Musketeer and I have been together for forty days! I have been asked a lot of questions and I'm going to attempt to answer them here now.
How does Musketeer help you?
Musketeer is a diabetic alert (medical alert) service dog. He was scent trained to alert me when my blood sugar (blood glucose - BG) levels go too high or too low. He does this by placing his paw on my leg. I then test my BG level and *IF* he's correct, he gets a treat. He then has to "alert" (place his paw on my leg) at least five more times right away, and I give him a treat each time. Doing that teaches him to be persistent. Diabetics tend to lose focus due to off levels, so having him "nudge" me until I do something is very important. AFTER the five paws and treats, then we ALL praise him (We call this a "PUPPY PARTY").
Sometimes when he alerts, my machine doesn't agree with Musketeer. This is due to a dog's nose being about 20 minutes faster than a machine. So I wait 15 to 20 minutes and Musketeer has learned to wait and alert again, and then it's usually correct!
Are you with Musketeer all the time?
Basically, yes. We do have four one-hour "Doggy Den" times a day. Musketeer's "Doggy Den" is an indoor kennel/crate. It was explained to me like this: If you were offered to spend an hour in your bedroom with your cell phone/lap top, a snack and a drink, would you want to do that? YES!!! That's basically what it's like for Musketeer. He gets an hour, four times a day, to just chill and relax and not have to worry about me, and I get an hour, four times a day, when I can nap or shower or help in the kitchen, without needing to worry about Musketeer.
Does Musketeer ever get to play?
YES! Musketeer plays with everyone in the family several times a day! He doesn't play on his own, he doesn't like to do that. He loves to interact and have the Frisbee or tennis ball thrown to him and have someone pull on the tug rope with him!
Does Musketeer wear his vest at home?
No. We know he's a service dog. Everyone in the house knows when he's alerting me that they need to back off and let him do his thing and we can all celebrate during the PUPPY PARTY!
Service dogs do NOT need to wear a vest or any other marking! They can legally "work naked". Most service dog handlers have their dogs wear vests just to stop others from asking so many questions and so others will hopefully back up and leave our dog alone.
Do all Diabetic Alert Dogs alert the same way?
No. It all depends on what company you go through. Some companies only train dogs to alert to low BG levels (which is stupid, IMO). Some companies bring you the dog and teach you how to train the dog and make you pay $45,000 for that service (which is stupid, IMO). All but one company (that I'm aware of) has you come to them, to teach you how to work with your diabetic alert dog (which, again, I think is stupid because I feel you should be trained to work with your dog where you live and at stores that you'll be going to).
How much does a Diabetic Alert Dog cost?
That all depends on the company you use. The "free" dogs have a waiting list of 5 to 8 years. If you purchase your dog, it could range from $15,000 to $80,000 due to all of the hours, round the clock, that are put into these amazing animals.
Does your dog ever bark?
Yes. He doesn't bark if there is someone at the door, but if he sees a squirrel in our yard when he's looking out the big picture window in front, then yes, he lets us know there is a squirrel intruding on our lawn. :) He occasionally gives a warning growl, and I just have to tell him to "leave it" or "no" and he won't follow through with a bark.
Is Musketeer trained for the rest of his life?
That's totally up to me. We practice alerts, either with my own BG levels or with scent samples, at least five times a day. We practice all of the commands: Come, Sit, Down, Stay, Leave it. Drop it, Wait, Eat, Go Potty, This way, Let's go, Play, Kennel, Load up, Heel, etc. Working with a service dog is ALWAYS repeating and practicing. That will never end. Life would get dull if we had to stop working on improving. If you don't keep working on commands and being appropriate, dogs will slide into the "Pet" zone and will no longer be a service dog.
Can I see Musketeer working with you?
You're welcome to watch the videos I've posted here on the Dog Blog, but I generally don't have the camera going when my blood sugar levels go wonky and I can't manage the camera, test my blood sugar level, reward Musketeer, have a Puppy Party AND treat my blood sugar level all at the same time! That, and it would be a huge invasion of privacy.
IF you'd like to see some training videos, I suggest you watch these: http://www.diabeticalertdogsofamerica.com/our-videos
Musketeer is home. Does that mean he's paid for?
No. He's not paid for. I've had several people make promises and for some reason or another, things fell through. I understand that can happen. I have monthly payments of $270 USD to fullfill (total of $5960.26 USD), as well as $60/month for food, $10/month for reward treats, I'll need to take him to the vet, etc., etc., etc.
How can I help?
Reading this Dog Blog, asking me how I'm doing, sharing the Dog Blog/my story with others, and if you are able, purchasing items from ~XM~ Designs, donating at any of my service dog donation kiosks or a more straight forward way is donation via PayPal to email@example.com
A dog's nails need to be trimmed. True, a service dog has a lot more "concrete time" than some dogs, so they don't need to have their nails trimmed as often. ANYWAY... I wanted to get it done before Thanksgiving holiday, before house guests and everything else.
