Kenai walks softly indoors, carries a big stick outdoors! 38 wks old
All posts for the month September, 2008
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 29, 2008
Kenai’s favorite spot, 38 wks old
This pic is everything Kenai: outside, sun on his back, in tall grass… He’s such an outdoorsman! He’s not getting out as much as he’d like, though. His legs are still sore, so I’ve limited the runs to once a day. To satisfy his needs for weeds though, I’ve started piddling around in the yard after his runs to give him more time in the fresh air.
Our first yard work spell since last spring was a search for spring bulbs to chill and force during the winter. I wasn’t doing so well in finding them, and just 15 minutes of the digging wiped me out like a bad stain. Ouch! Think I’ll have to build up to digging, and start with something easier. Kenai doesn’t care what I do, just so it’s outside!
Him and his tall grass have been a constant from day one. I wonder what it is that he finds so alluring? Have you ever wondered what goes on in a puppy brain? Nothing compares in marvelousness to outside for him, not toys, not treats, nada. He wants most of all to sniff, run, muck about in the brush, crash through stands of Johnson’s grass, and check out his perimeters.
There is a sense of freedom in a big patch of field, I’ll give him that. It’s kind of the only place he gets to be a DOG, without having to control his strength. Even playing with other dogs, he’s usually so much bigger, and could hurt them if he really got too rumpusy. In the field, though, he can let it all hang out, running the wild fields. Maybe that’s enticement enough?
He certainly stretches out those long legs when he gets the chance. Wow, he can run. Those rocket runs of his aren’t the cute little toddles hurrying his hurriedest to catch up anymore–they’re incredible, magnificent displays of just what formidable athletes dogs are compared to us wimpy humans. At 9 months old, there isn’t an olypic sprinter who could keep up with him!
Sometimes I wish I could run wild with him, engaging in a fast moving game of touch the tushie and chase me. Sitting here with muscles that always hurt and sometimes don’t work, the idea of being as fast and strong as Kenai has an obvious thrill. Maybe in heaven, huh? Runnin with the whole pack of my past loves, playing for the sake of playing just because we can!
Day dreams aside, Thursday was a relatively wonderful Thursday for us: BB was quiet in his pen after Mom left, Kenai and I hung upstairs until afternoon, then spend a few hours with Beebs in his pen. The boys were chilled out, Beebs not jumping up at every noise or carrying on like last week. It was just relaxing. Kenai and I came and went as we pleased, not feeling chained to the room with BB. Yay!
But that BB stink went and chewed up the circular knitting needles I was using after I went to bed! AAgggh. Stinker! I loved those needles: they were those expensive bamboo ones. Being wood, they were not cold to my hands, and so smooth to knit with. Bugger Butt boy! I outta knit his lips to his ears for that.
Today is Friday, and it’s shaping up to be a busy one. Knit-less too. The new washer is coming, supposedly this morning. My niece is coming, supposedly this evening. In between is supposedly an outing for Kenai and me. We’ve only been going out twice a week for awhile, and I really want to get that back up to four times. The more he’s out, the more normal it feels to him.
I finally got some more pics of Kenai in his vest this week, but I haven’t pictures of him with both me and vest since the one back in May. I’ll have to ask someone at school on a day when I get all “cleaned up”. Mom won’t even try the camera, highly allergic to anything even slightly technological. She did at least change the bulb in a can light without me, without asking Mike to do it. I told ya she’s gotten into helpless old lady mode! I’m glad she’s coming out of it, one light bulb at a time.
Kenai’s gotten the habit of bracing. No weight of course, but he goes through the motions like an old pro. Anytime I get up or down we have the same procedure. He will sometimes move into position before I ask! I just apply a little pressure to his shoulders and use something else to push on till I’m on my feet. As big as he is, his body’s too immature to bear weight–got another year of growing before he’s done being a youngin’.
Also at the daunting and dangerous stairs we encounter Kenai will take one step and stop until I’m on it with him, then take another step and stop. I have to ask him to stop, but that’s because I don’t always do it. I don’t always need him to do it, so I won’t try to make that an auto behavior.
I have to go digging and see what I can find out about the channges made this week to the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was some talk of allowing only certain breeds to be service dogs, and that’s got me uncomfortable. The waste of space congress has a habit of legislating restriction instead of fostering freedom, so I just don’t trust them.
I suppose it would be easy for healthy people to assume that all disabilities have the same needs. Unless you know several people with different disabilities, you wouldn’t really be exposed to the range of possible challenges. How many people have two friends with the same disability that use their SD in different ways to fit their individual needs?
The most understandable analogy I can come up with for how a Service Dog works is buying a suit or dress that is tailored to fit just you. Your sister might be able to wear it, but it was made for the way your body moves and your lifestyle. High heels and ball gowns for one lady, a casual sport suit for the guy who won’t wear ties to work.
Part of what makes service dogs so remarkable is their flexibility, and the variety of breeds and sizes used to help individuals. The “disabled” aren’t a homeogenous group: there is tremendous difference across the spectrum. Would you like to go from car lot to car lot and find only one vehicle in different colors? You might be able to make do with that one kind of car, but then again, you might not.
Western thinking is often very linear, wanting to simplify and categorize everything into neat little boxes. We don’t like the unusual sticking out like a sore thumb and not fitting our opinions. Just how we are, but sometimes it doesn’t serve us well. In the case of service dogs, tidy little categories with assigned breeds does more of a disservice than help: it leaves some disabled to make do with that one kind of car and some of us to do without entirely.
I guess I should find out what the new law says before I get too up on the soapbox, huh? Not trusting congress is sort of a knee jerk reaction for me. Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are reasons enough, the supposedly government regulated mortgage companies whose wildly unregulated practices triggered the financial crisis we are in. (Relax, that’s as close to politics as I get on this blog).
Kenai is definitely unusal, and someone inspired me to write a book about our life and training together. Maybe it could untie some of the neatly wrapped assumptions that we encounter? That’s probably delusions of granduer, so I won’t set my hopes on that. But I wouldn’t mind just a little income if it sells just a little.
Kenai is an inspiring creature, and I have to admit even our first leg of the trip to having an owner trained Great Dane service dog has been a trip indeed!
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 26, 2008
There’s my boy! A new pic! Kenai 38 wks old
I got a camera, I got a camera! I do indeed have a camera again, and this is one of the first pictures taken in 6 weeks. I was losing my mind, and bored with using old pics on the blogs. This was taken at the end of Kenai’s second playtime Monday evening.
He was so sore later, that I think I’ll go back to once a day runs for a few days. I don’t like his hurting this much, and he’s getting his homeopathic drops. So I’m looking around again for alternatives to pain pills or steroids. He’s been more on the blah end of calm for a few days, so I just bet his legs are painful despite the drops. Plan B time, as soon as I come up with one.
Saturday came on the heels of Friday night as usual, save that Friday night was a mostly sleepless one for me thanks to the resurgence of my cold. But whether my bleary eyeballs were stuck crooked or not, there was a mission: a new washing machine was waiting for us to pick it out as ours.
The old washer has a permanent smell to it, thanks to a build up on the outside of the tub that nothing short of a hammering jack is going to remove. We were hoping to afford those taller front loading machines, to reduce the bending down business. Errands, for Kenai to take part in.
Mom and I took both the pups, though in separate cars this time—you go here, I’ll go there, and meet up yonder gets the list finished faster. Kenai didn’t care, just so he could go somewhere. He strapped on his vest, and marched right into the appliance store with Mom and I.
It was one of those nearly painless shopping trips, with what we needed found on the first stop. Wow, that was nice. While Mom set up a delivery, Kenai and I quietly practiced our hands free heel, first with the gentle leader, then without it. It is the most thrilling thing to just be able to walk with him and not have to use a leash to control his movements! Glimpses of fluid and gracefull: the hard work is paying off.
One of the young men there was very interested in him, since his girlfriend has panic attacks seemingly out of the blue. Kenai alerts to anxiety before the panic end of it starts, before I even realize I’m anxious, which is just astounding. He knows and gives me plenty of warning to head off a full blown panic, either by relaxation techniques or leaving a situation if they don’t seem to be working.
Do you ever just get the feeling you were supposed to be exactly where you went, exactly when you got there? Odd too, because I don’t like running about when I’m sick, and protesting the errands didn’t even occur to me…
The rest of the activities went off without any problems either, Kenai having either a really good day or just being really bored with this public access stuff. Maybe he was too tired to protest too? But I should have listened to my instincts and put the last stop off until Sunday or Monday. I knew I was pushing my limits with 4 hours on next to no sleep. Especially with full sun and the weather warmer by 15 degrees than it has been for awhile.
Sure enough, stupid is as stupid does. When I got home I practically fainted in bed, and woke up both nauseated and waiting for my head to explode and be done with it. It took 2 nausea pills and 2 muscle relaxants to bring the beast to heel. I avoid those migraine injections if at all possible, ya know? After a couple hours I could keep some noodles down, though I avoided my niece like I did the needle.
She was in a good mood and behaving well, but she can’t be expected to understand that 2 year old jibber jabber isn’t good for headaches. Especially the shriek when laughing that all little girls do. Em’s just a toddler, so I hid out for awhile. No way was I cooking in that kitchen, either, uhhhg. Kenai was satisfied with his supper, and didn’t have any real play energy himself after our long day, nap or not.
