Saturday, September 20, 2014

Training Day 6: Half way through!!

Oh my goodness... it's hard to believe we're halfway through our training!! I think the "tired" part hit me today. I cried like 7 times.... hahahaha we're all exhausted, but in the best way possible!! (in fact, I apologize right now for my grammar and punctuation!! my eyes are half shut!)

Every morning we have a Q & A with Jeremy to see how all our nights went. We learn a ton from hearing other families experiences and all of Jeremy's thoughts and responses.

Today we upped the distractions!!!  We've definitely learned what Sobe's two distraction weaknesses are. Tennis balls and other animals!  Jessa, one of the trainers, brought her adorable kitty in!(hahahah oh my goodness... video below): 


We spent the afternoon talking about Healthcare, Grooming and Correct Play. HUGE topic!! I knew 4 Paws was strict about chew toys and "play" time with our doggies but I didn't know exactly why. It was really interesting and beneficial to get the training and thoughts behind this. 

There is just so much information coming our way every day. Thankfully, they give you hand-outs every day on the material that was covered. In fact, this was tonight's quick project:

I just picked up a cheap binder from walmart, and Homewood has an office room where I printed off a temporary photo and they have a three-ringed hole punch! I figured I better get organized with all this paperwork!! Lord knows I'll need it later! This would be a great project to start with your kiddos before the trip while you're anxiously waiting!! Kind of building a journal/training book as you go!! 

*BTW, this is totally my opinion, but everyone kept telling me to wait to get supplies, (toys/food/crate/brushes) until after we get to 4 Paws and I'm really glad we did. The only supplies we have at home is our crate (which we waited to find out what/who our match was) and a food and water bowl. 4 Paws will give you quite a few recommendations specific to your dog and her breed and her personality. For example, Sorren the dog next to us in class is a big time chewer... they'll probably end up having nylabones and kongs everywhere!! Sobe, not so much. She is good with one nylabone but we might need to have tennis balls at home, in each vehicle and probably in my purse just in case!! ;)  We even bought a brush the second day we got here in Ohio and it's not the one to use. Now we have the names of two other brushes that will be perfect for her coat! (During class today, Ben was literally on amazon putting items in our cart!!) It feels weird not being all prepared before you leave for two weeks but it's really ok and I'm glad we waited.

Hallelujah!!! Silverman reinforcements came in today!!! Meet Gammy and Gobah (my parents): 

After we got them checked in we headed to Maggie Moo's for a local fundraiser. Mark's 86 year old grandma put on a 4 Paws fundraiser for him! Mark and his family actually live in Alaska but his grandma lives right here in Ohio. A bunch of us in the September class tried to stop by to show support:

Of course, this is one of the times I cried. I very much remember how much work fundraising was and how touched and amazed I was by the village surrounding and supporting us. Still can't believe we're here and our dream has come true!! I want Mark to get his service dog NOW!! Here's his fundraising link:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Training Day 5: Mall Day!!

First thing this morning... these two cutie pies:

Today was a blast! We started out at the training building and practiced new commands and got to see our seizure dogs in action! They put a "seizure shirt" (a shirt a kiddo had a seizure in) in a room and took one family at a time with their dog into the room and watched the dogs react! Sobe found the shirt and barked! This takes practice and continual training with the dogs... We'll be learning and practicing more about this later. 

Then...Sobe received her service harness!! The harness we are starting with is all leather and has a sturdy handle on the top that will help Benjamin walk next to her. We didn't try this out today because Benjamin was exhausted, but we will get a video of it later! Benjamin can also be tethered to this harness. (more coming on this later too!) We are also going to purchase another harness that is a little more comfortable for Sobe when we won't use her for mobility. (Like the plane ride home!) Service animals are not required by law to wear vests or harnesses in public but 4 Paws does require it as an agency.  