I took Musketeer to PetSmart Salon. The three gals there were super nice. They talked how pets are "children". I told them that Musketeer takes care of me, so it feels weird to be called his "mommy". I'm his lady. They totally understood that.
They took Musketeer five yards away from me, just behind the counter. He could see me, I could see him. He could hear me, I could hear him. He tried to walk backwards to not go with them! The entire time he was under their "control", he was PANICKING!
The PetSmart Salon folks told me they have another service dog come in, a black lab, who does the exact same thing! These dogs know that they are responsible for their humans and if they aren't there next to their human, something bad might happen without them there! Musketeer leaned into me the moment he was finished.
When we got home and I got his vest off and such, he went nuts loving on me, licking my face, leaning in against me really hard, running in circles and nudging me every time he went in a circle. It was a bigger reaction than he gave me when he met me! It was as if Musketeer was saying, "READ MY TAG!!! READ MY VEST!!! DO *NOT* SEPARATE ME FROM MY HANDLER!!!! DO NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!!" Dogs show love and man, Musketeer LOVES LOVES LOVES me!!!!!
Backyard play time with a few snowflakes coming down! Musketeer would watch a snowflake land in the grass, then breathe on it and it would melt... then it seemed like Musketeer was like, "Where did it go??? It was JUST HERE!!!". Fun time!
One of our local fire stations asked me to bring Musketeer over and talk to the fire fighters/ EMTs about people with service dogs. I had planned on telling them a bit how they can help service dog handlers, then giving a demonstration using a scent sample. Musketeer had other plans and alerted me while I was talking. GOOD BOY, MUSKETEER!!!
Let me share two recent experiences with you... Make that THREE!
1. I was at the check out of Walmart and the cashier asked me the name of my service dog. I said, "I'm sorry, I don't give out his name because I don't want you or anyone else that may hear, to call his name and distract him from his job." She said she understood and was checking out the rest of my groceries. I noticed Musketeer giving a pre-alert to falling BG levels and that's when the cashier reached out and PET MY SERVICE DOG!!! I told her to "LEAVE IT!" and finished the transaction and left the store, forgetting that Musketeer had given me a pre-alert and Musketeer forgot that he was about to alert because he was being petted! I drove home with a dangerous BG level because of that cashier!
2. I was at our big main doctor's office at the diabetic part of the building, so they could download my meter to order more test strips for the meter since I'm testing so much more now. The first receptionist had me sit in the waiting room while they did the downloading. The second receptionist got to her desk, sat down, saw my dog, JUMPED UP, Went through the door from the reception desk to the short hall, through ANOTHER door to the waiting room, ran toward Musketeer, calling out, "SERVICE DOG!!!!" I gave her the hand signal for "LEAVE IT!" and sternly told her, "Do *NOT* Distract my service dog!"
3. Took our son to a church school's Trunk or Treat event. Musketeer did GREAT with all of the little kids running around, until one 8? year old girl POKED him with her Rae(?) from Star Wars stick! Musketeer and I waited against a wall, out of the way from everyone and this 9 year old Batman boy ran up to Musketeer, hand outstretched and I shook my head and said, "No. No, get back. No! LEAVE IT! I said NO, he's WORKING, LEAVE IT!" and he finally stopped and ran off.
Come on, people! If you see a service animal.. if you see ANY animal... Smile at the handler and continue on with what you were doing. Please!
One man approached us with his 18 month old son, "May my son pet your... oh, it's a service dog, I'm sorry." No no, that's okay, let me get my dog ready to meet your son. Musketeer went into a down and CRAWLED up to the little boy and let the boy hold his nose while Musketeer wagged his tail. The man thanked me and I told him THANK YOU for what he did by asking!
