Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10th...Zion is home with Trapper in Fairbanks, AK.

It is Sunday. At around 4 am our children were awake....because it is not only light outside, but we are on Ohio time. So to them it is 8 am. This could be a rough week with very little sleep.

Happy Mother's day, too! I feel like I have a new child, his name is Zion.:)

We actually fought getting up until about 5:30am, then we stated breakfast, unpacking, emails & such. We got ready for church, but missed the 9 am service. The 11 am service is very big & busy. We thought we would take Zion, but I left him in the car to ask again. I had asked prior to our family even moving to Fairbanks. I found the church on-line & thought it sounded like a great community of people. I wrote a letter explaining our family dynamic & how it would change to include a service dog in the spring. I received an encouraging reply and Welcome...but the person I originally wrote to decided that it needed to be brought to a meeting again as Zion would not be with Trapper @ all times. Trapper can be in the nursery/children church without him depending on how many children are in the nursery. Rob & I are the trained handler's. So we expected Trapper & his Zion to sit with us during the music part of service and then we would talk Trapper to his class room & Katie to her's. Then Zion would sit with us during the service. However, we were not greeted with a welcome today as it was not clear why the dog would be needed if the child wasn't with him. For anyone who may see this the same way....think about these things. The dog needs to continue being around public places, eventually Trapper will sit in the entire service with us (we hope) & Zion will be completely familiar with where he is. It is fairly loud & the service is close to 1,000 or more at the 11 am service. This is excellent training for Rob & I and great continuation of social situations for Zion. Plus, it stays around 80 F in the summer in Fairbanks & can dip below -40F in the winter. I will not be leaving Zion in the car from here on out. So, I either have to figure out who to talk to @ our church (we are new to town really, our church family that helped us raise money for Zion is in Skagway, Alaska). So we will be finding another church family if they feel strongly about Zion's presence in church service. We really do like our church though, so the thought is sad. Church is not held to Laws in place for the American's with Disabilities Act. The reason is the separation of Church & State. All other places of public access are required to allow access to a service dog by law. However this is where compassion & acceptance in a church body comes in. So we will see.
After Church service, Rob ran into Lowe's to get some posts for the play center he is building for the kids. Then we went home and got busy on projects. Rob leaves in just a few days for a conference in Florida. We hope to get some tracking practice in while he is here.

Thank you to all of you who have continued to keep up with my post. Sorry I am a person of many, many words.:)

Day really dislike all travel!

Let me just start has been a horrific day!
Early morning flight, two dogs who refused to use the "pet run". It was sand & Taya (our daughter's Schipperke) wouldn't even step foot on it & Zion seems to be trained for grass only. He was intrigued by all the smells though, being that he is trained for tracking it proved a bit trying for him to not put his nose to the ground.
We had one excess bag & a pet to pay for. $100 one way. It was supposed to be "through to Fairbanks", but in Seattle the Airline we booked our travel though tried to charge us again for the pet & the excess bag & even tried to charge for Zion. So, a frustrated, exhausted woman pushing a stroller with a screaming child that was beyond being pacified...a woman who looked like she should be wearing a sign on her fore-head that reads "please...for the love of it all, do not even talk to me!"...has to get upset because the lady behind the counter had to go and argue with me about fees. Oh, the woman was me.
I also got flagged by security in Seattle when I was trying to come back in after taking Zion out for a potty break (in another gravel pit). That was fun. Zion travels very well, but our children, not so much.
We had one nice airline attendant on US Airways to Phoenix. Yes, we were routed through Phoenix.:) What's another 4 hours on an airplane, really?:P
The worst flight this time was Seattle to Fairbanks. Our airline attendant had an attitude. A man in first class (right in front of the bulk head) complained because Trapper was crying & yelling. He had a total melt down when I wouldn't let him run down the aisle of the plane. This lasted 20 minutes.

~~~~~It feels sooo good to be home! Travel yesterday was horrid! Zion was great...well except that he may have been bored while flying because he tried to chew up everything my daughter put in front of him....her new MP3 player is gone. Will teach her though to pick up her toys.;) Getting through the airport was only difficult because EVERYONE is staring @ us & running up to Zion, which makes him think "playtime". We have to work on that because he gets a little too excited about little kids...including his own.;) We also have to work on the stairs. He about took me out this morning & was so excited to see Trapper that if I hadn't been awake he would have been pushed backwards by his new "very much a cuddle bug" dog!