I owed him some good playtime Monday for being such a calm buddy all weekend, and he got a pair of them. He ran and ran then trotted and trotted. I’ve been ignoring his field ignore-yous, quite honestly. I just don’t have the strength to fight it right now. That will be changing, though.
In 22 more days as of today (Tuesday), Mike will be gone, and I can start regaining some of that former relative strength. Mom’s made up her mind—by the end of October 15th, he and all his stuff will be gone. There won’t be extensions, whether or not he has his own place or even a job. He’s leaving.
Seven months is more than enough time to have sorted out his affairs, and he hasn’t shown the slightest inclination to. He’s got plenty of smarts, just not one shred of initiative. There are millions of divorced people with bad credit in this country, and they manage. He seems to not be willing to try for whatever reason.
Anyway, 22 more days and this favor-turned-ordeal is over. Then we can go back to focusing on doing what we need to do for ourselves and our pups. We might actually have enough money for a few small Christmas presents by December. Yep, the finances are that bad now.
I’m wanting to take Kenai to school today, to start getting him used to the building, the busy bustle, and the down stays as a habit. I’ll see how he does, but if I’m smart, I’ll have a few other stops first to let him find his groove before he tries on a new groove. With luck, he’ll do groovy. He’s a groovy boy, after all. I’m not quite old enough to have been in on the original groovy, but I’m catching it as retro.
Lion Paws’ new vest is ordered, since the old one is too tight to be groovy anymore. I’ve started unlatching the girth strap during long down stays for him. The new one is almost the same, a size bigger with slightly different text. We have to wait 4-6 weeks though. Not groovy, but unavoidable. I also need to get him weighed to update the growth page. I can put a new picture up finally! Groovy.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 23, 2008
Even at 13 weeks old, Kenai matched the rugged beauty of the Alaskan Kenai Penninsula he was named to honor! Here he’s in his element, with his head up, his tail out, and confident eyes! At 37 weeks old, he is still the outdoor type! Our new camera shipped Friday, so there will soon be new pics to enjoy.
Kenai has been bent out of shape about my chest cold. He was quite anxious with the wheezing and rattles for the first few days. Bless his heart, he was in my face sniffing, whining, the whole 9 yards, for 3 solid days. He doesn’t like the 2 a day “medicine baths” I’m taking either. I can’t use any of the OTC cold meds because of my thyroid disease, so what’s left is home remedies and herbal kinds of treatments.
I fill up the tub hot enough to melt plastic, dump in a bunch of Epsom salts, mineral bath stuff, and ground ginger (followed by myself) twice a day. I get a lot more junk out of my lungs then so the tissues are handy. I keep threatening to buy some Echinacea, though I try to keep the pills to an absolute bare minimum.
I got so disgusted swallowing handfuls of vitamins, supplements, and prescriptions for years and not getting enough relief to make it worth the cost. I have a “thing” about taking more pills than I can live without now. I do use a gentle detox liquid when I’m not doing well, which btw has a remarkably good pain reducing effect too.
Once I got off the regular use of pain meds a couple years ago, taking magnesium, Lyrica, and floressence has kept my pain manageable. Not gone by any stretch, but enough to grit my teeth through more often than not. The liquid is too expensive to take every day, but when I need it, it’s there.
Oh I reach for the pills sometimes, but not before I’m ready to cry and not more than three times in one a week, because regular use of them actually heightens pain sensitivity. It also gives me migraine storms, which I could do without. That’s the cruelty of chronic pain—the longer you need pills to live with it, the worse you need them.
If I’m really having a bad few days, I’ll take the rarely used monster sleeping pills and go away for 8 or 10 hours. Believe it or not, once you loosen up the super stiffness from being semi-comatose, the fibro pain is usually less than it was. Good sleep is the miracle pill.
Kenai doesn’t care for my dunks in the drink, but he isn’t happy about my being sick either. The sooner I feel better, the sooner he can stop being a puppy pretzel. He didn’t want to stay on his bed in the kitchen the whole first half of the week, preferring to stick to my hip.
He’s decided he likes bread and rolls, even when it’s still dough. I caught him licking the mixer’s dough hook while I kneaded on another counter. That got a big “uh-uh”! He didn’t put the puppy tongue away until I really scolded him, either.
Our toy time Tuesday lasted all of 5 minutes. Sometimes Kenai prefers a more direct interaction—if he can’t roughhouse with BB, he wanted to roughhouse with me and that wasn’t going to happen, either. If he couldn’t play the way he wanted, he didn’t want to play at all. Brat. What he needed was a good detoxing run outside.
Hunting puppy did really well about not vanishing into the brush on me that day, hide and seek games being responsible for that. That and his wanting to keep track of every sneeze and wheeze. We had lots of fun between coughing spells, hugs and sore leg rubbing too. They seemed a little better that day, thankfully. The only thing running faster than Sir Speedy was my nose!
His majesty’s playtime took enough out of me Wednesday to need a nap between bread risings. Oh I did not want to get up. But if I laid there any longer than the 2 hours I had, the rolls would have risen and deflated into hockey pucks. That’s not good. The boys would have played with them, swatting them around before chomping. But I wouldn’t get my warm potato rolls, all buttered and light. I’m going to miss home-made bread when I go back to my restricted carbohydrate diet.
So down to the kitchen we went, and I closed it off so Kenai could play ball-in-a-blanket. That’s not what he had in mind. I picked the bones out of the stew, kicked the ball back to him, threw in some flour to thicken the now yummy broth, kicked the ball back to him, baked the rolls, and kicked the ball back to him. Did I mention he likes to have soccer practice with me? We have a good time, me and Brown.
Thursday was the worst I have ever seen BB—he was howling, barking, whining for a solid 6 hours. Whining I would mostly ignore since nothing was going to quiet him. I just lay down in the room with the two pups between tasks to rest for awhile. Once he settled down into just whining, if I so much as moved, up he came and so did the volume. The strange thing is if I left for more than a few minutes, he would quiet down—that’s backwards from his usual behavior. What was happening was he had “shut down”, freezing up with panic when he was alone.
It was terrible, for all of us. He’d had a really bad week with a sick and crochety Mom, then a Thursday hit. Poor guy. Normally Beebs would doze off long enough for me to quietly go do something and be dozing still when I came back a few minutes later. He’s always upset when Mom’s gone, but as long as he has company from me and Kenai he handles it okay. Some days it’s even peaceful and fun. This was just crazy insecure. He never calmed down. Thursday was just a plain awful rotten day, and he was inconsolable.
Then came the dreaded Friday, his crucible beginning when Emily comes. There are only 3 more weekends after this one, so the end is in sight! Then Mike will be gone and Emily will not be coming to grandma’s for a long time. We’ll go see her and leave when we’ve played all we wanted. It’s not like she won’t ever see us again. She just won’t live with us for 48-72 hours at a time.
Anyway, Friday night meant a dinner at the café to avoid whatever manic energy Em’s brothers would bring through the door with them at the drop off. Mom and I don’t feel good fighting this cold, and are just too tired for the chaos ourselves. It’s just gone on too long, ya know? 24 weeks is a long time to have someone else plan out your weekends. A run to the café was mutually beneficial, for us and the pups.
The café was full, and we sat in a different place than usual, so it took Kenai longer to get around to relaxing. He popped up twice during the busy part of our stay as people came and went all around him, but as the place thinned out, he chilled. That’s my fault: I should sit in a different place every time we go so he can learn to be as relaxed anywhere as he is in our usual spot. Overall he did fine, just not as stellar a performance as he usually gives.
As usual, several people commented how handsome or well behaved he was, or asked about his training, etc with good will. But every once in a while, you’ll come across a nasty person, like we did Friday night. “I think it’s disgusting to bring a dog into a restaurant” was her comment. I handled it politely, saying he was a service animal with a medical reason for being there, and left it at that. She never did get over herself.
Maybe I’d have felt the same way if a service monkey sat on the table and messed with the rolls or silverware for a person before I found myself disabled, I don’t know…It’s always different when it’s your foot in the shoe, I suppose. Some people don’t like dogs, some are very obsessive about perceived cleanliness, who knows what her deal was.
I hope for her sake she’ll figure out soon that dogmatic opinions (sorry bad pun, but it’s a good word), dogmatic opinions act like astringent to her own heart—grace and goodness can be found in all sorts of places you don’t expect, so if all you see is “I don’t like”, you miss it entirely. And you miss the good in people too, because you’re wrapped up in the great (un)importance of what you think.
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, that she may be a kindly mother, or a good friend, and just has a problem with dogs or dog people. But I have the sideways sad feeling she’s only good to people she approves of. It’s been my experience and observation that critical people don’t attract too much variety in friends, and certainly don’t have good skill at keeping those different than themselves for long.
Just look at my father’s life—the only person he approved of was himself, and not even he had the insolence to shoot off his mouth at a stranger walking past him. He had plenty of cheek and doctrine, too. He died pretty much alone, having run off anyone who would have cared for him with meanness.
Guess we all have our severity in some form or another. For me, it is hard to resist being indignant with people contemptuous enough to tell even total strangers what they need doesn’t matter as much as what “I think”.