Our big adventure today was to the mall! Ben and I were both nervous... and I didn't even have to do anything except watch Benjamin. Ben did all the work with Sobe. It was actually really fun! I would say each family had their issues and things they need to work on and improve, but that's exactly why we're doing this! Peg, one of the trainers, walked around with us and gave us cues and helpful hints as we shopped, took the elevators, stairs etc. 

Here's our new and definitely improved family:

Towards the end of our mall session, Jeremy took us to work on some doors! Sobe is a multi-purpose dog. She is trained in seizure alert, behavior disruption, and mobility. One of her tasks in mobility is opening ADA doors for Benjamin. Here's her and Ben practicing: (video)


The command for her to hit the button is "Hit it", and as she gets more comfortable with Ben and I as her handlers, we can give her the command and she will do it from a greater distance. We will be practicing this a bunch!!

Tonight, there was  no dinner offered at Homewood suite so one of the families bought pizza for all of us! We had a blast! (There's a couple families missing):

I can not even tell you how much I love the families in our class!! Wonderful, lovely people! 

After talking to everyone tonight I just want to offer some advice to future classes. 4 Paws requires you to bring at least two adults to the training for two weeks. However, if the two adults that are coming are both going to be equal handlers, like Ben and myself, I would HIGHLY suggest bringing another caregiver for your child especially if they're extremely dependent on you. Right now we have it set up where Ben is mainly participating in all the training and he will do the test at the end and I am trying to sit in on as much as possible. But Benjamin is a full time kiddo and it's super hard to try and care for him and not miss any of the training. Ben fills me in as much as he can, but Jeremy is a wealth of knowledge and I hate missing one thing he says!! So families, seriously consider this when planning your trip. I know it might be an added expense, but really, you only have these two weeks committed to just training and then we'll be thrown back into life and it's craziness. My parents are flying in tomorrow night and I can't wait for the help! Ben and I will be able to practice at night by ourselves and know that Benjamin is being cared for. Or like today, Benjamin didn't sleep very good last night and was exhausted... It would have been a good day to leave Benjamin at the hotel with grandma and grandpa! If your child is pretty much dependent on you all the time, it can be a little overwhelming to have the service dog and the child and try to put everything all together. You definitely need some practice time with just you and the service dog, so commands and corrections become second nature so when your child throws the tantrum of a life time - you're confident enough to manage your dog who will help you manage your child! I think some of us moms are going to take a night and hit the mall with our service dogs and no kiddos, and get some good practice time in! 

Can't wait for tomorrow! Every day is such an adventure!! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Training Day 4: B.D.O.B.!!!

Yes... I made that up... B.D.O.B.!!! It stands for Big Day Of Bonding!! The only way a service dog relationship can really be successful is if the child and dog are nicely bonded. And like I mentioned before, it takes a little extra work and possibly more time when the child is like Benjamin and non-verbal, developmentally delayed and doesn't quite understand what's happening and what he's suppose to do in the relationship. We are encouraging it as much as possible but it will take continual work with both Sobe and Benjamin.

Today, Benjamin was in another room just off the classroom and down the hall taking a nap, where we can check on him every few minutes. He comes crawling out of the room and making his way towards the classroom. Sobe spots him coming and flies towards the doorway showering him with kisses. I mean, we lost her leash and everything (some handlers eh? hahaha we were not expecting that!) It was awesome!! Sobe loves her boy! She really is a special dog! She is sensitive, loving and cuddly and a perfect match for Benjamin in every way! Somebody asked me if we were happy with the dog we got and if we wished anything was different and the answer is NO!!! There are so many awesome, beautiful dogs in our class but each one is so perfectly matched with our kiddos, if we had a different dog... it wouldn't fit! I know this was one thing I was worried about in our waiting period and so I'm writing to future families... Do not worry!!! 4 Paws is GREAT at what they do!!

Look at these two:

I know some days might be hard or it might not feel so successful, but it was really neat to see Sobe's exuberant love for her buddy on only Day 4!!

We learned two new commands today: "stand" and "lap". Stand is self explanatory and "lap" means for Sobe to come and put her nose on Benjamin's lap. I'll have to get pics of this!!

