Paresthesia.

Another day, another attack. I started this past Wednesday thinking it would be an average, uneventful day, as most “hump days” are; Mid-way through my cell biology laboratory, I soon realized that this would not be the case. My episode initiated with me having an extremely difficult time concentrating: I tried my hardest to stay on task, but simply could not focus. I read the same line again and again, but couldn’t comprehend its meaning. My chin began to feel numb with a dull burning feeling (paresthesia) that quickly spread to my entire face and head. It’s relatable to the feeling I get when my foot “falls asleep.” 

I went to the bathroom to examine myself, thinking it could possibly be an allergic reaction (my face sometimes feels hot and numb-ish during a reaction), but my face looked normal with some minor flushing. I became confused and tried to fight the urge to cry as anxiety flooded over me. I returned to class, asking my teacher how much time remained on our experiments. He told me that they would take the whole alotted time because we were fitting two experiments into one lab session. I expressed to him that I wasn’t feeling good and needed to make a phone call; luckily my teacher has a little knowlede about my health problems and therefore is most understanding with my condition and needing to take breaks. 

I called my dad,  a nurse of over twenty years of experience, and explained to him what was going on. I began to cry stating that I didn’t feel right and explaining my reoccurring symptoms. I began to feel faint. My dad thought it could be a possible allergic reaction or an anxiety attack, but I didn’t feel panicked. My breathing and pulse seemed too slow (to me), feeling as if I wasn’t receiving enough blood to my head. I splashed water on my face, took deep breaths, and went back into the laboratory to grab a snack and water from my bag. At this point I had red splotches on my face and chest from being stressed (my mast cell activation disorder causes me to break out during stressful situations and hormonal changes). 

I apparently looked unwell as I was greeted with a face of concern. I felt like I was going to pass out and told my instructor. He instantly became  worried and left the lab with me, asking me to sit down while he called the principal of our campus. He asked me if I needed an ambulance and I told him no, although now I wish I had just gone to the emergency room, given the insight I have now. He didn’t know what to do and was told to call campus police so that they could make sure I was okay and help escort me. I had called my mom and asked her to come get me, although I was hesitant because I didn’t know if this was going to pass soon or not and I hate to miss out on classes and labs. The police were most kind; they got my information, talked to my mom on the phone, giving her directions, and they escorted me to the lower level of the building, carrying my bags. I continued to have a hard time concentrating and I was taking awhile to answer easy questions, as my thoughts slowly gathered. I began having an intense pain at the base of my skull, almost as if I had a headache or migraine in that location, and prayed that this episode would pass soon. 

My mom was finally able to pick me up and drop me off at her house (I live an hour and a half away) making sure I had lunch, a drink, and comfort before heading back to work. I continued to feel strange until I fell asleep; when I awoke an hour later I felt better, but  pretty drowsy and fatigued, exhausted from this ordeal. I fell back asleep for another couple of hours until my mom came home from work and drove me back up to the campus to retrieve my car and drive home. This attack was similar to my episode a couple of weeks ago, except my heart felt like it was beaming and operating too slowly, instead of rapidly. I am puzzled as to what the source of these episodes is.  

I wrote a message to my primary doctor the following morning describing my strange and frightening day. He returned my phone call a couple hours later, expressing the upmost concern. Firstly, after I explained everything, he has become increasingly convinced these attacks are related to some type of heart arrhythmia or malfunction. I have contacted cardiology and have an appointment to be fitted to wear a heart monitor for a couple of weeks in hopes of “catching” one of these episodes. The hope is that we can identify what’s triggering these symptoms I’m feeling and how we can manage them. He then proceeded to inform me that my stool sample results came back and indicated a high level of lymphocytes (white blood cells) in my stool with negative cultures, an indication of many different things that need to be addressed urgently. He advised me to schedule a gastrointerogy appointment as soon as possible to have some more testing.