Derisive people do terrible damage to the undeserving in this world, and that is what gets to me—it makes me angry for the undeserving, and sad for both. I’m not at all anxious that the lady had the presumption so be so derogatory about Kenai, don’t get me wrong.
I don’t mind the skin off my nose half so much as the skin off someone else’s who would be upset or hurt by stuff that gets said and done to them by the more calloused among us. So I have to check the indignation with disparaging people sometimes. Everyone needs to tell themselves to quit stewing and get over it, myself included.
There’s no getting through to people that adamant and abrasive, not with words or retribution anyway. Not until all their doctrines have been smashed by self-created grief and their opinions have become painful to their own hearts will the unkind re-think and learn a little kindness. Unfortunately, some never do, growing more and more caustic with life. There’s no telling what beauty and joy they passed up, or denied to others.
Maybe I’m wrong about the lady, and for the sake of all she knows and meets, I hope so. Like I said, grace and goodness can be found in all sorts of places you don’t expect.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 20, 2008
My brand new little Kenai, all of 9 weeks old–there’s hope in them thar baby eyes!
This was a really good comment left on the blog!
I love Danes, I have one beautiful female. It has to be very impractical to
teach one to be a service dog. Will your condition worsen? Whose going to teach
a GD then? Your going to be training one every two years if they only live 6
yrs. on average, after the 1st one. With the hip and joint problems they have.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing you. I’m just thinking about the average
Dane. Emergency bloat situations? Will you be too fatigued to save your Dane?
If you can train dogs to be service animals then I applaud you. It takes a
special someone to do this. Other wise the V-8 commercials come to mind. You
could have had a wonderful service dog. With a long life expectancy. And still
have a beautiful gentle giant. Who will take care of your SDGD when they get a
I am sincerely interested in your answers other wise I would have never posted a
comment. I’m also, sitting here glancing occasionally at my 8yr. old Dane whose
on the sectional. I know I only have so much time left with her. I’ll be the one
taking care of her, not the other way around.
This brings up several very good points, a few that aren’t as obvious about raising a healthy puppy when you are not. I’d love to expound on my shorter answer to the lady via email, because there’s some very profound topics here, not just about dogs, but about being disabled. I’m so glad the questions were said out loud!
Choosing a breed:
Not all disabled people have the same needs, so not everyone will find the standard labs or golden retrievers able to provide assistance. I need a dog tall enough to grab hold of without bending down or trying to grab a wobbly long handle on a harness. I can rest my hand on Kenai right now, and he doesn’t need to be wearing a harness to provide stability and balance for me. That’s a big help in the middle of the night when you need to go to the bathroom half asleep.
I also need a dog big enough, strong enough to hold my weight when I’m falling so neither of us gets hurt. A Great Dane can carry considerably more weight than a large or medium breed dog. He can pick me up off the ground too. That also means I can put more than 2 college textbooks in his future pack. I might be able to attend college full time since I won’t have to try carrying a heavy pack or walking back and forth from the car for books.
When someone is going to train a dog for service work, breed is a consideration. There is no such thing as a “perfect service dog breed”. One size won’t fit all. Each breed has its advantages, each has its disadvantages. Prey drive, retrieval skills, vocalization tendencies, herding instinct, guarding capacities, all have specific sets of problems and pluses that will affect their training. Add to that the personal preferences about long hair/short haired dogs, dogs that are high drive or lower energy…
A dog has to be matched as best as possible to the person’s needs, abilities to train, and willingness to live with certain traits. We do our best to pick wisely.
Great Danes as Service Dogs:
I don’t believe it is any more impractical to service train a Dane than any other breed. There are many breeds afflicted with bad hips, deafness, etc. To avoid the problems of the average Dane, the trick is not to have the average Dane: find an exceptional one.
Each breed has it’s pros and cons, and the breed traits will affect their training. I wouldn’t do well with a high energy breed like retrievers or herding dogs, despite the tendency to learn fast and work hard. I couldn’t give them the exercise and extra attention they would need to be calm and easy.
I also wouldn’t be willing to keep a long haired dog groomed, or handle the typical noisiness and bouncing around that the toy and smalls breeds have the habit of. I don’t have the consistantly strong energy to keep a guarding breed from showing the dominance that makes them such good guard dogs.
There are always exceptions within breeds, but I’ve been around Danes my whole life, and I know their peculiarities intimately. There isn’t a figuring out process of what’s normal for say, a German Shepherd, and what I would need to do to redirect a drive or encourage one. I know Danes, what to expect and what to prevent.
Great Danes have advantages: Their size as both advantage and disadvantage. They are giants, tremendously strong and more than able to carry heavy loads or hold even a full grown man’s weight on their shoulders without being injured. That’s what I need.
How wracked with guilt would I be if I fell on a lab and injured them? It would be horrific. So would falling down the stairs and being injured myself because the dog didn’t have the weight and strength to prevent it. At 185 pounds, thanks be to a thyroid problem, I could do serious damage, even to a Rottie or other large breed. Kenai has seen me fall several times, and he instinctively tries to stop it. He gets very upset, and wants to help me up, walks a close to me as he can without velcro… He’s got the body and the heart for it.
Danes are legendary for gentleness, sensitivity, and loyalty. Kenai in fact is almost too sensitive, absorbing the energies and reacting to people or dogs in his environment. His brother BB’s high voltage personality can short circuit him sometimes. But I never had to teach him to alert for the asthma or anxiety, it came naturally to him at the tender age of not quite 3 months old. The migraine prodrome stage is a little tougher, and we’re working on it.
Great Danes are typically calm natured and easy going. Particularly if well socialized and gentleness is encouraged. Even as a puppy, Kenai is remarkably calm. 2 outside playtimes of 15-20 minutes is sufficient for him to be relaxed and quiet enough not to run in the house or disobey commands. He spends most of his indoor time laying down.
Not all Danes are that serene though, so once again, choosing a pup with care is important. One of Kenai’s “cousins” is doing well on a tracking course–higher energy like BB. I’ve heard of Danes on agility courses, rally, even search and rescue. That high drive and high energy is not the norm for the breed. I appreciate not having to keep track of Kenai and what he’s getting into while I try to rest! He’s laying down having a nap too.
It is common to see Danes living happily and gently with children, cats, and small dogs. A terrier can boss around a 170 pound dog! There are quite alot of poorly bred Danes these days, and more temperment problems are popping up because of ill-breeding. But that reputation for gentleness and calmness remains. Gentle Giants is their aka moniker.
Danes have drawbacks: they aren’t natural retrievers in general, but I can’t keep BB from picking stuff up and carting it all over creation! Kenai couldn’t care less, though. So if a person needed a dog to pick up stuff, they’d have to pick their Dane with great care, or stick with a retrieving breed if a smaller dog would work out.
Danes have butts that are 3 feet from their head, so finding a place to put them in a busy public area where they won’t get in the way takes more thought. Putting one under a table isn’t such a good idea—they stand up and the table does too. Logistically, having a Great Dane SD takes more planning. Their size is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
As the comment pointed out, Danes are also known for dying young from a miserably long list of diseases and emergencies. The bloodline I chose has no cancer, no bad hips, no bad eyes, no bad temperaments, long life, with a goodly number of pups entering service and therapy work. Only one of her dogs has bloated, which is awfully good odds considering the number of dogs she’s bred and sold.
Kenai’s breeder keeps track of her pups, too, having a yahoo group for owners all over the country. I spent six months looking on the internet every day for breeders in the US, with certain required goals in mind: durability of the dog’s body, lack of inheritable diseases in the breeding lines, calm nature, and extraordinary gentleness and sensitivity. That is a tall order to fill.
I wouldn’t cut corners either, being a total pain in the whatsits. Not one of the goals would be given up, no matter how “good” the pup was at something else. My fussiness paid off: What I found was an exceptional breeder, who provided an exceptional puppy.
Kenai’s sire is the sturdiest Dane I have ever seen, and I have lived with Danes for 37 years now. Bennie could dismantle a brick wall for fun if he had a mind to, and cart it off to the dump for good measure. He’s got a staggeringly massive chest and shoulders, in perfect health at over 6 years old. Kenai looks just like him, and has his temperament too. Chip off the old block, Bennie would be proud of his son already.
When I met Bennie, I was extremely weak after driving for 2 days (SW Missouri to South Texas). I was just about to lose the use of my left leg from the tremors but I really wanted to get out and see the dogs. He skipped the usual doggie greeting rituals and went straight to sniffing the left leg. Then he made a fortress of himself on my left, letting me lean on him, and even warning off the playful females. Bennie provided help and protected my space without a single moment of training for it. That was innate, and Kenai has it too.
So with almost excessive concern for the health and temperament of the breeding lines, I found a more than average Dane, with a more than average probability to be working well up into the years most Danes are being put to sleep. To protect that health, I take great care in providing the best nutrition available and have been just as finicky about picking a vet.
I have done everything I could to ensure a long working career and longer life for my Dane. Once you’ve done all you can, you have to do your best with what happens.
How my disability affects the care I can provide for Kenai:
Emergencies happen. Those long long legs Danes have get broken, dogs with no family history of bloat develop a GDV, and every myriad of danger possible can happen despite the best care and caution. My weakness and the size of a full grown Dane mean I’m not likely to be able to pick him up and carry him, though I have carried a full grown Dane with a broken leg before. Adrenaline is potent stuff. For me there is no such thing as too fatigued to get up and get Kenai to an e-vet. The one good trait I got from my father was a fearsome will.