We also worked on more distractions. Each dog seems to have their own really big temptation. Here's Ben putting a container of mac and cheese in front of Sobe! (btw, this is not mean... this is everyday work for these dogs and to be successful and stay focused, they have to be able to ignore human food and everything else.) Don't worry we treat them for their great behavior and work!! (video below)


Ben has been mostly handling Sobe during class time and at night, so tonight he had me practice with her quite a bit. I am getting more confident for sure. I mostly get flustered when I have Benjamin and Sobe by myself and Benjamin throws a tantrum! But it will get to be second nature with time!!

Tomorrow afternoon we head to the mall... GULP!!!!! ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Training Day 3: Superstar Sobe!!

Today was packed full of new things!! First, we started with distractions. There will be distractions everywhere for Sobe, especially out in public... people wanting to pet her, food, crazy sounds, other animals and it is crucial that she's able to keep "working" and not distracted by these things. So part of training Sobe is to create distractions around her and see how well she obeys and make sure she stays in her command (sit, down... whatever it may be). I knew these dogs would be awesome, I guess I just didn't realize how awesome! We took two of their favorite things, Pup peroni treats and tennis balls and tempted the heck out of these dogs!! Sobe was a superstar!! 

Here's Sobe being tempted with Pup peroni: (the videos won't play on iphones so you have to get on a computer!!)


And here she is being tempted with tennis balls: (video below)


Tonight was the first night we got to take Sobe back to the hotel with us!!! She was super nervous in the van. She is usually always in a kennel while in the car so it was her first time without one. She did pretty good though for something completely new! 

We took her into the hotel for dinner tonight and again she was a champ! 

We also received Mutt Matts today. What the heck is a Mutt Matt? Below, Sobe is laying on hers. This is a matt that when we tell Sobe to "place" she will go to her matt and stay there until we "free" her. The purpose is to keep her in one spot for long periods of time. She only has to keep two paws on the matt, She can lay down, sit, stretch or whatever she wants. This will be great for our airplane ride home and the matts are also used at school quite a bit. 

Toward the end of the day, Jennifer (Sobe's trainer) came in and took the three families that have mobility trained dogs into another room. Here we learned how "retrieval" is going to work. There's actually three different steps that we will work on with Sobe and as she gets more comfortable with us and then we will combine them all. 
First we practice "take it".  Ben throws an object and Sobe will retrieve it. If Ben tells her to "Bring" then Sobe will take the object back to him. If Ben asks Sobe, "Where's your boy?", Sobe will take the object to Benjamin. Sobe already has the "take it" and "bring" down. What we have to work on is transferring the "where's your boy" to Benjamin. They used a trainer for training Sobe for this task and it will take a little practice and some treats to get "where's your boy" to mean Benjamin and not the trainer. We practiced tonight at the hotel with two of Sobe's toys and then we tried Benjamin's Ninja turtle hat! Sobe did great bringing it back to Ben! 

Here's the video: 


Time for bed!! We've been trying really hard to stay rested up and feeling good so we can get the most out of each training day!! So far, we're thinking that we'll keep Sobe in her kennel tonight. I think eventually we'll have her sleep in B's room, but right now we want to keep an eye on Sobe and Benjamin. Not because of Sobe, she's an angel, but we're not sure how Benjamin will act all the time and we want to keep their relationship all good!! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Training Day 2: Today was cloudy with a chance of Pup peroni!!

Today Jeremy, the head trainer, spent quite a bit of time talking about bonding and how extremely important it is for the child and service dog to bond. If the child has disabilities or behaviors that make it hard for the child to bond with the dog, than it's our job to help them with the bonding process. In Benjamin's case, he is non-verbal and doesn't quite understand all this. So when Sobe comes to Benjamin, or Benjamin shows interest in Sobe, "treats should be falling out of the sky and fireworks going off!!" We worked on this a bunch today and will continue to every chance we get. 

A couple more pics of our first meet with Sobe:

We also worked on "free walking". Basically when the dog doesn't have a command to follow but still should mind her manners. We also spent some time on "heel". 

