Life with Allison

Our family's journey with a special needs child

Getting to know each other

Its been a while since my last update. Shame on me, but life has been pretty busy here lately. I know, I know. Lame excuse. Everyone uses that when they don’t get around to something. Ok, on with our news.

Its been a little over 2 months home with our furry friend, Periwinkle and its been a wonderful 2 months at that! Watching Allison and Perry grow their bond together has been such an amazing sight. Its crazy how far they have come in such a short amount of time.

We are to the point now that Perry definitely takes note of Ally where ever she is. We’ve noticed that when Ally decides to go to the basement  (that’s the toy room), Perry will go down to scope things out then lay at the top of the stairs where she can hear her. And she will stay there till Ally comes upstairs. If Perry is in the living room sleeping or playing, and Ally walks thru, Perry ALWAYS stops what she’s doing to watch her. I’d say 50% of the time, she will even get up to follow her to see where Ally is headed. The lay together a lot. Perry will grab her Kong and lay next to Ally on the floor and then usually Ally ends up wiggling over to rest her head on Perry’s side.  They are the cutest thing to watch!

Ally has recently started to actually try to play with Perry. She will go pick up Perry’s toy and bring it to her. I can now, give Ally treats to feed Perry. It used to be I’d have to do a hand-over-hand to get Ally to give it to Perry, but now she will reach out, take the treat, and give it to her all on her own. Ally gets to give Perry whole treats, lots of treats, and peanut butter. Perry says ‘mmm’! Well, not really. More like air being inhaled quickly as she gulps down whatever tasty morsel Ally offers……or drops . 🙂 No wonder that dog follows her so much!

The tethering has been way awesome! We use it most nights that haven’t been too cool to take Ally out. My husband likes to sit outside and takes the 2 of them out for fresh air and a walk. We went to our local downtown trick or treating at the stores yesterday. Walked for 40 minutes and Ally never once asked to be picked up! A-mazing!! Perry did great with the crowd, candy and kids. A photographer had to stop and take a picture of Ally and Perry walking so I’ll be keeping an eye out in the newspaper for their picture.

Found out last night that Perry has a new skill set that 4 Paws forgot to tell us about…..she’s a physical therapist! LOL! Perry was ‘chasing’ her last night thru the house and Ally RAN! Like a real run. For the first time. EVER. She’s been able to do this staggering, drunk looking quick walk, but what I’m talking about is a true 6 year old run. Strong, long strides and all! They’d run from the living room to Ally’s bedroom and back. Over and over and over. I wish I had videoed it. We were sure if she would ever have a steady of enough gait to do it. Can’t tell I’m impressed, proud or excited, eh??? :):):)

The seizure work. I’m sure you are curious about how that’s going, since it is the reason we started out on the journey for Perry. Well, Ally has been having seizures about every third night for the past 2 months. That’s a lot more than we originally thought. We had her sleep with either her dad or I for awhile with Perry to try and track how they were doing seizure-wise and alerting-wise.  After that, Ally and Perry went back to their own room to practice together. Not so good unfortunately. I started noticing Ally would have seizures and Perry never barked. Then it got a little difficult to get Perry to go to bed with Ally. She would be hesitant about going in there but ultimately did because I told her to. Then last week, I woke to hearing Ally moving around her room. I thought she had just woke up and was doing this stomping stimming thing she does, but that wasn’t it at all. She was on the floor, half under bed, trapped by the metal framework of her bed and the trundle (that has no mattress on it), having a big convulsive seizure. She had thrown herself around so much, it left bruises on her arms. 😦 And Perry, well, Perry was terrified! Poor dog had her head bowed, tail tucked and when Ally was done seizing and I asked Perry to get in the bed….she bolted out the door!! It was pretty discouraging.

But nothing a simple phone call to her trainer can’t fix! They explained that the real life situation is much different from our practice sessions for the dogs. Our practice sessions, there’s lots of different people involved, treats, praise and all around fun! The real life situation is totally opposite. Perry can smell stress, anxiety, tension. She’s alone with her girl that she knows something is wrong but doesn’t know what. Her girl is acting weird, family is rushing in and its not what we practice. So its super scary for her right now. She needs a little time to realize that Ally is still Ally when its all over. Right now, she’s not sure what to think. So the trainer assured me that give her some time, and she will come around. We just keep practicing and Perry will probably be fine with it once she sees its all gonna be ok. I mean, she is an animal, not a machine so she needs adjust time too. This is the part 4 Paws could train for her. Only Ally and her can find this together, so we will keep on what we are doing and help them both. Oh, and we had to up Ally’s meds.

All our lives have flipped since receiving Perry. She affects us all. She is so loving and sweet. One of the 4 Paws staff was sad to see Perry go and said ‘She never let you have a bad day’. And that’s absolutely true. 🙂

 

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Training Day 2: Perry IS the right dog for us

Lots of new things today. We reviewed yesterdays commands and added a couple more. We learned the heel command, which is more strict than the free walk. The dog’s ears and shoulders need to be in line with my leg on the left side. In class, Perry and I performed this one perfect without a single correction! However, outside of class we couldn’t do it for 5 steps! LOL

When we reviewed the sit and down commands we added distractions to it. So I walked Perry out to the middle of the room and put her in a down. The trainer then threw pupperonis close to her and she wasn’t allowed to break command. She did AWESOME! Then the tennis ball came out. Perry thinks the tennis ball is THE BEST toy ever invented!! Seriously, this girl loves her tennis ball! So they bounced it and rolled it right in front of her. Perry was all perked up with her head bouncing up and down with the ball, but she never left her down!! So proud of her! 😀

Then we did some fun stuff. The dogs do some tricks just to be a great socialization part to help encourage other kids to take an initial interest in Ally. So Periwinkle can shake, give me 5, and high 5. Emma and Chloe thought these were really cool. Chloe was so impressed she had to announce to the family next to us how our dog could give her 5 (like they didn’t just do it with their dog as well:) ).

