Friday, February 27, 2009

Awesome day at school today!

I received a phone call from Hannah's teacher around lunch time today. She informed me that Blitzen alerted to Hannah during her wellness class!!! Blitzen was sitting with Hannah's aide and all of the sudden, he had to be with her. The aide tried to get him to sit down, but her wanted nothing with that. Then she realized what he was doing. She let him go over to Hannah and he sniffed her top to bottom, especially around her mouth. Then he sat down and "pawed" the aide!!! Exactly like he trains!!! yipee. Up until then and even an hour afterwards, she was acting fairly typical, but then her behavior completely changed. She became extremely tired, almost out of it, drooling, and difficulty recalling information. We are so proud of Blitzen; definitely worked hard today!!! I think the nay sayers (few in numbers) are rethinking their attitude towards Blitzen now. Good boy Blitzen!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life is moving right along....

Things are still going very well with Blitzen. He continues to alert to Hannah's seizures. He has also started alerting to her seizure activity. Sometimes at night she doesn't have break through seizure, but she has many spikes and a slowing of her brain waveform. He can still smell that, it just isn't as strong as a full blown seizure.
Hannah and Blitzen are really enjoying school these days!! The kids are so excited to have him at their school. Hannah can't go down the hallway without someone saying "Hi Blitzen!! or He's so cute!!" He is doing better riding the school bus. I don't think he will ever "love it," but he definitely tolerates it. He has a mat on the floor at Hannah's feet. He stays there until they get to school.
We had a wonderful, but short, visit with daddy. He came home last Sunday and I dropped him off at the airport Wednesday. The airport security let me go through the security check point with a pseudo boarding pass. This way, we could be together until he boarded his plane. It was very nice to have those few extra moments together, kidless, I might add!! His battalion is heading to Kuwait by the end of the week. They will stay there two weeks and then fly to Iraq. It was really nice to spend some quality family time with him, but we already miss him dearly. It was nice for Gary to meet Blitzen. He was very impressed!! I know it makes him feel better knowing I have help with Hannah's seizures.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Home and doing GREAT!!

We are home from 4 Paws and settling in. Blitzen has really transitioned well to our home. He sleeps in Hannah's bed every night and doesn't get up unless he is alerting....that's right, he is alerting to Hannah's seizures!!!! His first alert was Monday night at 12:45 am. He got up and came to my room and woke me up. I waited 15 minutes and Hannah had a seizure. 30 minutes later, she had another one. What an amazing experience. I have never been "waiting" on one of her seizures before. Last night, he alerted again, this time 20 minutes in advance. Wow!

We still train and practice his skills everyday. He does so well.

We started going to school on Monday! What a pro. He seems like he has been doing it for years. We have two mats for him, one in each of her classrooms. He goes to all her specials and does fantastic. I went to school with them Monday-Wednesday. I went back to work today and Hannah and Blitzen went to school!! They did great; even rode the bus!!!

Hannah and Blitzen have quite the celebrity status. All the kids (and most teachers) are so excited, but very respectful.

He is an amazing dog. We feel so blessed to have him. It still seems surreal that after a year long process, he is here!! He is home!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It's official! We had our public access test this morning, went back to 4 paws this afternoon and went over the paperwork, etc... and then......graduation!!!! Hooray! The staff had a "ceremony" for the kids and the dogs graduating from the program with cake and all the fixins'!!!
Blitzen is definitely checking out the "new" house. Poor guy was just adjusting to being at the hotel!! He very quickly layed with Hannah in her bed as they rested. Now he is happy on his mat watching us.

We will go get our pets out of the kennel tomorrow and introduce them to Blitzen. Then we plan on going to the bus garage at school to show Blitzen what the big yellow bus looks like!!! Saturday we are going to the school to introduce it to him without any kids in it. We will show him her classrooms, cafeteria, etc.... Hopefully, he will go to school with her on Monday. It is hard to do seizure work if he isn't with her!!!

It still seems surreal that we are actually home with him. A year long process came down to bringing him home today!!!! He is an amazing dog. Even some of the staff were crying to see Blitzen go. It must be very gratifying for the staff, but sad at the same time.
By the way, we found out why Blitzen's litter all had Christmas names....His mother was at the humane society and scheduled to be euthanized on Christmas eve. The 4 Paws staff couldn't stand the thought of that so they brought her and the puppies to the center. 4 of her puppies are now service dogs!!!!! Amazing to think about.....

Monday, February 2, 2009

More Practice....

This morning we worked on more distractions for the dogs. They are getting really good at ignoring them. We work really hard to distract them in a controlled environment so we when we are out in public, it is no big deal for them. We throw treats right in front of them or their favorite toy and make them "leave it." Blitzen does pretty good with distractions lay there.
Late morning we played the "seizure game" with the boxes. He did really well with this. We started with two boxes (one with seizure scent and one without). He loves his reward when he "paws" at the scent.

After lunch, we worked on behavior disruption. Blitzen did much better with this today. We practiced "lap" and "nuzzle" and deep pressure. He did all of these today. I practiced "roughing him up" with LOTS of treats. I wanted to imitate some of the behaviors that he may encounter with Hannah. To do this, you have to desensitize him to being pushed, kicked, or even hit..... Again, a great job.....
Late afternoon, we did more seizure work. This time we used four boxes (we will work up to 6 boxes). He alerted each time. The first time, the bags were sealed and he still could smell it!! Good Dog!!!! He is definitely a keeper......

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Half way through training

We are officially half way through training!!! In one way, that feels great, but it is also scary sounding!!! Blitzen is still doing very well. I pulled out Hannah's seizure shirt last night in the middle of the night, he alerted to it, but didn't touch. (this was the first time he did it in the night). I tried it 30 minutes later and he immediately "touched." We won't know for sure how he alerts to a real seizure, until she has one!! Sometimes the dogs alert differently than they have been trained in the real life situation. I don't care how he alerts, just so he does. Two of the dogs have already alerted to seizures well before they began. So encouraging!!!

This morning we worked on distracting the dogs. They had to stay in a sit and down while being very distracted. Jeremy would offer them treats or toys and they had to stay where they were. Blitzen did well this. There was one particular treat that he REALLY wanted. I had to correct him a couple times.

After lunch, we headed to the mall. Hannah wasn't in a very good mood and Blitzen definitely sensed this. He fed off of her mood. I took him by myself and he did great. He still gets nervous around loud or alarming sounds. He will get better with this with time.

Tonight, the 4 Paws gang is having a SuperBowl party tonight. It sounds like most everyone is planning to come. It is fun to get the dogs together, but sometimes they forget to behave!!!

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....