We got home last night & Zion went sprinting through the door, but wasn't prepared for the wood flooring, so he slid to a crash into the wall. It was funny & I hope he is learning, "no running in the house".:) He is so he just runs upstairs on the carpet. So, after his "hard wood floors are slick lesson"...then we let him see his new back yard...let me just say he loves his new yard! I wish i had a charged video camera because it was like a kid in a candy store....and it was about about 50-55 when we got in last night...I know Zion liked that too. He's been sniffing his new home, yard, car all morning. I am pretty sure he is pretty happy here already! We are going to bring him to church this morning. They had already told us it was okay, but that was back in November... I hope they remember telling us that.
Oh...yesterday I had to get a little angry at a "check-in gate attendant" person....they wanted to charge us another hundred for Taya (Schipperke) & another $75 for an excess bag. Thing is we already paid this in Columbus checked through to Fairbanks. Then the woman said that there may be too many dogs on the plan because I have two & there were three she's calling for assistance from a supervisor....this was in Seattle! She said only so many are allowed on each flight...I explained at least three times that Zion is not a pet. She already had me angry with the paying twice (which she waived, after I got a little upset). Seattle to Fairbanks was the last leg of our flight...we had already been through two other connections! After massive apologies from several people at Alaska Airlines they waived all there "extra" fees, gave me our boarding passes...which I had to have ASAP so i could take poor Zion out through security to the "dog run" (which for some insane reason the security agent @ the gate decided was grounds for flagging me, so security was another stressful issue....THEN when we were trying to board the flight there was a different woman & she argued with us too saying we needed to pay for both dogs, I gave here names of those who had cleared us & she proceeded to tell us that it wasn't on our boarding pass so we may have to wait until everyone had boarded, we were "early boarding, young kids, special needs....ahhhh!) I am a little disappointed with Alaska Airlines, which normally is my favorite. We didn't have to wait on everyone else to board because she got me upset & within seconds the problem was resolved. I think that if you looked like your hands are pretty full, your exhausted with a screaming kid under each arm, stroller, carry on bags & two dogs....they just really have to cause more problems...because maybe you don't look like your going to put up a fight or something, but then they got a little more furry then they expected. Not just from me, two other passengers stood up for us too & helped us. We had ONE...just one excellent, helpful, flight attendant. He name is Tracy & US Airways is going to get a "good" letter from us. Alaska Airlines...there letter isn't going to be a good one....and I took names!
Oh & Trapper had a meltdown on the last half hour of our flight & two of the first class passengers (in front of bulk head) complained to the flight attendant!!!) Trapper yelled, arched his back, bite down on his arm & cried for about 20 minutes...but it was mild compared to most of his fits. So the flight attendant came & asked if she could help & I told her that there really wasn't anything she could do...she seemed flabbergasted & just stood there staring at us. I was holding Trapper down because he was slamming his head into the window area at one point & Zion was trying to she thought Zion was "out of control"...I tried explaining it to her over Trapper's crying...she then leaned over the seats in front of the bulk head & apologized and asked if they would like something to drink (meaning alcohol because it was on the house)!!! I am the one who needed a drink. She came back and asked again in a snotty tone (& let me know people in First class were complaining) if there was anything she could do to help him "quiet down"...I said as nice as I possibly could @ the moment, "find a cure for Autism." She didn't come back.
Thank God we are Home!

Day 11- Public Access test & Graduation Day!

We were scheduled for our test @ the Fairfield Commons Mall @ 12:30!
