Thursday, August 25, 2011

Elf: The unexpected demands of being a 5 year old's Service Dog

It’s been a busy week of “firsts” for us in service dog world.  On Monday we started out with Elf at the vet’s office for a routine check, vaccines necessary in our area, and to pick up flea and heartworm medications. I have a really long list of things that I think I would suggest that people consider before getting a service dog, not as a deterrent but more of a reality check to make sure the individual fully comprehends what he or she is signing on for. We have a zoo and are painfully familiar with vet costs but I wonder if Monday’s $220 bill would come as a shock to some or the $40 for a bag of premium dog food might cause a wrinkle in other’s monthly budgets.  Granted much of the costs incurred by a service dog are deductible for some on yearly taxes but you still have to be able to pay for those as you incur them.  Maybe I should put together my considerations list and make it available in case others might find it useful….something to think about. 

Ironically after Elf’s routine appointment, we then had well check-ups for both kids. Ironic in that we were getting all 3 “kids” ready for the school year and ironic in that our kids have primary immune deficiencies, there’s no such thing as well.  The doctor was running about 2 hours late but Elf just used the down time (and cool tile in the exam room) as an excuse to nap—wish I could say the same about my kids.  Honestly he was the only one not climbing the walls by the time we left 2.5 hours later.  No problems at the clinic other than lots of kids wanting to pet the big teddy bear and Elf wanting to roll over so everyone could scratch his belly. 

The rest of the week has included Elf and Caden visiting Ryley in the hospital during her monthly infusion and various other stops around town. He was most definitely welcome and a hit on the pediatrics floor. Although I’m not sure Caden really understands all of the attention he is definitely proud to say Elf is his. He has been doing a great job holding onto either his little leash or the handle on Elf’s harness. After a few more successes, I think we’ll expand to actual tethering with Caden wearing a belt or backpack that we can attach the tether to.  I want tethering in big crowds but I’m starting to wonder if just having the leash or handle is enough in most situations to keep Caden close by; he thinks that he’s holding onto Elf so Elf doesn’t get lost!

Other firsts for Elf this week have included the trampoline (which he hated), the kids’ teaching him to drink out of their water bottles (which he loved), Caden’s desire for him to learn how to go up and down the slide at the park (which he isn't sure about), and a startling realization that if the little fuzzy cat who looks like she'd be a lot of fun to play with says no, she really really means no (lesson learned). He also learned this week that if you are hot and you pick the water bowl up and flip it, it will dump all of you and the ground around you so that you can have a lovely soak (a trick I'm not as fond of).

Autism is still in full force so we have reluctantly asked for a referral to a developmental pediatrician and therapist to see if they have any ideas that we are comfortable with. As some of you know we’ve developed and handle most of Caden’s therapies ourselves because there hasn’t been one program that we felt comfortable with and that we thought would really benefit Caden (with the exception of speech).  Honestly we are out of ideas at the moment but there’s nothing like a dev ped or therapist ticking us off to stimulate a whole host of our own new ideas---sometimes you need your creative juices sparked. Interestingly for us, that usually happens when the “experts” make suggestions that we know are ridiculous for our child and would never work in our daily lives.  The problem usually revolves around the therapists wanting a strict schedule and routine and honestly when you have 2 kids who get sick quickly, often, and severely the last thing you want is a therapy plan that doesn’t have room for deviation. 

Unfortunately our beagle’s attitude is still in full force as well.  We are currently engaging in squirt bottle therapy at our vet’s suggestion but given that she despises correction and water almost as much as Elf I’m not entirely sure how successful that’s going to be.  Maybe it is just time that I sit her down for a heart to heart---heck I figure I have as much of a chance of her listening to me as I do with the kids—at least I can bribe her with dog bones so she’ll at least pretend like she’s listening to me!