 It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with the girls (Mavis & Eleven) and myself being sick. I’m praying that things improve and that I can get some answers to this challenging puzzle! I additionally met with my new allergy specialist on Thursday afernoon, who ordered an array of blood tests to see what my mast cell levels looked like and if I have a spice-related allergens. He scheduled me to return to have a skin test performed that indicates whether I have an allergy to certain foods. He wants to test for mastocytosis and create a more efficient treatment plan (clearly what I’m doing currently is NOT working). In addition to my appointment with cardiology next week, I also meet with my new pain management specialist with hopes of managing my increasing nerve pain. 

Trying to tackle everything one by one.

Much love,

Cass

pain.

I have a hard time explaining to people that I will not get better. This is only going to get progressively worse, if anything, and I am in pain everyday. Most of the students I go to school with only worry about making it to Friday, so they can party on the weekend. They complain about having to study, while here I am not sure if I am going to make it through class because the pain is too bad. I write this from my couch, heat pad on high on my back, neck brace on with my Real Time Pain Relief MAXX ointment lathered on my neck and back praying that this pain will pass quickly. I am on methocarbamol, a muscle relaxer, and am trying my best to only take one tramadol a day. I have lidocaine patches that I wear 12 hours on (although they don’t ever stay on that long!), 12 hours off on my lower back. I take tylenol and advil daily in addition to these other medications to try to alleviate anything. The pain is the worse thing having to deal with, but I also have weekly allergic reactions. Last Wednesday I had a horrible reaction that left me wheezing, covered in red splotches, and horrible gastrointestinal discomfort. I try my best to push forward and to see the best, which I have so much to be thankful for, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. I also suffer with depression and anxiety. The brain’s way of processing pain is similar to depression, so it definitely can have an impact on my mental health. I have had to take a year off in total from college to deal with this and it’s something I’ll have to fight everyday for the rest of my life. I am so incredibly blessed to have a partner willing to stick it out with me and be not only my best friend and husband, but my caretaker too for days that I can’t get by or nights that I come home with tears.

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I want to create a safe place for people suffering, not only with chronic illnesses, but with mental health as well. We are in this together. Please feel free to comment if you need help or want to discuss your challenges.

Xo,

Cass

One Hundred Pounds

I wanted to talk a little about my weight loss journey because I have yet to share my success with you all, given my illness set backs. I have battled with my weight most of my life. I was severely bullied as a child when I moved from Cuba to North Carolina. I had no self confidence and I endured something as a child that I, nor any child or anyone, should ever had to. At that time, I was a bit overweight, but with the cruelty inflicted on me from my classmates, I turned to food to comfort my aching heart. By the time I was sixteen I was about 215 pounds, obese for my 5’2″ petite frame, which caused multiple dislocations of my kneecaps and hips. I have suffered with anxiety and depression from my trauma as a child to the point that suicide seemed like a good option. I was constantly dieting and had poor self image for years and years. I moved to Texas when I was fifteen years old and decided after a year living here, that I would start taking things in to consideration especially since I was so entirely unhappy and basically slept in my spare time.

With the help of my dad I found a weight loss and nutrition camp that I committed to. I lost about thirty pounds in 8 weeks and learned the in and outs about good and bad calories, fats, and what-nots. The next year I gained about ten pounds back, but did relatively well compared to others. I had a little bout of eating disorder tendencies the next year or so, which was hard for me because I was so focused on wanting to be thin. I decided to do a second summer at camp, spending twelve weeks focusing on nutrition, running, working out, and mentoring younger kids with weight issues. I lost forty more pounds that summer with a total weight loss of sixty pounds. Learning this information set me up for future success. I went back to my last year of high school and was even on the cross country team, but I fell back into my ways and my weight rocketed to 230 after my sophomore year of college. I felt like an utter failure after so many people looked at me as a type of success. I hit rock bottom and was ready to give up on life all together after several family issues hit all at once. December 2012, I was done. I sat in the bathtub with a box cutter to my wrist crying because I didn’t have the guts to do it, but wanted to badly to leave the world I was in. I prayed harder than I ever did before that God would guide me. That I would find someone to love me, that I would love myself, and that I could gain my health back. I didn’t have any motivation left, I was ready to just call it and say screw this shitty hand I have been dealt with. I had been on different anti-depressants since the age of sixteen and I was considering electroshock therapy after none of them worked longtime. That May (2013), I had weight loss surgery. It’s something I haven’t opened about at all because I am so shamed from it (having lost weight naturally before and trying to hide my gain back), but it saved my life. With the nutrition I learned previously and this much needed push to get me back on my feet again, I lost 100 pounds to the current weight I am now. I began enjoying life again and exercising often. I pushed myself to be the best I could and until I started getting sick in Fall of 2014, I was doing great.