Another family pic:

This afternoon we discussed seizure alert and behavior disruption and we'll go more in depth with both topics as the training continues.

By the way... this is what your pants look like when you're 6 and crawling around a dog training center! hahahahaah:

We also worked on our Sobe's tricks today. She can "shake" and "give five"! I can't wait for Benjamin and Sobe to be able to interact with others with these tricks! 

Here's her shake: (video and may not play on some devices)


Short and sweet today! We are exhausted! Tomorrow we get to bring Sobe back to the hotel to stay with us! She wanted to go with us today!

Training Day 1: Benjamin Meets Sobe!!

What an amazing, beautifully, exhausting day we had yesterday! I can't remember the last time I was this tired!!! In fact, I fell asleep in Benjamin's bed at 7pm last night and woke up once to get water and brush my teeth and went back to bed til this morning! Thanks to my awesome hubby for taking care of B boy and letting me get some much needed rest!

Ok... Training day 1: 4 Paws is building a brand new facility and we are the first class to be in a completely different rental building while they do construction. So I'm not sure exactly how it's different from other classes before us, but it's working just fine for our class! There was even a spare room for Benjamin to take a nap in!

Here's the magical moment of Benjamin meeting Sobe for the first time: (video below, may not play on some devices)


Mom, is this my dog?:

She already just loves him:

We learned a whole bunch of things today but mostly we started with three basic commands. Sit, Down and Free. Notice I said "we learned". The dogs are already trained. However, each dog has been trained by a personal trainer and they greatly love and respect their trainers. Sobe's trainer is Jennifer. She's been with 4 Paws for 14 years.

The goal in the next 12 days is for the dogs to start bonding with our children (this can take up to a year depending on our kiddos) but mostly for us to take the role from our trainer as Sobe's handler. This is done by practicing over and over with Sobe using different commands... letting her get to know us and that we're in charge and her new handlers. 4 Paws ONLY believes in a positive training method when handling the dogs. For starters, we start training the dog with treats. Sobe just likes her dog food...err, I mean LOVES her dog food! Some dogs need a little more of treat to get their attention but Sobe is super happy to do anything for a piece of food! We won't always have to use treats for every single thing, like the trainers, they can just give the dogs commands and they will obey and then "praise" is enough of a reward but since the dogs don't know us yet, we have treats happening big time!!

Sobe getting treats from Benjamin: (video)


In fact, just to give you an idea, I was practicing "sit" with Sobe, and we walk all around the room practicing and she is a very, very good dog. She started getting all excited and lost interest in me and I couldn't figure out why. Well, I was right next to Jennifer and Sobe knows her trainer!! I had to redirect her with a treat and distance us so Sobe would take my commands and not look to Jennifer. Soon, Sobe will love and look to us like she looks and adores Jennifer.

Here's Ben practicing sit: (video below)


And lastly we practiced "sit" and "down" and made Sobe stay in that position until we told her "free".  The dogs wear a gentle leader which goes around their muzzle and is only used for "positive" correction if they don't obey. We can also use a training collar for correction. They will train us to use both and we can decided what we like better. But just so you know, the only time we had to correct Sobe was when Ben and I both weren't super clear to her on her commands. There is a sign for each command that you give and if we're not clear with it, it's confusing to the dog. Like I said, she is a very good, well behaved, sweet dog!

Ben and Sobe practicing "down" and "free": (video below)


As far as going into anymore detail on signs and how to correct... well, guess you'll have to wait til you come to class!! We had such a great day today and part of the amazing experience is listening to Jeremy, the head trainer, explain every detail to you and the whys and hows they do things!! There's no reason to stress, or learn early or try to prepare (can you tell I'm a worry wart?). They will teach you every single detail about your dog, and some things are specific to your dog and their training. It's every bit as exciting and wonderful as I thought it would be!!!!