It was a crazy busy morning....all because we slept in....then realized we needed to do a load of wet laundry so we could pack it. Check out was at noon. So we rushed around I brought breakfast back to the room, but Rob wasn't feeling too hot. My guess is that he never drinks "water beer" & due to high stress volumes he decided, "free beer is good beer". Didn't really agree with him the next morning though. I have to say, at this point in the training every one of the parents are just spent. Not only with our own children, but take thirteen kids with Autism (or behaviors that are very similar to the Autism we see everyday)...add in twelve dogs & twelve sets of tired parents, plus a few siblings that have "had it" by was pretty hard not to feel stretched thin. Trapper picked up a few stem's we are praying he doesn't decide to keep. However this did help us realize that there is no way we are putting Trapper in an exclusive Autism program this way! We adore each & every family we met @ the training, but now understand even more that some people can deal with things better then others. Not one of these children could be confused with another, they are all so unique, so amazing...and each a blessing to the parents they belonged to. The hardest thing for us was that almost every other parent told us that Trapper reminded them of there child at his age. Trapper & these two darling little girls were the youngest in the class. Most of the other children were between 8 and 10. What was difficult for us was imagining how Trapper may be in four more years. Not one of the children whose parents told us this were anything alike...not one! The funniest moment at the training was Master trainer Jeremy's Birthday & our get together party. My son & two other little boys were holding their ears, two others were screaming in the highest pitches, three were crying and melting down in different corners....and every parent's face had a look of exhaustion. It was comical though. You have to find the humor in the moment I guess.:)
So, the laundry wasn't dry, but I was due @ the mall to take the Public Access test. So Rob dropped Zion & I off & headed back to the hotel with Trapper to get the laundry. There were three families still ahead of us, so I took Zion for practice. Every few feet we were stopped & asked questions or got to hear really crazy comments. Like, "must be a dog show at the mall today." After awhile you find yourself shaking your head yes and want badly to give directions to where they can go watch the show.
I got back to the meeting area just in time to find Jeremy & the family from Australia ready to start there test. It went very smoothly, Zion is awesome. We passed the test & headed back to the 4 Paws Training Facility for Graduation.
Rob's parents brought Katie up & were able to stay for the ceremony. So...then this awesome blessing arrived! Katie & her Grandparents had headed inside & Rob was getting Trapper out of the car on one side & I was getting Zion on the other. I was putting Zion's gentle leader back on & he didn't really want it on right then, he wanted to I said, "Oh come on Zion". Then I heard a gasp to my left. There was this beautiful little family. A Mom & her two adorable children. The little girl (about 10 I think) gasped. You see they were Zion's puppy raisers. Zion acted like a puppy when he saw them. It was an awesome reunion! The mom & her little girl were in tears, the little boy (about 7) was hugging Zion tight & being licked clean.... I of course got all teary eyed. It's like meeting a mother who gave you her child. I have so much gratitude for all the love they gave Zion...they helped make him the perfect match for Trapper. I think they were all a little crushed when I told them Zion was heading to Alaska.
I is still very funny to me that of all the dogs in the "Alaska Litter", Zion is the only one without an Alaskan location name & he is the one heading to Alaska.:) They brought toys for Zion, a sweet card with encouraging words for Zion & his new family...and they brought us his puppy pictures too.
So the highlight of my entire day; Zion's puppy raisers came to our graduation so that they could see him again, meet the little boy who Zion was meant for & say goodbye to this amazing dog that you could tell they adored. It was such a bitter-sweet blessing to meet them. I can not even put into words how overjoyed, humbled, grateful, and blessed their coming today meant to us. If Michelle, Phil, Kylie, & Zach ever read this blog, we just want so much to tell you thank you again...from the bottom of our hearts. For being part of this amazing journey with us. For all the love, care, & items Zion may have chewed up while in your home.:) Mostly thank you for your faith & commitment & all the prayers... you have given our son the most amazing gift! We are so thankful you came today & that you were part of this answered prayer.

~Graduation was load, but slightly fun...except for Rob. He isn't a family photo kinda guy, but he married me, so goes his luck.;) Katie was crying because her dog Taya wasn't in the family picture & amazingly Trapper was more relaxed one in all the commotion. Thanks to Greg Felix, we have pictures to recall the moment. ha. I think I should put it on Rob's desk @ work.

We finished our paper work & rounded up the kids. I meant to go back inside & buy a few extra Service Dog items, like a second Mutt Mat & a few 4 Paws bandannas, as well as a couple T-shirts for the kids....but I forgot after Katie threw a fit over having a piece of cake. Before I remembered we were almost to Columbus.