If I can’t lift Kenai, I have 3 people I know would turn up in a heartbeat to help me. Good friends you can rely on are indispensible when you have a disability. If Wade and Melba aren’t home, I have no problem calling someone else or walking up to total strangers and asking for their help. What I can’t do for myself, I have learned to manage—that carries over into all aspects of my life.
For example, he is a puppy and needs exercise, which means I’ve found ways to provide his exercise while not asking more of myself than I can sustain. He doesn’t want to fetch, but he loves playing hide and seek. So I let him get pretty far away, hide behind a bush and call him. He rocket runs a 3 acre field while I stand still. Creativity and problem solving is a way of life for people with physical challenges. Ya gotta have a can-do attitude to even try training a pup.
When Kenai does get old, and it’s time to retire, I can get another puppy. I expect he’ll be around 7-8 years old then considering the weight he will carry affecting his joints more than his relatives who won’t be working dogs. If I choose to get a pup then, and Kenai has the desire, he’ll actually do most of the training, showing the little tots how to get things done just by doing it. The power of the pack, as Cesar Milan calls it. I’ll have to encourage, reward, and help, but not as much as I would without Kenai.
If Kenai doesn’t have the tolerance of another pup, or feels a bit jealous, then I could wait for another tiny toddles until he passes away, which is likely to be a decade or more thanks to my unyeilding insistance on good health. Some dogs, especially those as tight with their handlers as service dogs are, don’t always handle their replacement well. I’ll leave that choice up to him.
Either way, I keep Kenai the rest of his life. His home will always be with me, whatever the cost or effort. It’s the least I can do. I own him, yes, and am responsible for him. But I have a philosophy about my Special K some might take exception to: I don’t own Kenai so much as owe him.
All dogs get old, stiff and have troubles eventually. I will do everything that can be done to mitigate his old age issues, even if it’s hard on my physically. I’ve done it before, and for Kenai I would tear down mountains. If he needs me, I’d come up off a death bed for that boy. He is the top priority to me, and if other things like laundry or dinner would interfere with his needs, they get canned.
I go out in cold rains, ice, mud, and anything else just so he can have a playtime, and it hurts. I take some Tylenol, grit my teeth, and give what he needs because he loves me. He doesn’t need all that much, really, which is good. Again, a fearsome will is how I do it. If it’s too hard, I come up with a way to get what he needs despite my own limitations.
That’s the deep bond possible between a service dog and their owner: they give to us, and when it’s time, we give to them. Self-sacrifice is contagious. The disabled may not find that care to be as easy or as straight forward as it would have been for a healthy person, but we problem solve pretty well.
There are some people so severely disabled that there isn’t much they can do. I am fortunate enough to be able to do what it takes for him to have the same independence and joy he gave me when he’s an oldie. If that changes in the future, it is not within my ability to forsee or prevent. Emergencies happen to people too.
But to not have a service dog in case my health deteriorates so drastically, keeps me living in fear of the “what ifs”. There is an element of faith involved in my getting Kenai: I can see what is probable, sometimes guard against what is possible, but what will be isn’t up to me. All I can do is live now and do my best.
It’s something often overlooked or used against us, but the disabled can get by without a dog: the blind can return to a cane, the weak can return to a walker or chair. Dogs make our lives immeasurably better, much easier, and vastly more independent. But there are many with disabilities without a service animal. I’ve managed without him, sometimes despite him with his puppy energy and moods.
Raising a puppy is no small undertaking, and an old dog, even a sick one doesn’t take nearly as much sustained physical effort. If I can get my sweets through his puppyhood and adolescence, I can get him through his crochety old fart days too, God willing and the creek don’t rise! Again, the element of hope and determination come into play.
When I took on Kenai as mine, I took on the challenges, the possible illnesses, the good, the bad, and the hairy. I did it because he’s willing to do it for me. My relationship with him is almost spiritual. I need his help, and he even now gives it willingly and joyfully, if a bit wavering because of his young age.
What service dogs give to us is more than any walker, cane, power chair, or person can provide. They give us independence and do it while protecting our dignity. Have you ever had to ask someone else to help you dress, to take a bath, to buy your groceries? It can be embarrassing, and depressing. Looking out into my weedy mess of a yard is a reminder that I have limitations, and it hurts.
But a dog does things in a way that helps you do it for yourself. Just figuring out what to teach them reframes the way you look at your disabilities. A service dog gets you thinking about what you can do, instead of what you can’t. They make possible activities that weren’t possible before. They bring hope and fun and acceptance, which inspires a tremendous loyalty, at least in me.
If Kenai gets hurt somehow and cannot work for me, he can still mitigate the loneliness, despair and depression that afflicts so many disabled people just by being in my weakness with me. If he can’t carry a pack, he’ll have a vest and go where he can with me for the medical alert and anxiety relief. If he can’t do that either, he will be the best companion, and someone else to think about, a reason to try a little harder when it’s easy not to try for myself.
How my illnesses affect his training:
My problems are chronic, which means they will never go away. I will struggle with the effects the rest of my life unless someone comes up with a cure. But they are also “episodic”, so there will be times when I am more functional than others. It is during these times that much of Kenai’s training happens. When I’m not so strong, we try to just maintain what he knows. I haven’t gotten really laid low since he’s been with me, but there will indeed come a time when that will happen.
The thing is, a service dog has to adjust to their owners. Dogs are remarkably adaptable. But it isn’t always easy. Kenai had a “week off” while we sorted out his overly-stressed emotions, and when we started up with the outings again, the start was bumpy. But he has to learn to adjust to my waxing and waning strength. It will be easier as he matures.
The disabled ask a lot of their service animals, even as puppies, and that up and down is one of the biggest challenges for them: living with a sometimes disrupted routine and a sickly owner. It is the challenge of a service dog in training that can pull a person out of the woe-is-me attitude. They test us, refine us, teach us, love us, and make us a better person for it.
I am not the same person I was when Kenai was born: I have patience with him that amazes me, and I can’t make myself take credit for. I am willing to do all kinds of stuff for him that I wouldn’t for a person. Guaranteed I wouldn’t search out dead frogs or gross stuff just to teach my nephews to leave it alone! He has made me face and dispose of some bad attitudes I didn’t even know I still had. Challenge is an opportunity in disguise.
I know this was a long post, but it is an important one. I hope I did the questions justice, and explained things well enough. I’m quite foggy right now, with a brute of a chest cold, so the post is wordy and perhaps a little wandering. Perhaps I will edit it later, maybe make a page out of it. That has to wait for the fog bank to disappate!
How glad I am for this comment—perhaps it will help others understand the challenges the disabled face in their daily lives, and give an appreciation for the power of creativity and tenacity.
There is an excellent link on the blogroll called living with chronic illness–a very good read and a wonderful way to help a healthy person understand what it’s like to prioritize and be forced not to do things you want to do. Very well put!
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 16, 2008
Maybe someday the camera will come…the pic is 29 weeks, he’s 36 weeks. Looks handsome, huh?
The week without outings showed Friday, by his being anxious. I’d given him a long run time before we left, too. He refused the elevator at Mom’s doctor’s office, and he’s never so much as hesitated going into a lift before. I think it was the noise it made, but I was caught without treats, so I couldn’t lure him in. (We haven’t had treats with us in public since he was 5 months old.)
I let it go, hoping he won’t have an issue with elevators in general. Good thing he doesn’t generalize! There are treats in my purse now, just for those unexpected moments. We walked one flight of stairs, scary because the railing was glass—it can make you feel a touch precarious. But he trusted me enough to climb, even with the tail tucked. Then we just waited in the lobby beside the pharmacy door. People came and went, and I got to really watch him.
I was looking for signs of generalized discomfort with men or kids, wheelchairs and such. I remember last Friday’s refusal at the café (4 men and 2 kids at the table next to our usual booth). He remained alert, but not reactive at all. There were only 3 people he seemed uncomfortable with, and plenty were going by. I tried to sense what he was sensing, to pinpoint what the rump rolling uneasiness was about.
One was an older man, second was a sweet young lady who smiled and said how handsome he was, and the third was a man in a chair with an oxygen tank. The last one I could figure out: he nosed my hands, and with some anxiety, which means he was alerting to the man’s breathing problems. I patted his head, said I know he’s having trouble breathing, and it was okay. The man heard my words, and asked if Kenai was a medical alert dog—come to find out his now late schnauzer dog had naturally alerted for him when the COPD first started! That was cool.
Other than that, no luck in figuring out what caused his apprehension about the first two. Lacking an astonishing nose and mastery of intuitive body language, I didn’t make any headway. He didn’t break his down, and that was good enough for me. It was the best he could give me right then. He did okay for a puppy who wasn’t sure of himself.
He was still uncomfortable at the pet store, but he’d been there before, so he started to relax and immerse his formidable nose in the bone boxes. Once again, our Eagle Pack food was out of stock, and the lady said it had been a long term problem. So we started looking, and what should the lady show us but a natural food with ideal mineral ratios and a super high digestibility.