Benjamin made another new friend today! Her name is Mya. Benjamin and her are similar in a lot of ways and they both like a lot of the same things!! Mya is absolutely adorable and I'm so glad her, her mom and grandma are in our class:

Lastly, let's not forget about our first dinner at Homewood Suites. They serve from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Monday - Thursday. It was great! Honey barbecue chicken wings, an awesome salad and cornbread. The chef's name is Jane and you can tell she takes real pride in her job. I wish I would've had my camera on me to get a picture of this salad! It was beautifully displayed! We took our food back to our room cause my buddy was already on sensory overload with all the people and doggies today!:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Flight and Hotel...

We're here in Fairborn, OH where we are staying at  the Homewood Suites!! Tomorrow we get to meet Sobe!!

We left at 4:45 a.m. (Portland,OR time) yesterday morning to catch a 6:45 a.m. flight. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep just from all the excitement and anxiety of "did I pack everything"? (so far I only forgot my bathing suit and Benjamin's toothbrush... I'll take it!)

Travel day was definitely rough! A nine hour trip! (2 1/2 hour layover in between) Here we are on the plane (it was dark inside):

Take off was fun both times! Benjamin is in love with Disney's cartoon "Little Einsteins" and so we just counted down from 10 and yelled blast-off and Benjamin loved it! He wanted to look out the window and put the window shade up and down, up and down... that's a first interest for us so that was fun!

Continuing on, I'm going to be sharing a bunch of info on flights and our hotel (pics too). It might be too detailed for some of you just following. There's several families right behind us on the service dog adventure and I'm going to be "journaling" everything so that they can prepare for their trip!

We booked our flights back in February. I wanted to make sure to get the best deal possible and the exact flights we wanted. For three tickets from Oregon to Cincinnati airport it was $1740.00 (We were actually extremely blessed to have a family pay for our tickets-hallelujah!) There are three different airports you can fly into. Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati (which is technically in Kentucky). Dayton is the closest (20 minutes from 4 Paws). We chose Cincinnati (an hour drive from 4 paws) cause it was the best price for the best trip we could get. (least amount of layovers, hours between flights etc.). Originally, we were taking a flight from Portland to Seattle, and then Seattle straight to Cincinnati. Notice I said "originally"!!! They changed our flights 4 times between February and September!! Three of them were minor changes and doable...and the big one... they completely eliminated our flight and instead of flying in Sunday as we originally were going to, they had us arriving Monday!! HELLO!! Our training starts on Monday! The only option was to fly out Saturday morning instead and add on an additional day of everything... hotel room, car rental... food... kind of a bummer when you're trying to do it as cheaply as possible. But now, I wouldn't change a thing! In fact, I would highly recommend getting in a day earlier and having a down day. We were so exhausted yesterday and it was literally a 12 hour day of go, go, go by the time we were done. So yes, the airlines can change your flights anytime they want to!!

Once we we finally arrived in Cincinnati, we claimed our baggage and headed to the car rental area. I had called on our lay-over to get the exact directions of the car rental area and how and what we were suppose to do. I'm so glad I did... A little extra work makes things go much smoother! We rented a Smart Cart for all our bags ($4 bucks but I would've paid $10!) and lugged it all the way to the other end where we waited for a transit bus to pick us up. They shuttled us to the rental car place where we picked up our rental. (don't forget some tip money... the guy insisted and hauled all our luggage on the bus and off and we let him... we were beyond exhausted, plus we were wearing our Duck clothes for game day... and we wanted everyone to know that Oregonians have class!;)  

Now, you don't have to get a rental can just get a car, it's definitely a lot cheaper. 4 Paws lets you borrow a dog crate while you're here and somebody can always help you get the crate to your hotel and back at the end of the two weeks... but I can't imagine not having a van. We just have too much stuff with Benjamin's stroller, walker and everything else, plus, my parents are flying back for the last week, so we rented a minivan. I called and looked into a bunch of different ways to get the van cheaper... finally a friend told me about this guy who looks for you and gets you the best deal. You pay him $25.00 through paypal and he sends you your confirmation. Worked lovely.  and you get a discount if somebody referred you and yes you can put me down!! :) Our van for two weeks: 13th - 27th was $632.07. Some people have told me they got theirs for way cheaper, but I called and looked and looked and called and Bob at car king definitely go me the best deal I could find online or anywhere. One thing I'm totally worried about... dog hair on the black interior rental van... I think w'ere going to put a blanket down... I'll keep you posted about this!!