We are staying at the Comfort Inn near the airport as we have a 6 am flight in the morning. Rob's parents drove with us to Columbus because we couldn't fit two car seats, all our bags, two dogs, & ourselves in the rental car. It was a Dodge Journey, roomy, but not roomy enough. We may need to get a bigger vehicle at home in Fairbanks, because the dog isn't going to fit between two car seats in an Xterra. We plan on Rob, all our bags, Katie & her dog Taya (12 pounds fits under the seat of the plane) taking the rental car back and meeting us at the ticketing area. Trapper, Zion & I will take a hotel shuttle. Please pray tomorrow goes much smoother then we imagine.

~written by Jami (Trapper's mommy)

Photo of Zion chewing on his Kong toy & Trapper chewing on the tire of his new truck.:)
I think they both have Pica....or both just love to chew on things.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 10...More tracking, travel stuff...we will miss our new friends. about 1:30am Trapper woke up giggling. Crazy giggling...this went on for a couple hours.
The day started with tracking again. Zion was awesome. It took Trapper & I at least 20 minutes to get out to our hiding spot. Zion watched & barked & pulled when he saw Trapper & I walk off. We want him to bark when he sees Trapper heading off to warn us. We were given the choice, do we want him to warn us or not...we say YES! The grass was long & wet as we hiked out from the parking lot. We had to cross over a meadow, then over a hill & down near a creek & around a long bend into some trees & brush....and there was a lot of trash every where near the creek. Trapper & I sat down and I occupied Trapper with his GFCF cookies & juice...but not for long. It took Zion all of about two minutes from the time Rob said "track" to find us today. He didn't hesitate at all & Rob said today he never looked up or back...and Rob had to run pretty fast to keep up with our awesome tracker! Zion was rewarded with his all time favorite reward of hot dogs & all kinds of praise. We wanted to go on a couple other tracks today, but for some reason the road near the parking lot was really busy & we couldn't keep Trapper away from the road. We went ahead & headed back toward the 4 Paws training facility and stopped to mail some of our "stuff" back to Alaska on the way.

The afternoon was spent working with our dogs on listening to our commands. These dogs are highly trained and listen immediately to the people involved in their training. However, now they have these new handler's , some with strange accents, deeper or softer voices...and it seems to take a couple days for them to understand what we may be asking. A few times Zion has tilted his head while standing waiting for my command to make sense. In some commands he listens to me really well & not Rob. In other commands, like "track" he gets much more excited by Rob's tone then mine. Our trainer's (& the dog's trainers) have reminded us over & over that practice daily is the key. Zion's main goal is to make us happy. He loves treats, but he loves praise & hugs, too.

Also this afternoon we went over all last minute concerns, travel issues, ADA laws, health expectations, the re certification that is required annually, equipment options/needs...and the biggest question we all had, "what will the last day of class look like?"
We were all given a time slot starting with the first Service Dog's & handler's Public Access test at 9 am & the last family of the day starting their testing at 1 pm. We were second to the last @ 12:30. I was pretty nervous, but that was silly really. Zion was awesome, he has only one issue in public & that is that he loves children. This isn't a bad thing at all. It is important that people ask prior to petting Zion, but as long as he is not in the middle of working on a command (like in the middle of a "track" at the store or a disruption of behavior for his child Trapper)...then it is fine to ask. We would love for people to ask Trapper, but because he will most likely not respond the handler's will answer, but it will still be good to start asking him as this is his dog and a great social beginning or building block.

We headed back to the hotel after getting our meeting time. The test will be at the mall the next day. We went to Toys 'r us & Pet Smart, then back to the hotel to eat. We sat with some of our new 4 Paws friends & it quickly turned into a party. I left Rob to visit & brought Trapper to the pool next door. He really likes swimming! Problem is, after I was dressed I thought if I took his life vest/float vest that he would not be comfortable back in the water....well not the case. He jumped in & my new friend Kelli & her son Zach got back in the pool because he kept getting closer to the deep end. He had no fear at all! I had to carry Trapper kicking & screaming all the way back to our hotel room...past the dinning room where the 4 Paws party now included a guitar & the party was getting bigger & now people were singing...including Rob. I am curious as to how much beer got him singing.