Today was also a very unexpected emotional day. They showed us what the seizure dogs are trained to do. So the specific trainer that worked with Perry came out and used her as an example. They walked across the room like a normal walk and then the trainer dropped to the floor and shook her body. Perry took about 3 seconds to realize what was going on and barked! When nothing happened and the trainer continued to shake, Perry barked a few more times before the trainer stopped and treated her for her work! I broke down in tears. If it was anyone else’s dog, I don’t know that it would have meant quite the same to me, but the feeling knowing that was our dog and quickly and well she did her job gave me a wave of relief that I don’t have to walk into a room to find Ally seizing on the floor and have no clue how long she has been there. I don’t have to guess if I need to wait 5 minutes or call 911. It hit home and I had a hard time composing myself for a while afterwards. It was an amazing feeling that washed over me. I wanted and did pet the hell out of that girl when she walked back over to me and gave her a kiss.

We got to bring Periwinkle back to the hotel tonight. She was extremely nervous. She actual tried to walk right out of the room as soon as we walked in and growled! She panted like a mad woman, paced the floor and refused to eat her dinner. We kenneled her up for us to go eat dinner and upon returning she was a new dog. I think a quiet familiar place was just what the doctor ordered. As soon as we got her out, she walked right over to Ally and laid down with her head on Ally’s lap! I didn’t command her to either! I think by the end of the night, Perry was getting the picture that when she was near Ally, the treats are plentiful! LOL She’d come back in from going potty and practically run to Ally for praise and treats! It’s a start and it was wonderful to watch Ally’s interest as well. Ally watched out the window when Perry was walked and plops down in front of the kennel to stare at her there. It makes it all feel so worth it!

Tomorrow is tracking for the first time. Looking forward to it. We have learned so much already. Too bad every pet owner couldn’t go through something like this. It changes the way you view animals. Dogs are not stupid. Perry has already showed us that yesterday! I know it hasn’t been quite 48 hours, but I love this little golden girl already. In Ally’s words, I love her ‘much’. ❤

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Options, options….PLAN!

I’m reading someone’s blog tonight (oh yeah, I chuckle at the irony here), and am looking forward to Ally’s service dog more than ever! Service dog you say? Yep! Let me catch you up to speed.

Two years ago, our neurologist suggested some options for Ally since her seizures couldn’t be controlled. We had been through about every medicine available for her age and types of seizures. First up was the Ketogenic diet. I flat out refused. It may seem harsh, but it wasn’t arbitrary. Its a strict diet. Problem is, Ally wouldn’t eat most of the stuff allowed and some of her favorite foods that she would eat, weren’t allowed. There’s no taking a ‘cheat’ day with this diet either. We were told she would have to be hospitalized a few days to start the diet to make sure she adjusted. There’s a whole lot involved and if you want to know more about it, I suggest you Google it. All I could think was this is one nasty diet to have to be hospitalized just to start. Her chances of it helping….50%! THATS IT! 50/50 didn’t cut it for me and I said we were moving on.

Idea #2 VNS
Stands for Vagus Nerve Stimulator. Does exactly as it sounds, stimulates the vagus nerve. Whats that mean?? There are 2 vagus nerves that stem down from the brain, one on each side of the spinal cord. Ally would have a surgery to wrap a wire around the left nerve and a battery pack (similar to a pacemaker pack) inserted in the upper chest nearby. The VNS would automatically turn on, usually every 5 minutes for 30 seconds at a time to stimulate the brain. The point is the stimulation helps break up any electrical irregularity in the brain which cause seizures. Sounds good, but there are issues with it like everything else. First, its less effective on a child than an adult. Reason: these nerves mature as the person matures. Basically it means that the nerve can grow around the wires, making it near impossible to remove the wire at any point and not cause damage to the nerve….and this nerve is a really big deal for your body! Also, problems with implanting this on children is the wires can be too loose and then it doesn’t do anything. There were so many if’s about it (and only another 50/50) that it also wasn’t worth the risk.

***I am very happy for anyone who has one and has had great success with it! It was one option I WAS for trying, before we started researching the dog.

Idea turned plan #3 Service Dog
A dog? To stop seizures? Well, no. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. But service animals are trained for so much these days! Everyone knows of the police dogs, search and rescue, therapy dogs….but a seizure dog? That’s where 4 Paws for Ability comes in. We really hunted on where to get a dog for Allison. Believe me, its hard. Most places say no, because she isn’t old enough (some want her to be 8 and some want her to be at least 12). Some places turned us away saying it couldn’t be done without her participation….and that’s going to be minimal right now. She won’t be able to command it, she hardly speaks now. So 4 Paws told us ‘no problem’. We spent about 8 months raising $13,000 as a fundraising requirement to 4 Paws. We finished it last September!!! Let me say, the excitement I felt when I got the email saying we were in August 2013 class….its unexplainable! We had put so much into it. It gave us hope!

Now, its only 6 weeks away before we leave for training. Oh, since I didn’t mention before what our dog will be trained to do, let tell you now. He/She will be trained to bark when Ally is having a drop seizure, hopefully alert before but that is a natural instinct that can be encouraged but not trained to do. The dog will help her balance when unsteady, track her if she runs off, they will be tethered together to help keep her safely close out in public, and try to distract her when she is behaving in a manner that is unwanted, such as a meltdown.

Fancy dog, huh?! August, you can’t get here fast enough!! 🙂

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