Week 1 with Katie

Sorry it's taken me all week to post, but having Katie is a little like having a new baby in the house. You just gotta get a routine and that's something we are still working on!

For those of you who know about Steve's work troubles, I'm sure you are interested to hear how the first day back to work went...and I'm happy to report it was pretty uneventful. Of course, everywhere we go people want to talk about Katie and ask questions. I guess that will ease up with the more people we see, but strangers stop and ask questions too. Most of the folks at his work are supportive and amazed that a dog can do such things, but I think some are still adjusting as well.

Steve did come up to my work earlier this week and of course, it was the same way...everyone gathered round asking questions and feeling all sad that they can't pet her! :) It was neat because so many of my co-workers were WAY more supportive than Steve's and so seeing Katie was wonderful for them because they had waited with us and literally walked this road every step we took. I'm telling you, I work at the best company in the world and my department by far outshine ANYWHERE I've worked before. 11 years...that oughta tell you something!

What Steve and I did find out relatively quickly was that our bed is just TOO small for 3. And having Katie in the bed is like having another adult there with us. And yes, she does HAVE to sleep with us. It's part of the bonding process between she and Steve and also, it is harder for her to alert if she's on the floor. So on Tuesday night, we went out and bought a king sized bed and mattress. I had to put my practically new (4 years old) queen bed and mattress set on Craigslist. I used to love Craigslist because you could sell just about anything there, but lately, I've had ZERO luck. I had one hit on my couch (which AmVets is picking up on Monday) and one hit on Fred (who never returned my call or email) and ZERO hits (except for unsolicited JUNK mail) on the bed. I don't know if it's the recession or what, but it's very frustrating. Here's the bed...if you know anyone that is interested...

If you think you are interested or know someone who might be, just click here and it should take you straight to the posting.

We still haven't found a home for Fred. We have a temporary situation for him but we are about to start looking at Happy Tales to see if they can help. I did NOT want to go that route, but I really don't feel that I have another option. The temporary situation is not ideal for us or Fred.

On an exciting note, one of the reporters for the local paper called and asked if she could interview us to do a follow up on the story she wrote from last year right before our fundraiser breakfast. Wednesday night, she came over and we talked for a while. Her name is Ashley Bone and she is SUPER sweet. If I hadn't been such a chicken to ask, I would have taken a picture with her. Anyway, for you locals (and I mean, locals to the Hill), check out the Advertiser News next Wednesday. The article should be published then. And for those of you who are not local, I will post the link here.

I guess that's about it. We plan to stay relatively close to home this weekend. I'd like to do some closet purging before school starts. I have one more week of work and then Jenna and I are beach-bound! We can't wait! We do have a birthday party for a special little girl on Saturday so I'm sure there will be pictures from that...eventually!



We're baaackkkk....

Our new family of 4 returned home just a few hours ago. We left yesterday afternoon after a late dinner/early lunch and drove the 2 hours to St. Louis to drop off the rental car (which was a PT Cruiser!) and then drove a ways out of the city in order to find a hotel. A special shout out to my good bud Rachel who assisted us in finding accomodations. Who would have known there was a "NASCAR event" this weekend in Illinois that made it virtually impossible to find a room?! We ended up staying in one of just a few smoking rooms left at a Hampton Inn in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Let me just say, if you ever need a place to stay, I highly recommend the Hampton Inns. The room did not in the least smell like smoke and it was N-I-C-E! The regular price was about $100 but the lady who took our reservation (after Rachel looked up hotels and their phone numbers on her internet!) said she would apply a "coupon" code to make the price $82. I paid less than $100 for the room and it was a very good experience. One I plan to let the owners of Hampton know about.

Anyway, I digress. Traveling with a service animal (or any pet I suspect) is like traveling with a child...you have to stop periodically to let them potty and get out to stretch their legs. Although I will confess to you, it was ME who really had to stop! :)

I had a good response to my top 5 questions, so I thought I'd add too them. Feel free to ask any questions you have (that I haven't already answered) by way of the comment section and I'll answer them the next time I blog. Most of these questions are from friends/family that have asked in the past....

Q6. We have a pet dog/cat in our home. Can you still come to visit us and will you bring Katie?
A6. YES! We would love to continue to visit your home. And if you want Steve to come, Katie must come too. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY: If you have another dog in your home, we will ask that you pen him/her before we arrive. While Katie is trained, it is hard for any dog to stay still and behave if there is another dog running around her, barking and/or sniffing her...well you know. Cats can stay out in the house. Katie has been trained to behave around cats and it's quite different than having a dog around. If you don't want to kennel, cage or pen your dog, then we absolutely understand and will NOT be offended. Just let us know that you don't feel comfortable with that and we can invite you to our home instead.