That would mean less food, less stool for BB to have to try and get out! He constipates so easily with that fractured pelvis narrowing the exit. It was cheaper, always in stock, and might just solve Beebs’ plug-em-up problems. I hated the idea of changing their food, but I can’t be making two trips a week just to see if the Eagle Pack was in, and come back another day because it wasn’t.
Our final stop Friday was for lunch, and I was not sure how Kenai would do. He’d never been there before, it was a Chinese buffet (so tempting), and the two previous stops were not “smooth”. Not big problems, but not “smooth” how I like: in, done, out all easy. What should he do but whip out the cool customer act, and behave far better than I had expected? Guess he wants to keep me guessing…
The oohing and aahhing didn’t phase him, as he lay there relaxing by my chair. Kids, Moms, Dads, construction workers, nothing got to him. He even walked the buffet line with me, getting just one “aah” for wanting to smell the food on my plate. Special K was kickin’ it out so good I went back to the buffet for desert! It was a wonderful way to end an outing, and I was popping buttons because of more than being full. That’s my boy.
I chalked up the earlier glitches to being out of practice. At 9 months old, a week off is time enough to get rusty at this public access stuff. Just to be sure, Saturday we loaded up both pups and had some more errand running, after some field running for toffee tank of course. He was brushed, sprayed, slathered with liniment on his back legs, and in the garage in 5 minutes. (Mom was buying breakfast).
No problem. The gas station was a mine field too—kids, dogs barking, BB getting wound up in the back… Once Kenai was out of the car, in his vest and working, he hit his groove. I used the euro leash so I had both hands free, and he was essentially heeling by commands and paying attention. Yippee! I would have done the happy dance, except he might have joined me, which isn’t the sacred goal of unobtrusive.
At the café, Brown parked in our usual corner, no whines, no pop ups the whole hour. The amazing thing is, when he goes out with his brother, his behavior is usually more stressed. BB is kind of a high voltage dog, that can short circuit big bro with all the nervous reactivity. Kenai remained alert instead of snoozing, but I can live with watching things.
After breakfast it was to Walgreens, for my refills. Again he heeled with hardly a touch on the leash, while he was oogled, walked by, and really interested in the donut samples. Those took a leash correction. I took his gentle leader off, and he kept right on walking with me, stopping with me, going left, going right, and hammering out his job like a pro!
We selected lipstick for Mom, shampoo/conditioner for me, and this achy author parked her oversized butt in the chair with the massager in it. The heat and kneading unknotted some tension for a few minutes, and I’d sell anything except the puppies for a real hot stone massage! Oh it felt so good. Dream a little dream, right?
So we chipped the rust off his edges with two outings in two days. If I could manage every day, he would either be old hand really fast, or get overloaded. Good thing I don’t have the stamina for every day and have the latter happen. That would be unpleasant. I do need to start getting him to school, providing plenty of time to nail down what is expected of him before I start in January. He likes knowing what he’s supposed to do. I like it when knows what he’s supposed to do, too.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 14, 2008
The Brothers Grin, concentrating. That was 21 weeks ago!! They were so small and smushy then…
Still no new camera (can I go outside and have a fit?), but this is a good pic of the two actually paying attention. Sometimes that happens! It happened again, as you will read later. Of course, it took meat then and it takes meat now…
I’ve met some remarkable people through this blog. One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time is at http://hearingelmo.wordpress.com/ In addition to the raw courage and optimism, it was just so well written. Loving to write how I do, the way she made perfect use of a symbol as an allegory just lit my literary fire! I think she’s an inspiring person, myself.
Also I met another Great Dane SD trainer, with dump trucks of knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws concerning access. My orbit of the world is apparently far enough out to not even have known that there are proposed size restrictions for service animals, or that some states contest medical alerting as a service animal task. (Huh? Is it me or is that ridiculous?) I hope she keeps telling me this stuff, so I can “get it right” when I write something about the ADA and state laws.
Tuesday Kenai didn’t go out to run at all—already broke my steadfast promise. But it was because of his legs, and not my fatigue or anything else. That morning when we got up, he was laying on his bed, wimpering, and when I asked what was wrong, he held up his back leg and whined. He was stiff legging around like an old fart, and chewing himself. Once again, it wasn’t the bones that bothered him, it was the long tendons he kept going after.
Doesn’t matter what it was, he was in pain, and a fair amount of it to be complaining. So after his breakfast, on went the traumeel liniment, and in went one of his brother’s pain pills. It’s less than half strength for his weight (120 lbs), but still enough for relief. After about 20 minutes, he was feeling way too good, wanting to run about and play. No dice, big buddy, it was rest and gentle walking.
It’s not like he didn’t have entertainment. He helped me make some fruit bread, my version of jazzed up raisin bread. A snoot on the counter got some flour in his nose and gave his majesty the sneezes, so he went back to sniffing through the pantry where the Ritz crackers are.
I showed him how the dust pan worked, though he was more interested in making it un-work. He located each bone chip on the living room rug, while I took them away and dropped them in the little trashcan. He wanted to make the trashcan un-work, too. Dang that foot is big…
We also had a snooze, though my bed was a smidgen too hard for his comfort that day. (I don’t like the firmness either—so much for the miraculous pain relieving memory foam). Personally, I would swap beds with him, except he’d sleep on the loveseat all night.
Anyone with fibromyalgia thinking a memory foam mattress would be good: DON’T. Maybe a couple foam toppers, but I’m going back to laying two down comforters over the mattress now that it’s cooler at night. Softer is better, not waking up feeling like I slept on a concrete sidewalk.
Then we made dinner, and I found a taste more attractive to him than lamb meat, critter poop, ham bones, or trashcans. Salmon. Cracked open that can and Special K came up off his bone like it was made of porcupine quills. He made a scandalous pain in the whatsits of himself, mooching and drooling for a nibble! Self filed that brilliant discovery into the emergency recall assistance file.
His brother BB was even worse at first scent, gallopoling from across the house (he doesn’t gallop, he gallopols). Beebs has no sense of decorum at all, thank goodness. He’s funny as a sack of monkeys. The Brothers Grin stood side by side for 10 minutes, big and small, stoic and stumpy, both transfixed as I deboned and formed salmon patties to fry.
Not one nip, not one swat, not one smush did they lay on each other. Any hint of vying for position, and a simple “Ahh” while holding up a bite-worth froze them solid. My little furry pillars of salt, how nice that was. Memory foam isn’t miraculous, salmon patties are…
So Tuesday wasn’t a total loss, though he really did want/need to play. We stuck with the small stuff, and gave him the TLC moose smooch treatment. Even Mom gave him individual attention, which doesn’t happen too often. I could feel the happy vibes from him, enjoying the “Grammy rubs” and wagging a lazy arc with his tail. BB got put in place for complaining, and she came right back to Kenai.
Wednesday morning brought a more comfortable state, so Tank’s runtime was honored. He didn’t go all out for long, and I didn’t goose him or anything, which causes goober runs. I let him walk around, sometimes calling him over for a treat. I kept the romp to 10 minutes. If I needed to I could have a 3rd outside play for a short time. Just baby his legs some, ya know?
We made a true autumn smelling bread pudding, complete with cranberries, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves after his run. It’s a special treat for Mom, who is the only one who likes bread pudding. It didn’t have the same thrill to the puppy brain as salmon, but Brown hung around our side of the island while I was making it anyway.
Then we hauled the vacuum out to my horrendously dirty car. It’s so hair covered and smelly I would be ashamed to take it somewhere to be cleaned! I can live with a certain amount of mess, but that was too awful even for me. Just about wore holes in my rubber gloves rubbing the gorgeous warm caramel hair out, and filled the whole sweeper bag!
Once clean enough, I soaked the upholstery with doggie smell neutralizer and SHUT THE DOORS. Let it steep, is my opinion. When the sun came out later, I took it outside and rolled down the windows for a steam treatment. If I have to, I can unashamedly take it to get the upholstery cleaned now.
Kenai just wandered around the garage, trotting back and forth from “stuff” to the car, being sure I was doing it right. He wasn’t ready for a nap after that, but he got one all the same. I didn’t get quite as much snoozing done as he did. I got caught up trying to figure out when I could go get a load of mulch to start my fall yard work.
Either Mom has to be home with both boys, or they have to be crated up with strict instructions for Mike to just ignore all the crying—no yelling, no going near them, no letting one out. It would be nice if Mom went with me, to help me get the tarp over the load.
I can’t climb and crawl about as well as I used to. It can take me weeks to spread a load of mulch these days, too. A half ton truck is hard to cover without the climb and crawl, espcially considering the guys in the loader mound it over like a plate at a buffet. Ever see that, those small plates carrying 3,000 pounds of food? Done that myself, back in my teenage college days. When Red Lobster has their all you can eat shrimp specials, I make it a profit draining affair.
Anyway, I want that mulch. I want to start taking back my front yard again. I started most of the perennials from seed, I worked like a fool to amend the native red clay until it’s a dark rich loam, I planted nearly every shrub and flower in it, I watered it with sweat, and I want it back. I broke my idjut parts making it pretty, so that makes it mine, right?
That’s my fall and winter job: cleaning up, weeding, and mulching the front ½ acre. Kenai will enjoy the outdoor time it will take, too. Might have to have leashed reminders of the flowerbed boundaries, and to stop at the driveway, but he’ll like the back to nature program! I know better than to take him out front first, though—empty the rocket boosters in the field before trying the front yard.