As most of my followers know, I began having fainting spells and heart issues starting September 2014. I had chronic diarrhea for over a month and my heart had to be defibrillated because I went into atrial fibrillation. I was physically ill for months. I dated a man for almost two years and felt emotionally empty. I started becoming depressed and began having emotional problems again. I didn’t  gain weight, but I was, again, in a pit. I often skipped meals or when I did eat, chose the unhealthiest options. The guy I was with did not support my illness, despite putting on a good front. He did not motivate me. Despite not being able to drive and him not having a job, we constantly fought because he didn’t want to be burdened with driving me to class because his video games took priority. His ex used this against me with my once “friend” who told her all of this and therefore was told I’m handicap and can’t do things for myself. My ex never complimented me because “I should know that I’m pretty already.” He scared me after I had a bad reaction with ambien right after my brain surgery where he broke numerous things in our room forcing me to call my mom to save me. He had bad rage issues and I felt I was walking on eggshells every time I was around him. I never felt good enough. I was second choice to his games. I got tired of the pain and I wasn’t strong enough to break away, but luckily I called a break and he ended it because my strength was not there and I would’ve fell back into unhealthy ways. I moved in with my mom when I met the love of my life soon after. Recalling how I felt back in June/July to now, it was the best possible thing that could’ve happened. I think of how much I have been through and what I continue to fight and think that my past thought me what I deserve and how to stand up for myself.

I am currently maintaining my weight for over a year now and am off my antidepressants all together. I am genuinely happy and although sometimes my chronic illness can make me feel like it’s too much sometimes, I think of what I came from and what I have ahead of me. I am now happily at 130 pounds and am making healthy changes to help improve my lifestyle. I am doing a plank challenge currently which is a 28-day tummy toning commitment. I have turned in the diet cokes for diet green tea and am trying to watch what I eat, but still indulging in my Taco Bell/ Taco Casa addiction every once in awhile. Now that I am moving to Ft. Hood with my fiancé, we plan on working out and shaping up for our wedding next year. Caleb pushes me to be the best I can and I know he loves me regardless of what I am or what I become. I’m not used to someone constantly telling me I’m beautiful and that they love me all day. It’s something every woman and man deserves, so if it isn’t in your life now, find it. I usually eat small meals because I get full very easily and I have been a vegetarian for over 11 years. I started eating shell fish about a year ago in attempts to see if a lack of protein caused me to be sick. I only rarely eat crab and shrimp and everything else is meat free. My goals is to get my pain under control so I can start back on my exercise regimen. I love hiking and really want to be able to get back into my hobby. I’m ready to kick it into gear for my wedding! I’d like to tone up and lose at least ten pounds. My fiancé is looking to lose around thirty pounds and is doing a fantastic job. We move in next week and start our next chapter so I will be posting progress and plans!

 

Love to all and push forward.
Xo,
Cass

Originality

Some of my past readers may have noticed that I “revamped” my blog and change a few thing around, but that doesn’t change the fact that this my personal blog and I use it to talk about my struggles with severe depression and anxiety, my Chiari Malformation diagnosis. I think most people are terrified that they are alone and so if this can give my readers a sense of unification or understanding, then my job is done.