After Trapper & Zion were sleeping were were able to visit a little more before bed. What a great group of people we have in our class! The hotel let us know we were the "more vocal group"? When we asked what this meant, we were told that we were all so much fun & all the staff just loved being included in our celebration of life, children & the dog's that are trained to help us. That was nice to hear. I thought they were meaning that we were all obnoxious.:o)

~written by Jami (mommy)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day9~ Rain, Rain...and someone stole Trapper's shoes @ the Mall!!!

Today was a heavy day on tracking. Zion has been doing awesome, but in the last two tracks Jami handled & I hide with Trapper, there have been some issues with tracking (not for me, but for Jami). I think mainly due to the fact that Trapper is still so new to Zion and it takes more time than what we have had so far to develop that strong bond, plus Zion is looking to us to see if he has done well & we need to kick up his excitement a little more...he's still learning what we are asking of him or who we want him to track. Still, Zion has done remarkably well in tracking Trapper.

Today we started with two tracks at a local park in Xenia, OH. The first one was difficult as we crossed tracks with another family who had just walked over the trail that Trapper and I made as we walked through the grass/woods. Also, it was pretty windy so the scent was really pushed around quite a bit. After the first attempt we did another track in a different direction. Zion did very well with this one and located Trapper within minutes of starting the track. Before starting the second track my mom and Katie came to the park to visit and Katie got to hide with Trapper. She enjoyed it very much and wanted Zion to track again. We had to remind Katie that this wasn't exactly a hide and seek game. The last thing we need is Katie and Trapper running off to play hide and seek with Zion.:)

After tracking in the park we headed back to the facility for more obedience/intervention training. Zion did well but was pretty tired from all the tracking earlier.

In the afternoon we headed back to the big mall in town and did two tracks in JC Penney. Zion did well there also and found Trapper quickly. Once hidden in a changing room and once hidden amongst clothing racks. Zion works pretty efficiently in public. He is impressive at all tracking, but it's pretty amazing with all the scents @ the mall...he is so quick to find Trapper. Also he has been trained to bark twice when he sees Trapper walk away. That we love.

Also, I took Trapper to the Pool again tonight. Jami was busy doing laundry & packing a couple boxes to ship back to Alaska. Trapper screamed the entire way @ a very loud volume all the way back to our hotel room, and then for about ten more minutes while Zion tried to "Nuzzle" him. The kid loves water and has absolutely no fear.

We have 2 more days after today and everyone is getting pretty tired. Training with the dogs and keeping kids in check wears on you pretty quickly. After the two days are up we get to look forward to a long day in the airports again on our way back to Alaska. Ugh! I will be glad when Saturday night comes and we are back in our own beds and off planes!

Written by Rob (Trapper's Daddy)

Note from the Mom: I can't believe it! Someone stole Trapper's shoes at the mall today! The only shoes I can get him to wear are these little Keens & someone actually took his shoes from the kids play area today!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day 8~ Tracking, behavior tricks & approved dog supplies & grooming.

Today we started the day off with a nice breakfast in the dining room @ our hotel. Zion was excellent with his restaurant manners, making for a very stress-free meal.

Trapper really enjoys the tethering, which is awesome....but also we can tell him to hold & he will hold on to the loop on Zion's harness & walk beside him. This isn't something he will do for a long time, but it is a start to holding on to his dog.

We practiced tracking again this morning, it's interesting to watch the dogs pick up the scent. Today Rob hid with Trapper and with some help from trainer Jeremy....Zion & I worked on tracking. After our tracking practice, I ran on the track behind "Torch" & his two darling twins. Then Rob ran after a track with Zion's sister "Kenai" & her little boy Braeden. Then we headed back to the training facility for training with Jennifer on behavior disruption & cool tricks our dogs are trained to do too. The cool tricks will help Trapper be able to socialize (eventually) he can show other kids all the cool things his dog knows. Like giving a high five and playing dead when we give the command "bang" with hands as a gun.

We discussed all issues we have seen with each dog with the trainers so we can work on correction needed in our homes & gear, grooming, safe dog toys & acceptable behaviors (meaning if the dog is not allowed on the furniture...never allow it, because dogs don't understand that something is allowed only sometimes). It is interesting to understand why our dogs do some of the things they do & don't do some of the things that "pet" dogs do.