We did have one small ride in Mom’s not soaking wet inside car. No big deal really, just a couple packs of smokes, a gallon of milk, and a fountain drink. Sasquatch didn’t go in with me since I needed both hands. He’s not quite up to a reliable handless heel when there’s lots of people around.
But he got to go for a ride. I really need to get him out and working Friday. He hasn’t been for an outing since last Friday, which isn’t enough. I wanted to settle him down some first, and that seems to have happened. So it’s back to work soon, Sergeant Kenai, marching along.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 11, 2008
I know I’m a posting fool right now. There are times when I’ll put up a new post every 3-4 days. This is not one of those times. When I feel the urge to write it off, ya’ll get a post almost every day. My hair may be flat, but my writing is voluminous! We have to live without a new pic today: no camera yet. Maybe later today?
This pic is a thing of the past, since he doesn’t have the fencepost ears anymore. But it’s a good shot of his happy face, which I am seeing lots of the past few days. Besides, big or not, that pink puppy tongue is a reminder of the days gone by when he used to stick it out in his sleep!
Several years ago, I had a conversation with an exceptional young person about the difference between being reactive and responsive. Even at 17 she had some serious wisdom. Odd how something doesn’t mean much when it’s said, but comes to life later on. Come to life it has, at least for me.
A responsive person has fixed boundaries, where no means no and it doesn’t change according to changing situations, or a changing cast of characters. They are remarkably steady and comfortable with themselves, not shifting with the winds as it were. They plan ahead, but not in an anxious, obsessive sort of way.
A reactive person is in a frame of mind where they are at the mercy of whatever happens. There is a sense of insecurity about them, not being in control of their lives, being hyper-vigilant and brittle. That’s Mom, and to some existing extent still, me. We lived with 30 plus years of my abusive father, trying to survive by reacting to and avoiding every situation, every moment when he could go off.
Most of the ability to influence Dad fell on me, so I developed a highly intuitive sense of him, and it warped my intuition of everyone outside of that messed up circle. Mom just took it, and so did my brother. Well into my 30’s I was that hyper-vigilant, brittle person always waiting, preparing for the harm someone might do. It’s taken a few years to peel away what parts of that person I have set aside. It’s still there, though, the ugly, wasted, life wasting thing.
Mom was, and is, the passive and yielding person in relationships. She was just beginning to take control of her life after my father’s death, and decide the things she allowed to enter it. But both of us fell back into that old pattern when my brother showed up for the third time: I protect, Mom endures until she can’t take it anymore, well past what she reasonably should. Kenai has paid for my trying to protect BB all the time, and BB has paid for Mom’s instability.
It’s been tremendously hard for her, but I think she’s seen that she cannot live like this and survive. Being told, and I quote “don’t bug me”, when she wants her granddaughter out of her house for awhile. Emily shows up on weekdays, despite Mom having said no. Emily stay for days without leaving the house for so much as a happy meal when she agreed to one day. Not expecting rent and utility money so he can save up for his own place, while Mike buys computers and video game stuff.
I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t have kicked him out long ago, just for the utter disregard he shows to Mom’s wishes, in Mom’s house, while he lives off of her fast dwindling retirement. Her health has deteriorated, her routines are shot, her life is spent waiting in anxiousness for the next stunt. There’s always a next stunt, which is a sad thing.
She’s a wreck, all because she still functions in the attitude that whatever happens isn’t in her control to accept or refuse ahead of time, and she can’t inflict consequences if ignored. Mom’s going from reaction to reaction, with no solid boundaries until she’s too angry and put upon to hold back her anger. Absorb the disrespect, hold your tongue, then explode without imposing consequences that hurt enough to make it stick.
Instead of taking her frustration out on the person who’s caused it, she lays it on BB. For stuff like being hyper when she’s the one who didn’t take him to play it off. Somehow she expects this even more reactive creature to respond against his nature when she doesn’t expect it of herself or Mike?
And she holds that grudge against the dog, who really cannot decide how to feel and react, all day. BB goes crazy under that constant displeasure. Hell, I can’t stand to listen to it. If I didn’t have Kenai to care for and train, BB would long ago have become my dog.
One destructive cycle creates others, like swirling currents, and only the most resolute of people manage not to be sucked under by the riptide. Our home isn’t a home, it’s a washing machine, with an extra spin cycle! I’ve decided to climb out of the tub, and let the hardships be what they may be on others. I can’t, I won’t, absorb the stress and mitigate anymore. I still feel badly though, watching it all.
Kenai’s been very much returning to his calmer self with the changes I’ve made. Especially the reinstating of regular 2 a days outside. Sunday morning’s run we had lots of fun playing hide and seek, though I noticed he wasn’t running as hard or as long as usual—sore legs. So I hooked up the leash and we just walked, not heeling, just walking. It wasn’t a satisfying playtime for him, and showed in a touch of restlessness by afternoon, after a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggg nap.
Dinner on the stove Sunday had Mom and BB in the kitchen, so there wasn’t any rumpus play for special K. He had to stay on his bed, and didn’t do it well: 5 minutes max if I was up and on the other side cooking. I let him come stand with me, shielded from BB’s bite me games by the island. Monday he had not just the kitchen, but the whole house to wander while I cooked—BB was in his pen.
I let him run, now, when we go outside sore legs or not. Run, run, run, and run some more. Up and around the pool, back to the field, out to the front yard. He plays hard and long, my big guy. I’m managing up to 20 minutes at a time despite the FMS/CFS, twice a day. Another victory to notch on the tally sheet! I walk less, and try to get him to play hide and seek more. God I’m tired…
Sunday evening he wanted to continue the games with his brother. Mom was back to her bitch-about-everything-BB-does habit, irritable and jumpy. Kenai didn’t want to settle down, with Mom’s attitude and BB’s unexercised bouncing about. I left the barrier open for him, but he kept trying to play rough and tumbles with his brother, even through the expen. It took me an hour of off and on mild corrections, and a bone to get him to park on a bed.
He got argumentative once, and a snout snatch did the trick: straight on, in his face, ‘I said NO’. He gave it up. The agreeable chew on a knuckle bone seemed to chill him out, and he came up on the couch for a snooze. So Monday night, we went upstairs at 7:30 pm. I could bathe and we could play without additional influences or distractions affecting Kenai negatively.
Is it me, or does the extra run time do him good? Yay! Only the one minor bout of “I don’t want to” for two whole days, and only around his brother and Mom. How’s that for B-E-T-T-E-R! What a relief. I don’t like correcting him so much—he’s a good boy, with a super gentle nature, and a graceful spirit. He gets his feelings hurt and withdraws if he’s in too much trouble. He may look like a dominant brute with all those muscles, but he’s tender too, soft and strong at the same time.
I can’t recall if I’ve said this on a post before, but the word dominant has picked up connotations from misuse that it doesn’t deserve. Dominant doesn’t mean oppressive, aggressive, or over-bearing. Dominance is leadership. We humans are the ones that confuse and misuse dominance.
A dominant dog knows who he is, doesn’t feel the need to pick a fight, but won’t back down from an insecure bully either. They walk into a pack like they own it, and usually will. There is a calm certainty about them that is a stabilizing influence. A dominant dog is a natural leader, with a gift for keeping the creatures in his or her environment balanced.
Kenai has the tendency to dominance, having a strong personality. But he is gentle about it. Big Brown wants to walk in and do his business, do what he’s told without being bothered. When he’s in the mood, then the wrestling play is on unless I intervene.
He doesn’t like the swing and smash that BB provokes by his endless nipping. BB is just crazy silly, desperate for interaction. He’s a touch unstable, and Kenai tries to rebuke the wildness and maintain his dignity at the same time. He gets frustrated!
He doesn’t go crazy as his brother when he nails him for being a butt—if you watch, Kenai is extraordinarily careful not to step on BB, or get after his bad leg. But he won’t put up with being nipped all the time, or interfered with when his body and energy says “leave me alone”. Beebs isn’t exactly a respectful pup.
When Kenai is walking by, he’s got something to do. When he’s waiting for his food, it isn’t time to play. When he’s holding a stay, he’s working, so he gives his brother a quick “back off” and returns to what he’s supposed to do. Until BB comes back for more, anyway. Some days, BB just won’t let it lie. Some days, Beebs is just laying on his bed and Kenai will pounce. If it’s not one, it’s the other. BOYS!!
This fall when MY brother is gone, I’m wanting to figure and balance the relationship between the Brother’s Grin. Right now, there’s too much else that cannot be ignored, like providing my toffee tank with his needed exercise. I think though, that the first step to stabilizing the Brother’s Grin is getting first Mom, then BB chilled out.
Unfortunately, that’s up to Mom, and she just isn’t capable of it right now—too stressed, too much of a hair trigger. She needs to stabilize herself, because she has been a reactive person for decades. Switching to being a responsive but not reactive person will be a huge challenge for her. Once she does it, though, I believe BB will fall in line far easier.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 9, 2008
I was warned by someone that has had her posts about her service dogs as they went through the puppy phases used against her, by lawyers during access litigation. My purpose for this blog is to have a place where I can complain, brag, and let people see what it is like raising a puppy and training a service dog. This is about my life with Kenai, good and not so good.