So many things have occurred since I last chimed in. First of all, I have a “new” position at the same job as a dog bather. I basically wash and deshed (which is a number of hair removing techniques),  brush teeth, clean ears, brush out, remove mats, and give pawdicures to lovely (mostly, although some are plain assholes) little and HUGE doggies. I like this position better because I don’t have to put as much stress on my neck and back as I did as a playroom attendant. I also feel like my job does have purpose. I got to make an adoptee Dalmatian mix all pretty in hopes of getting adopted and a freshly adopted Chow mix a deshed and brush after being severely neglected. My shift hours are also amazing for my chronic pain. I work 10 am – 3:30/4pm, which gives me enough time to sleep in and prepare myself for the shift and also allows me to have time to relax and unwind when I get home. I usually come home and lay on my heat pad for a couple hours. I work Monday-Friday, which is great, as well, because I get the weekend off to spend with my mom, but also having a schedule is good for my depression and anxiety.

I have slacked off a bit in Mav’s training, but we have come LEAPS and BOUNDS since my last post. I had a severe major depression episode and was completely upset after having some really hard personal news hit. I was shaking and wishing that I was not here. I finally let Mavis out and she immediately came over and laid on my upper arm by my face and just stayed still. I didn’t teach this to her at all, but she knew that her mom needed her help. She did so amazing and I felt like all my training had been justified. I also took her with me to a psychologist appointment and she did wonderful! She remembered her blanket commands and sat on her blanket and ignored the door opening! She had little slip ups in the hour long appointment: barking at a plant, falling asleep, and being a little restless. She tooted and snored in the room and my therapist couldn’t help but laugh.

I’ve been trying to cope recently with my chronic pain and anxiety. Today was very difficult in terms of pain. The back of my head had a weird pressure feeling right where my cerebral tonsils are (where my surgical incision is). I also had bad neck and back pain and weird muscle cramping. I thought about asking to go home early, but stuck it out. I got home and used my heat pad for about two hours straight. Tomorrow I am heading to Lubbock for my cousin’s wedding and will be taking my best little pug with me. She won’t be going to the actual wedding because she isn’t that ready to be in public. I get very anxious around event like these. A lot of people make me extremely anxious and then also being judged around family is a worrisome of mine. Hopefully all goes well.

Thanks for staying with us!

xo,

Cass & Mav

Mavi’s Must-Haves

Mavi's Must-Haves

 