Q7. Is there anything special you do before going into a place of business (Target, work, restaurant)?
A7. Yes, before entering anywhere, Steve must find a grassy place for Katie to have the chance to potty before going in. This avoids accidents inside a business. And just in case you were wondering, Steve is required to remove anything left behind by Katie, so he ALWAYS cleans up her messes outside!

Q8. Katie looks so sad. Is she happy?
A8. Yes, Katie is happy. But like a police officer or guard, when they are "on duty", they don't generally smile, laugh and cut up. Katie has a job to do and she understands that. She does have times when she is not "on duty" and Steve will play with her. She may look sad while we are out, but that is her "out in public" face!

Q9. What happens if I call Katie? Will she come to me?
A9. If Katie remembers her training, nothing will happen if you call her. Katie is trained to only obey the commands of her master, which is Steve. Neither Jenna nor I can give her commands. But again, we ask that you don't call her. She is here to keep Steve safe and someone trying to call her (other than Steve) is a distraction.

Q10. What happens if you are trying to go into a business and they won't let you in with Katie?
A10. A place of business MUST, by law, let us in. If they refuse, we are to speak with the manager, who usually knows better than the workers, what the laws are. Ultimately, if push comes to shove, we have the option of calling the Police, although we hope it NEVER comes to that.

Q11. How will Katie know if Steve's blood sugar is getting low?
A11. Katie has been (and continues to be) scent trained. Dogs have a very keen sense of smell which is much better than humans. Dogs can be scent trained to do a variety of things. Sensing low blog sugar is one of them.

Q12. I saw Steve speaking harshly to Katie and yanking on her collar/leash. Why is he so mean to her?
A12. Steve is NOT being mean to Katie. He is correcting a behavior that is unacceptable such as disobedience. It looks like he's being mean. I KNOW. I think the same thing, but Steve has to establish dominance and so he has to use a firm voice when correcting her. Just think if you had a toddler who continued to disobey your commands. You would, most likely, not talk to him in a quiet, sweet voice and expect him to understand the importance of his obedience. Neither can Steve. Katie will continue to train and before long, correction will be minimal.

Q13. Does Katie stay outside or inside and where does she sleep?
A13. Katie stays inside unless Steve takes her outside for a walk. And she sleeps with us. Yes, you heard that right...she sleeps with us. Steve will sleep next to me and for bonding reasons, separate Katie from me. She has to understand that she works for Steve and so her sleeping close to him helps that bonding. In addition, she will be able to more easily detect blood sugar lows during the night.

Q14. Will Steve have any more formal training with Katie or is this it?
A14. We anticipate a week's worth of training in Missouri each year for several years. We have additional training to do while we are home and will report back to them weekly and monthly for quite a while.

Q15. Are you and Jenna allowed to pet/play with Katie when she's "off duty"?
A15. No. For the first 90 days we are home, no one, and especially not Jenna and I can have contact with Katie. It would be very easy for her to bond with one of us. We already love her like crazy because of how safe she is going to keep Steve. And yes, it is EXTREMELY hard for us to not want to just love all over her. But we can't. At least not right now. It's hard and very sad for us, but we know for Katie to help Steve that it's what is best.

I have lots of other things to say, but I would like to rest for a while. It's back to work and camp tomorrow. But only 2 more weeks until our vacation! YAY!

Bring on the questions...if I didn't answer them yet, I'll be happy to...


Just a quick update...

Many of you have emailed or called asking about Steve and Katie. They are still training and doing well. I thought I'd take just a moment to answer a couple of the most frequently asked questions:

Q1. Has she alerted yet?
A1. Yes, she has several times. However, they have to alert several times so that Steve will recognize her alert as what it is and not mistake it for disobedience. This will take more time than 3 weeks so the training will continue long after he gets home.

Q2. Can we pet Katie?
A2. Unfortunately, no. Even Jenna and I will have limited interaction with Katie for a while. We will never love on her and pet her like you would a pet. She WILL always know she is loved though. She is a working dog and if we want her to do her job she must know the difference between working and pet.

Q3. Will she go EVERYWHERE Steve goes?
A3. Yes. EVERYWHERE. On airplanes, cruise boats, mission trips (although that's more complicated than the others), work, church, restaurants, doctors' offices... you name it. If Steve can go there, so will she.