Perhaps it would be wiser not to describe the less than perfect stuff we go through. I’m sure a lawyer could twist everything into deformity, but I resist holding back the difficulties I have. One, because it isn’t real to mute out what isn’t perfect. I need this outlet to blow off steam, reorient myself, and keep it all in perspective. Second, because I want help people who have questions or maybe give some good advice for a problem they have. And if others don’t know I’m struggling with a puppy behavior, they can’t give me good advice.
I don’t know yet what to do about the possibility of having my honesty used as a weapon against me. The thought of such malice and treachery is awful to contemplate. I’m not sure how to sheild myself from it, without being fearful of every word I write. Or without slanting the reality of my life into what my life isn’t: perfect.
Until I do figure out how to glean the lady’s hard learned wisdom and use it well, I’m going to make a few things abundantly clear about Kenai’s “problem” puppy behaviors:
1) my idea of a problem is not perfect. His version of leash pulling is keeping the leash tight or walking one step ahead of me. His refusing to down where I put him is laying down an inch or two away or rolling to the other hip. His excitement with children is not sitting automatically. His not listening to me is normal puppy curiosity and wanting to play.
2) Kenai has never, ever, a single time shown even the smallest sign of aggression. I’ve worked with rescues, so believe me I know every little tell tale hint that aggressive tendencies are there. He has been charged, lunged at, snapped at and even bit by other dogs who indeed were out of control. His worst reaction to such assult was to side step and want reassurance from me. People have been hostile to his presence, and his response was to be insecure and whine until I shushed him. He holds his down stay.
3) Kenai has encountered every kind of person: children, infants, and adults who were hesitant because of his size. His reaction is to put on an obedience show, whipping out a pretty sit, an inviting down, and gentle sniffs. He tries to entice them to like him. Off leash in a puppy store, he was across the store when a family came in. He followed the little girl, and did every command she asked of him. He never touched her, nor tried to take the lollipop away.
He smells babies, lets strangers step over him when he’s holding a down stay, and lays down instinctively for tiny puppies to crawl all over him, nipping his ears and pouncing on his head. KENAI IS A GREAT DANE, A GENTLE GIANT. The pic above was taken at just 19 weeks old, and the habitual gentleness he showed I did not ask for.
4) Kenai is one of the best trained and best behaved puppies I have ever seen. His “problem” behaviors are normal stages of puppy development. ALL PUPPIES HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE “TERRIBLE TWOS”, and work out the kinks. Like I said, my idea of a problem, is not perfect, and there isn’t a puppy in the world who is perfect. If the same complaints about service dogs in training were used against human kids, there wouldn’t be a child allowed in public!
5) The vast majority of “problems” with him are at home, where he is unfortunately subjected to a tremendous amount of stress right now. I have been neglecting his exercise, and almost ignoring him while I try to settle the seemingly unending series of crisis. I can tell you right now that none of my past dogs would have handled it so gracefully. Most of his less than ideal behavior stems from me and what I am allowing to affect him.
6) My idea of “problems” at home are playing too roughly and not obeying a command immediately: tugging too hard on me, swatting my arm to get his toy, jumping around me in excitement, or running in the house. These are new, and are typical for adolescent puppies. On his worst day, he does this 2 or 3 times during a 24 hour period until I shut it down. That’s what I call an outburst.
Nearly everyone, including trainers, have said my expectations of a pre-adolescent puppy are far too high. But I expect him to walk in the house, follow my commands every time, and be calm. When he’s not playing during the 2 established play times inside, and the 2 outside, he is either laying down or walking beside me. 99% of the time, that’s what I get. Mostly because that’s what he’s like: calm and quiet.
7) Kenai is an outstandingly gentle and tolerant puppy, whose NORMAL puppy phases are squarely situated on the mild end of the spectrum. Even with the stress and recent lack of exercise, his “outbursts” are running in the house, barking more than once when someone comes to the house, or resisting a correction I give him.
8) His public behavior is amazing. There has never been an attempt to run in public, to bark in public, not come when I call him, or to disturb other people. The problem is the other way around: people disturbing us while we are working.
I absolutely trust this puppy. He could have passed the Good Canine Citizen test at 15 weeks old, and can now. I just want PERFECT, and my high standards aren’t yet satisfied in ALL areas. There isn’t a lawyer on earth more nitpicky about his behavior than me.
Now for the post I intended for today…
Dogs and stress: they giveth and they taketh away… They pee on your new carpet then make you laugh tossing around a toy. They chew your high heels, then cuddle up for a love when you feel sad. At least dog made stress has its own antidote, right? Kenai has been under man made stress, and I have not being providing the antidote. I got a good look at just how distraught he is Friday night.
After Friday night’s fuss from Kenai, I was glad to see his attitude was okay the next day. He was a touch tense, and “stacked up” when he heard my niece fussing in the basement. Crying children usually affect Danes in a fix-it manner: they want to know what’s wrong and fix it! Kenai is no exception. He smells her all over, and usually starts with the licking or offers his toy. I’ve taught him to walk past a crying child in public, but home is supposed to be a sanctuary, quiet and peaceful.
I’m just going to keep him upstairs and outside more, away from my brother’s volatile moods, BB’s hyper anxiousness, Emily’s screaming, Mom’s frustration, and my tense vigilance. A house doesn’t get more unbalanced than this. His outbursts of rough play usually happen when he’s downstairs in that emotional sausage grinder, or when I’ve skipped his playtimes.
Friday night was an eye-opener. I think Kenai has had all he can take of this continual disturbance. It was his version of a primal scream. Okay, love, I heard it. I’ve been neglecting his exercise and fun because controlling his brother’s reactivity is eating up my strength. He’s becoming distressed being stuck in the living room all the time.
All these bad habits of MY sanctioning are taking a bigger toll on Brown than I realized, and it’s got to stop. Now. We have 39 more days as of Saturday until my brother’s move out date of October 15th, and it won’t be 39 days of the same turmoil around him.
Written in stone is a minimum of two outside playtimes a day for my guy. The house could be on fire, and he’s still going to play. Mom might be pushing me to do this or that, but Kenai is going to go play. BB could be gone insane, and Kenai is going to go play. If I have to use a cane and bust my butt every other step, he’s going to go outside and play. Exercise is the puppy antidote for human made stress, and he needs it.
No more putting my rugged and lovely boy last. Everything else gets my leftovers from now on, instead of Kenai getting my leftovers. If all my energy will hold out for is sleep, eat, and play, then that is all we’ll do. The responsibility for BB just switched entirely back to Mom.
Ironically, these changes are a big stress reliever to me, too. Now it’s not all up to me, the load isn’t all mine, and I get to breathe again. Dogs and stress: they giveth, and they taketh away. I take Kenai’s stress away, he takes away mine. Not bad teamwork.
Kenai had a much better day Saturday because of the changes I made. He was more relaxed overall. I didn’t have to correct a single goober run indoors, there was not even one incident of brutish behavior, and he almost entirely ignored his brother’s rowdy nip and swat games: just one good swat for BB’s hard nip and shake on the flank. It’s hard to tell the long term effects the alteration will have from one day’s results, but we liked Saturday a lot better. No more upset puppy!
One splendid part of the day was an astonishingly long cuddle nap. He stretched out on my bed and actually wanted me to lay an arm over him and smush right up against his back. I rested my head on his neck, the whole she-bang. It lasted over an hour before he started to squirm. So I rolled over and we slept almost 3 hours back to back. Then it was up to cook dinner, which means he gets to play ball-in-a-blanket, puppy soccer, and monster pounce.
Dinner went quite well, since I used the same training on Emily that I use on the dogs: redirect and make a game. No fussing over “I don’t want that” because it was “watch this” games—I’d get her attention, and take a bite like the cookie monster with yums and got it for a refrain. Then it was her turn. She cleaned her plate and asked for seconds. Who says dog training doesn’t work?
Kenai didn’t like having the expen close him in after dinner, but Mike and Emily were up and down the basement stairs every 15-20 minutes. BB would jump up, and if I didn’t get a treat in front of his nose and redirect, he would bark. The look at that game takes concentration from me, and works best if I hear or see Em before Beebs does, so I can’t let Kenai run over to see them continually. I had to close up the area to contain them both.
After 2 hours of abysmal up-and-down, grabbing treats, and not getting to watch the TV and relax (that’s the point of the living room…living not working), I got sick of it. What did I do? I WENT UPSTAIRS. If Mom wants to pop up and down redirecting BB like a high strung gopher all night, let her. She can do that, or tell Mike to cut the crap—shut the door so the squalling doesn’t drown out the TV and freak BB out, and quit coming and going constantly.
Not my problem… other than the banging in the kitchen and thunking in the dryer below us would get a bark from Kenai. The fact that he woofed some is proof that he’s not his usual composed self yet. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight, whining insecurely if I tried to make him hold a down stay. But he wasn’t agitated. Another victory for the Valkyrie.
When Em’s mom came to get her Sunday morning, we were upstairs. Three frenzied kids and a worn down mother on top the resident inmates is too much for my buddy right now. When he’s back to himself and learns to not let the craziness get to him, then we have a short visit. What Mom chooses for BB isn’t up to me to mitigate for the little buddy. He’ll be manic, probably, unless he’s still in bed or Mom’s had him out to play.