You can stay anywhere within 15 miles of 4 Paws. But they recommend two places that they have a great relationship with. We chose Homewood Suites. ********BTW, book early!!!! You can always change your days up a little bit... but there's a big air force base right here and they are always booked up!! And by early, I mean 6 months or more! Do not wait or they will be full! Homewood gives 4Paws customers a special rate. Usually it's $129.00 a night and they give you the rate of $119.00. It took me a little work to get this originally but it worked out fine! So for a 14 night stay, we are paying: $1878.42 (don't forget there's taxes on everything)! I absolutely love it here and am so happy we'll be spending the next two weeks here. The only thing I would say so far, is that the rooms are small... there is not a lot of space for hanging out. We are in a one room King suite and we have a little living area which is also the kitchen. Now the kitchen is the killer part. It has a good size fridge, two stove burners and big dishwasher.

We'll be able to make most of our meals here and save a bunch of money instead of eating out. (and if you do want to go out... there are restaurants everywhere!! We are going to try out the Texas Roadhouse tonight!) (Like how I just talked about saving money and we're eating out right away!! :) 

What I also love about this place is that they provide a buffet style breakfast every morning... Ben and I were both skeptical about "hotel breakfasts" but they did not disappoint!! They have a waffle station (yes, with whip cream and chocolate syrup to put on top!)

and they had oatmeal with all the condiments, eggs with all the condiments, sausage, and awesome hash browns! They had yogurts to go and bananas and apples and cereal, bagels, donuts. It was awesome!! They also serve a dinner Mon - thurs nights! We're skeptical again, but if it's anything like the breakfast it will be great!! So remember that when you're considering the $119 a night... Most days you don't have to pay for two meals!
Here's the buffet area:

Here's the 24 hour coffee bar for very tired parents!:

They have a small fitness room (nothing outrageous but good enough) and they do have a pool and basketball court. The pool is only open after Memorial Day and closes on Labor Day so no pool for us but it's too cold to swim really... maybe low 70's:

They have two washers and two dryers. They cost $1.00 each. We've already done two loads of laundry and we just got here last night! hahahaha 

Here's the view when you first walk into our room:

There is one bedroom with a King bed and then a roll out couch in the living room. I was really worried about where Benjamin would sleep because he rolls off everything! We were able to take the mattress from the roll out couch and just put it on the floor. It's not super comfy, but it's perfect for him. And you're literally looking at the living space. To the right is the "kitchen" pictured above and you can see our room from there. Very tiny but perfect for us. 

Here's the bathroom that you enter through the bedroom:

Lots of storage for clothes and things... We completely emptied our suitcases since we'll be here awhile... help things not feel so cluttered. Not too much dry storage room for food in the kitchen. If you're driving and not flying, I would definitely throw in Ziploc bags and paper plates/cups/napkins so you don't have to buy everything here. They do have some dishes but very limited. 

Well, that's all I've got for today! We took huge naps on our down day, stocked up on some things from walmart, did laundry, watched football and had dinner at Texas roadhouse. My steak salad was awesome! Ben's prime rib... not so much. But he's super picky too... he can cook a steak better then most restaurants any day!! 

I promise not all my blogs will be this long and have more pics of Benjamin and Sobe!!! Tomorrow will be a big day!! 

**** Also, I want to be sure to note that don't take my word or anybody else's word on anything having to do with 4 Paws or the dogs! Double check everything through 4Paws and Karen to be sure you are getting accurate information. I'm going to try and be as accurate as possible, but I'm sure there is a thing or two I might be misunderstanding or not have completely correct!!