We also practiced tracking after getting back to the hotel....well after Rob & Trapper went swimming...then after dinner...then Trapper & Rob went for a walk. Zion really dislikes his harness when tracking. He was slightly spent by the evening, but did do a great track when Trapper & I hid in the stairwell. Then we went back, Trapper was asleep in five minutes was Zion. Then we lost internet connection because we didn't know the new pass code for the hotel this is late.;)

Written by Jami (Trapper's mommy)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 7~ Tracking, Training, Tethering....and more tracking!

Well, today was eventful. We slept-in until 7:45am (this is 3:45am in please look at it from that stand point;)...this meant get up, get dressed, take Zion out side, get Trapper & Zion feed, get bags together & in the car...and then rob took first break to get breakfast while I got myself ready and Trapper's clothing out....then I ate while Rob finished getting Trapper ready. Then in the car & to the facility...follow Caravan of vehicles to tracking destination. We were the first track as Trapper really wasn't doing to well staying put & we were last the day before.

This time Rob took Trapper & hid and Jeremy (trainer) started the "track" & then handed Zion's lead off to me. That was something. The wind was swirling above this field & Zion would find Trapper's scent & then loose it...a couple times, then he caught it & bolted. It was hard holding the lead for me to not allow Zion to keep going when there was quick jolts in one direction. I hope to go on a few more tracks to see other dogs track their kids as well tomorrow morning. This depends on Trapper of course.

So after an educational track (for me the mom)... Jeremy asked that we go back to 4 Paws facility to see the vet about Zions stomach stuff. So we went back and the vet there fixed us up while Rob & Trapper played on the outdoor play center. Then Zion & I joined them because we had near 2 hours until our second class started. So Zion was able to play & Trapper too. There was this red play mustang car there that was fun for about a half hour until dad pulled a muscle trying to push it around. The battery wasn't working.

Then we went in for instruction & training under Jennifer. We worked on "heel", "back" (backing our service dog up when needed), we worked on "stand" which should help us towel Zion off after he gets in Trapper's bath. We were able to ask questions about tracking at the mall before heading that way.

So... at the mall we worked on tethering until it was our turn to track. We hooked Trapper up & he loves it, then we walked around a little bit. Then I decided to go to my first store...well coffee shop.:o) So With Trapper tethered & Zion at a "heel" we walked in to Starbucks and stood in line. Trapper reached for a smoothie juice (Odwalla) from the cooler & held it & the tether strap. Then I ordered my drink & paid for was easy & painless. Then we caught up with Jennifer for our first "mall track" in Sears. We need to practice more, but Zion was excellent. He found Trapper in less then a minute. After practicing a couple times. Rob took Trapper to play @ the indoor play ground. The play ground in the mall wasn't real big, but it had only one exit and was closed in by half walls all around it. So Rob was comfortable with Trapper not being able to get by him and he started talking to one of the other dad's in the class. Well they were talking about how fast the kids are when Rob scanned the play area and couldn't see where Trapper was. He started to panic and was searching all over the little play area...when a man came up to everyone & said, "is anyone missing a little boy dressed in Camo"....Rob followed the man to the back side of the play area on the other side of the wall & Trapper was there. An entire family sat & watched this four year old scale this wall & run & they didn't stand up, say anything or let anyone know. If I hadn't been on the other side of the mall working with Zion, possibly we could have tracked the little escape artist. So, today Rob lost Trapper....what a day!

We left the mall & headed back to our room with a very tired kid & dog. We decided Zion needed a break to sleep a little, so we put her in her Kennel & took Trapper swimming next door at the Holiday Inn. Our hotel & the Holiday in have an agreement of some sort on Pool sharing.
Trapper hasn't been in a pool for a couple years. We want him in aqua therapy, but so far do not have that set up. He was awesome in the pool. He loved it. The only meltdown was when it was time to go. He loved it & didn't want to leave.

After the pool we came back and Rob went out to get dinner so we could eat in our room. We ate & then Trapper fell asleep on the sofa shortly after.

This was how our 7th day went. We love doing the tracking with Zion and hope to get more picture of the actual track tomorrow.

God Bless!
~Jami (Trapper's mom)