Q4. Is she ALLOWED to go everywhere Steve goes?
A4. Yes, by law and under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) she must be legally allowed to go everywhere he goes. Out of the country trips are a little sticky, but in the States, she's allowed everywhere...even the hospital (though not an OR).

Q5. Have you found a home for Fred?
A5. No. Not yet. I had one inquiry from the listing on Craigslist, but that guy never called me back. I had one word-of-mouth inquiry, but they are kind of concerned that he hasn't been housebroken for so long. So we are still looking for him a home...keep passing the word. I know God's gonna work this out. He hasn't failed us yet.

Jenna and I will get on a plane Saturday to fly to Missouri. We'll finally meet Steve and Katie and then Saturday afternoon/evening, there will be a graduation ceremony that we will attend. I'm sure I will take TONS of pictures!

After that, depending on the time, we might leave for home Saturday evening but more likely we will wait until Sunday morning and head back in. Not sure what time we'll arrive home, but Monday will be back to normal...well...except there will be a big black dog with us everywhere we go!

One quick prayer request, pray for Steve's dad Bill. He has congestive heart failure and he has some fluid built up around his heart. And then today, he had to have his beloved dog, Gigi, put down (she was 12 and not in good health). Bill is a quiet man, but I know he has got to be lonely without Mary and now his furbaby gone. Just whisper a prayer for him when you think of it.

And now...a couple pictures of Katie...


Meet Fred

This is Fred. Fred is our 6 year old Beagle. We got Fred from the Wilson County Humane shelter when Micah worked there.

When we agreed to enter into the Diabetic Service Dog program at HSP, we agreed to have no other dogs in the home. "In the home" actually means inside or outside. Ever since we knew Steve was accepted, we had plans for Fred to move in with Micah. Well, those plans have fallen through. And now I'm a week away from Steve coming home with Katie and I have no place for Fred to go.
If you are interested in giving Fred a home, please call me, email me or for my friends reading on Facebook, write on my wall or email me there. I have to find a place for Fred by Friday night as we leave Saturday to meet Steve and Katie.
Fred is a great dog! He rarely barks...only when he's excited or playing and he's used to staying outside, although he has been inside as well. He LOVES other dogs and I believe he's really lonely after Mack and Missy died, so he will do best with another dog or inside where he can be with the family all the time. Fred's in great health, no problems at all, although he hasn't yet had his rabies shot. If that's a problem, I'll make it a point to get his shot before you pick him up.

I just want him to go to a good home. It's not like there's anything wrong with him. Just the nature of a service dog, we aren't allowed to have any other dogs. If you think anyone you know might be interested, please let me know ASAP.


Just wanted to hop on and let you all know that Steve and Katie are doing fine. They continue to train in Missouri and are starting new training exercises. They've gone to the movies and are going putt-putt golfing today so Steve can learn to handle her in real life situations. There's so much more to learn. He's missing us and we are missing him but we all understand that this is where he needs to be for now. We are really looking forward to seeing him soon. We have passed the 1/2 way mark!
Chase is doing well from his letters. I received 3 last week and none this week so far, but I'm sure to get something soon.

I guess that's about it. JG and I are just hanging in there...Steve and Katie say "Hello" and thanks everyone who has been asking about them. This has been such a long time coming!


Training Week 1-COMPLETE!

Today completes Steve's first training week and my and Jenna's first week without him. Jenna and I are kind of getting into our groove for sure and we certainly kept busy over the long weekend. I'll have pictures one of these days from our 4th of July festivities, but not tonight. I'm going to read a bit and get in bed.

I talk to Steve regularly and they are doing a lot of repetitive training with the dogs. He has video homework every night that takes quite a bit of time. They had a lot of today off. He went to church, but then it was just him and Katie. He had to tire her down so she will sleep tonight, so he did several long walks and play time.

He sent me a quick little video from his cell phone that I'll try to post here...you'll notice another dog briefly...that's just another dog in training. You might be able to see that Katie does not have her service dog vest on which is how she knows she's "off-duty" and it's OK to play...

Anyway, this week is more of the same for Jenna and I. We went to the Sounds game last night (with family) for the awesome fireworks after, but it got rained out (that is actually an understatement), so we are going to try it again this Friday. Saturday we have the bug spray people coming and then our new couch is being delivered. I seriously need to get the current sofa on Craigslist to see if I can get rid of it before then...yeah, add that to my list.

Otherwise, we have no real plans for the weekend. Depending on our Saturday visitors we might hit the rec center pool again if the weather is nice.

As for now, it's off to read some of my book...