I also swapped out some toys between Kenai’s upstairs box and BB’s downstairs box. They get bored with their toys after awhile, with exceptions for the super duper favorite ones. So my boy’s teddy bear baby, fuzzy heart baby, flying duckie baby, purple baby, and little lamby baby are traded off.
He now has a goofy bird baby, cupcake baby, elephant baby, tucan sam baby, and doggie baby to entertain himself with. I wouldn’t dare try to make him part with yellow duckie or fleecy baby. He’d squash his brother flat for slobbering them up.
“Remember surrender, remember the rest? Remember the weight lifting off of your chest, and realizing that it’s not up to you…and it never was.
Remember surrender, remember relief? Remember how tears rolled down both of your cheeks, as the warmth of a heavenly Father came closing in?
I wanna do that again. Why can’t I live there and make my home? In sweet surrender I wanna do so much, more than remember.
Remember surrender, remember that peace? Remember how soundly you fell fast asleep? In the face of your troubles your future still shone like the morning sun.
Remember surrender, remember that sound? Of all of those voices inside dying down, but one who speaks clearly of helping and healing you deep within.
I wanna do that again. Why can’t I live there and make my home? In sweet surrender I wanna do so much, more than remember.”
“Remember Surrender” by Sara Groves–this is what I listened to Saturday night. I needed that.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 7, 2008
A visual aid to understand Kenai’s state of mind Friday night…
Wow, just when I thought I had Kenai’s excited-dominant behavior waning…Friday night we had 3 distinct bouts in one hour of wild, complete with grabbing my arm in his mouth when I corrected him, and trying to smash me on the couch. The vet scale says he’s coming in at 119 pounds now. Too big for that.
The day began very well, having a really good run outside in the cool air, but that’s not where it wound up. By 9 pm I had a frustrated bull elephant pinned on the couch and held there until it withered his dangles. Then I took his still squirelly bum up to bed.
In between morning and night was where it all went wrong. I guess days always go wrong then. Our slide to infamy started at 10 am. We had a big day with lots of things that had to be done before my niece was supposed to come that evening. I could tell from the start my nap was in jeopardy.
Kenai was all mellow from his morning run, and I decided to finally give my room a quickie clean. It smelled, the carpet was toffee colored from his toffee tush, and my socks kept picking up bone bits. Time to clean. Mom was just about headed off to the store to restock the now working fridge when who should appear without any warning but my niece.
Now that my brother has twice been told NO WEEKDAYS, it hit the fan. Mom let him have it, she met his ex and Emily on the porch with less anger but definite displeasure, and then she left before she threw them all out permanently. You would think he’d have some idea how thin the ice is.
Once Mike had gone to the basement with Em, I went ahead with my plans despite BB’s howling from the living room. Suddenly crappy mood or not, even Mike wouldn’t have the temerity to pop up and yell at BB for barking while I cleaned upstairs. Not after that butt chewing from Captain Weaver.
I admit to being pretty impressed with how calm I remained, and how downright peaceful the boys were while I was with them. I did more housework than I should have, trying to reduce the load on frazzled Mom. That in turn reduces the frazzling of BB, who can come apart like an old t-shirt.
There was alot of walking and hauling salvaged frozen good back in from the garage, interspersed with getting some knitting done while playing some relaxation music…that quiet morning was so pleasant. Gotta love the power of music! It didn’t last.
Brown wound up being returned to the car for the first time in 2 months. He wasn’t doing too well, but not too bad, either. What did surprise me, and set off some alarms, was his big discomfort was about a table of men with a young child. Uh-oh.
But we were holding our 4 pack together in relative steadiness, I thought, as the day went on. There were signs of stress, but a little fun and play would take care of it. I wondered if we should give the boys another run a piece. But it seemed like we were okay, ya know?
Then Mike and his growing bad mood came up at 7:30 pm with Emily and her cranky one since I hadn’t made dinner. The thought of food made me queasy, so cooking wasn’t going to happen. BB got more jumpy. Kenai started winding up, but I’d had success all week at bringing him down from excited behavior.
Sometimes Kenai stays calm, even enjoying neck scratches and hugs from Mike, but the crappier he gets, the more out of control Kenai gets. The boys want to like him, yet they don’t really trust him. I guess Kenai’d had his fill–BB in a heightened state, a frustrating bunch of outings…
Anyway, both boys just escalated from then on. In one sudden outburst, Kenai let it all hang out and didn’t put it away until we went upstairs at 9 pm. I get him on his own, he starts winding down. There were a couple bouts of chaotic running from bed to couch, but he was chillin.
Tank slowed down and gentled down, eventually wanting to play a little hesitantly. I wanted him to relax, so I popped on a relaxation CD and he lay down to sleep it off. I stayed up, waking him around midnight for some attention and an offer to play.
Not in the mood, even for his beloved yellow ducky. Guess I should have played when he offered. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing opportunities to reconnect with him before he feels insecure and withdraws. I let him rest awhile longer, then shared some of my crackers with him.
It’s no wonder Kenai has been schizophrenic in his puppy development. He’s lived here for 25 weeks, and only 3 of them without the unstable presence of my brother. It will make me sick if Kenai’s 22 weeks of stress has changed him long-term. He was such a happy little good toddles, then it all went to hell.
How angry I could be at Mom’s blind foolishness about Mike and his ways—I knew this would happen, Mike’s ex knew this would happen, lots of people did…he’s a damaged person who inflicts damage without any clue of that. Yet she didn’t believe any of us, nor cut all this crisis short before so much long term harm was done. She had to learn the lesson, but we paid the price.
I guess that’s how it is on this earth, and Mom’s paid for some of my lessons. Maybe we ingrain expectations of fairness a little too much in our kids–makes it harder to accept the unfair dynamics of life. Teach them to be fair to others, but don’t assume it will be returned.
Kenai was unusually muted during this past week’s rain. I think he gets the rainy blahs, myself. That or the cooler temps trigger some need to hibernate—he slept through most of Wednesday with barely picking up his head. The pale grizzly bear snoozed and snored, getting up only to eat, then back to the pillow, since a run outside wasn’t going to happen. Silly boy.
Maybe he just knows we don’t do much of anything outside when it rains unless we have to. Maybe he was just saving up for Friday night. Who knows? But it sure is starting to feel like autumn here, though it’s early. The nighttime temps drop into the 50’s more often, and some of the leaves are changing color. I don’t mind!
This sort of weather is so much better for sleeping, and I get to put a cover over my sheets to be comfortable. If I didn’t have to keep Kenai from getting cold at night, I’d leave the windows open some all winter too. I’m one of those people who love to pile on the quilts, and use a heated blanket.
This fall, I intensely hope to be out of doors a lot, getting yard work done. Thanks be to the exhaustive cycle my brother has forced us into, my front yard is almost gone again. The flowerbeds are badly overgrown with weeds, which will leave little generations-to-be for me to fight all next year.
Two of the flowerbeds Mike mowed and killed everything except the weeds. We can’t afford to replace the rhodies, but I’ll start my replacement perennials from seed over the winter as I did their predecessors. I’m getting tired of starting over because of someone else’s thoughtlessness.
What I need is a captured warrior from another tribe to shred the leaves, chainsaw the fallen trees, and spread several loads of mulch. That’s just the front yard… I will have a veggie garden not one day past April 1st!! Having my hands in soil is as needful to me as having tall grass to run in is to Kenai: primeval and nourishing.
Maybe I should capture two warriors from another tribe, one for the front and one for the back. Oh, wait. I have two of ‘em! Nah, BB would just carry my tools around, and Kenai would dismantle my neat piles of branches to chip for mulch. Guess I’m on my own, unless I can hitch Beebs up to a plow—he pulls like an ox on leash, so it wouldn’t be a stretch!
And Kenai will supervise. He’s the watching sort of fellow, standing guard while I muck about. Unless the pile of leaves is too tempting or it gobbles his ball. Then he can demolish an hour’s work in 5 seconds. I can see it now: kaaa-POUNCE, root, root, root, goober-run. Uhhh. I think I’ll just let him take sentry duty, and not help.
Kenai’s happiest outside. He’s very much an ancestral sort of dog. The instincts to catch a scent and follow it are very strong, and he is a different “person” out of doors. You can almost feel some primal switch turn on when he hits the field, and it seems to throw the circuit breaker put in with obedience practice.
Our ‘you can’t find me’ games are a hunting game of sorts, and interest him far more than recall. Even our outings through human places have a scouting party feel to them at times, seeing what he can see, smelling what he can smell as if he’s on a mission.
It’s like some relic of a distant epoch stirs in him when the grass is taller than his hocks. The beckoning of the wild has grown too faint through time to be recognized for what it is, but still potent enough to fully absorb his brain in the smells and sounds of the natural world. We left the natural world long ago, but I don’t think our dogs have left it as entirely as we did. I know Kenai hasn’t.
His need to be outside is far more than entertainment, or a change of scenery. It has the significance of a necesity. Deny it to him and he is restless, disappointed with indoor games. Deny it to him long enough and he first becomes scattered then unruly, then depressed.
I learned that last spring when it rained almost continuously. He becomes housebound fast. Allow him a couple times a day outdoors and he will return to the confines of walls without complaint, and be satisfied to wait for the next time he gets to run.
Posted by greatdaneservicedog on September 6, 2008