and will sometimes be able to stop a meltdown from getting out of control.
It has been extra hard on the whole family since daddy is deployed to Iraq. He has been gone since January 09 and will gone until Jan 2010. We get to talk with him by phone and on the web cam; which is nice, but not the same!! Blitzen has helped to make his absence go just a little smoother....