1. Don't distract (no petting, no talking to, no kissy sounds, just smile at the handler). There are TONS of distractions when we're out and about, and a SD's one job is to take care of his handler, so he needs to focus without added distractions. 2. Talk to the handler, not the dog. (See reason above, AND, the dog won't answer you!). 3. Don't ask the dog's name or gender. I'm not going to tell you his name when out in public because I don't want you, or anyone, to call him when I'm about to have a medical emergency and he miss alerting because of your distraction. And gender... do you honestly need to know? I realize you're interested and I appreciate that, but just letting him work is best. 4. No, he doesn't wear his vest at home. We know he's a service dog so the vest isn't needed to tell us. 5. YES, he gets lots of time to PLAY many times every day, and he plays with all of his family members! 6. Please do not give SDs treats or any type of food. That is the sole job of the handler (we are the ones "paying" him to work for us) AND he might have food allergies (Musketeer is allergic to chicken, for example). 7. Service dogs assist those with disabilities. You may not be able to tell what type of disability the individual has, but realize that the person has some medical challenges and at times, just being out in public is all they can manage, so please don't be offended if they don't answer your questions about their service dog. They have most likely been asked those same questions several times already in just that one outing and haven't had the ability to answer anyone. HOWEVER, asking, "Would you mind if I ask you about your service dog?" is a WONDERFUL AMAZING PERFECT question to ask a SD handler! And if we're able, we would LOVE to talk to you about our team mate! Just realize that sometimes we're running late for an appointment, or we've just been alerted by our SD that a medical issue is about to happen, or we're wiped out and just need to get home. THANK YOU for reading, and if you'd like to ask questions, Dog Blog COMMENTS is the perfect place to do that, so I'm opening the floor to questions here!
Hi! I'm Musketeer Puppy and I have an important place in the Fairport household!
The lady of the house needs me to make sure her blood sugar levels aren't going where they shouldn't go. I place my paw on her leg if I smell the sugar levels in her system go up too much or go down too much. If her levels start to get too wacky, I start to whimper to let her know I'm extra worried about her and the humans need to do something fast. My lady doesn't like to hear me whimper, so she acts quickly to fix things.
When I'm done alerting, the entire Fairport family throws a Puppy Party! The lady gives me lots of treats and they all praise me and give me LOTS of love and I get so excited because I feel like I won a huge prize for saving my lady. Right after the Puppy Party, I take a bone into my awesome den so that my lady can fix the sugar levels and I can chill out after such an exciting party!
My lady gives the play time command several times a day and the wee ones and I play with a ball or play tug with a green and yellow rope. After a 10 - 15 minute high energy play time, I'm ready to just chill next to my lady.
When I'm out and about with my lady, I need to pay extra close attention to her because there are so many distractions when we're out and about! My lady gets distracted by EVERYTHING, so I have to focus on her to keep her safe. I'm learning to walk at her pace and I know how to walk next to an electric wheelchair really well. My lady and I hear lots of comments when we're out and about. So far, every parent has told their child, "No, you can't distract the puppy, he's working, he's taking care of his lady.". I'm SO glad everyone we've met so far is so respectful. Sometimes my lady lets people pet me, because she knows it's nice to meet other people and say hello, but ONLY when my lady thinks it's the right time for that.
The back yard at my new home is AMAZING! They have grass and leaves and I can run and play. I do my personal business on one side of the yard. The man of the house placed a really nice chair in the back yard for my lady to sit on. It even has a roof in case the shower gets turned on outside (WHO puts a shower OUTSIDE?? That didn't happen to me much while I was in Arizona, but HERE, it happened for THREE DAYS! I was about ready to place a call in to Noah!). We had a very nice fur brushing time this morning and my lady goes on and on about how handsome I am.
I have a very nice bed next to where my lady sleeps in the master bedroom. I stay right by her side, in case I need to alert her to a changing blood sugar level, like the other night. I woke my lady up at 3:00 am to let her know things weren't going the right way. I really like to help her!
Musketeer gets a bath before getting ready to board a plane on Thursday, October 12, 2017! Musketeer will be traveling with Ed, one of the "top dogs" at Diabetic Alert Dogs of America (D.A.D.A.), taking a flight out of Las Vegas and landing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They'll rent a car and stay at a hotel Thursday night since they'll be arriving late.
Ed will bring Musketeer to our home on Friday, between 10:00 and 10:30 am local time. I was given a complete schedule for Friday and Saturday of what I'll be learning! Right now I'm trying to focus on calm breathing. =)
Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, the company that I'm getting my service dog from, is headquartered in Las Vegas. I sent them an email this morning: "We've been hearing the horrible news and our thoughts and prayers are with the D.A.D.A. family. Hoping you and yours are all okay!
(Musketeer Puppy's person)"
I was thankful to receive this reply:
"All of us at DADs of America are safe and as are all the pups! Thank you for checking with us <3"
I am so happy to hear that you have enjoyed these updates and that it has been a good experience to follow along in Musketeer's training journey. I am even happier to report that Musketeer Puppy has officially passedhisscent training! He has really progressed in his alerts in public these last few weeks and has been doing great with his reaction time to the scent and his confidence alerting in public, at home and during the night. Musketeer will continue to practice his alerts at home, out in public and during the evening until his scheduled delivery. We can't wait for you to meethim!
I've been interested in Service Dog gear for awhile now. I don't know if anyone else is interested. I didn't post the "Tidy Turd" pooper scooper that arrived yesterday (you can thank me later, LOL), but this brought tears of joy:
Our phone number is under "Meds in vest", that's why it's blocked out.