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When first deciding to get a puppy, it can be quite difficult to determine what he or she needs and what will make life easier for the both of you. I made a list of items that I ended up purchasing for Mavis and will reveal what has and hasn’t worked.
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Crates and Beds
Puppies are so full of energy and deciding where they are going to sleep and be during most of the day needs a lot of analyzing. For Mav, I bought a small pink crate for the purposes of a comfy sleeping place and for potty crate training. Most people discipline their puppy with crated time outs, but it’s important that the puppy associates the crate with more than just a form of punishment. We want puppy to recognize that the crate is a safe place that they can go to relax. That’s why I put it in a comfortable space next to my bed (being in a familiar area, not secluded is key). Mav doesn’t get nearly as upset when she can see her momma and knows I’m close by. When choosing the size of the crate, of course, you want to accomodate the puppy’s growing size, but you also need to consider if the crate is going to be where you leave the puppy when you are not home. If it is, then the crate should be placed in a gated off tile-floored area, especially if you are gone for several hours. This way, your little one can potty, get water/food, and play while you are out of the house. Upon brining Mavis home, I used the round faux-shearling cup bed to transport her and she loved it!  She still uses her bed to relax in, although I keep an eye on her when she is using this one because Mav loves to dig and chew on her bed.
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Toys and Activities
On to the TOYS. Mavi’s favorite subject. I bought her a variety of different toys, although I already had a few from our other dog, Eli and cat, Oliver. Mavis loves her small Kong stuffies! Elmer the Elephant and Ali the Alligator are often her go to durable babies. Her all time favorite toys are her pink Nylabone that I keep in her carseat and her mini Ewok toy (they seem to be out of the Ewok cat toy edition, but here is the Chewbacca version)! I purchase the cat toys because they are more suited for her size, but avoid cat nip and feathers! The Kong rope toy and Nylabone teething ring do not seem to keep her interest for long, so I wouldn’t have purchased these had I known that beforehand, but every dog is different and your baby might love them. The teething ring is also really hard! I thought it would have been somewhat soft and rubbery, but it’s just hard plastic, another reason why I don’t think she is fond of it.  I love hiding Ziggies (although after the second bag, I moved to cheaper alternatives) and other treats into her Kong and she loves trying to get them out! This will keep your pup busy for a while, which is always appreciated and it challenges your pup with the promise of a tasty reward. Mav also loves playing with a little stuffed pug my boyfriend got for me when we first started dating and tennis balls! My mom recently gifted a cat tunnel that splits into three ways and both Mavis and Oliver are big fans!
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Potty Training
For housebreaking I wanted to get a pad holder basically so it would be easier for her to identify where she should go potty, but furthermore so she refrains from shredding or flipping her pads over. Sometimes this works and sometimes she loves to chew at the snap hands until it unsnaps and she get to the pad (to shred). She is a master at shredding pads. Make sure to make notice what size the pad holder is, so you can correspond with the right size potty pads. I fold the edges of my potty pads up to tuck the ends in. I always keep some Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer for carpet mistakes. I learned the hard way the using pee pads isn’t a great idea for puppy to potty train because towel, rugs, and carpets feel too similar and Mav got confused. I do not punish her for going in the wrong spot, but now just immediately pick her up if she is going or about to go and walk her outside. Your puppy shouldn’t associate going to the bathroom with you yelling at them, otherwise they may hide from you and then go (making sneaky hidden messes). Also, rubbing their noses in their accidents is also discouraged because puppies have such a short memory span and are so young that they do not associate why you are punishing them and will become fearful.  I bought a pooper scooper with the fear that she, like most puppies, would want to eat her and Eli’s poop, but luckily I was blessed with just a sniffer (the sniff to see if this is mine and run). I think it is something good to have on hand if you like to have backyard get-togethers in order to clean the area beforehand. Poop should be immediately picked up if the little one is indulging in this mysterious and nasty habit. It is really important to discourage puppy from this behavior as it can spread parasites and illnesses. I eventually want to try to use the tinkle bells to help teach Mav to ring the bell when she needs to go outside, but we have yet to cross that bridge with all that is going on.
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Health
Keeping Mavis healthy is one of my main priorities and having worked at a vet clinic for over two years, I know quite a lot about different products. First off, deciding on a food for puppy can be challenging when there are so many options and all the brands claim they are the best. The veterinarians I have worked for have only backed the brands Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and IAMS for puppies as their formulas are overall the best on the market and provide the perfect nutritional balance. For Mavi, I went with Hill’s Science Diet Small & Toy Breed Puppy food. It is so important to get puppy food for a puppy (versus Adult food, etc.) to meet their special nutritional needs. Feed BY the bag and not by what you think is enough to prevent over or under feeding. Avoid self feeders, as many dogs gorge themselves, leading to obesity. This also doesn’t provide a well set schedule for puppy.
I also recommend getting puppy grooming supplies. Puppies and dogs have different pH levels than humans, so buying them shampoo specified by their species is important. I decided to go with Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo because their cruelty free and I, myself, use Burt’s Bees for some of my grooming needs. I also purchased a dremel to keep Mav’s nails smooth. Puppies have super sharp nails usually, so the dremel can really help if you know how to use it. If you don’t know how, I recommend either youtube or asking your groomer/veterinarian if they could show you. Having a basic ear cleaner on hand is also recommended to keep puppy’s ears clean and free of debris. I clean Mavi’s ears twice a month to prevent the dreaded stinky ear infections and buildup. I recommend only using cotton balls, as Q-tips can potentially be shoved deep in the ear canal and can hurt the puppy’s ears.
Dental care is one of the most common issues that pet owners forget about, but it is so important if you want a long life for your best friend. If dental care is neglected, eventually your pal can and will get periodontal disease which can spread through the bloodstream and cause a number of serious health issues! I wanted to get Mav prepared early, although puppy’s teeth are usually in great condition and don’t need much help until they are 1.5-2 years old. I bough a toothbrush to help aid in getting Mav used to the teeth brushing habit. Ideally brushing your pet’s teeth three times a week is preferred (seems like too much, but it can save a lot of money in the end and it is good for your pup!) Dental chews are also highly recommended. I buy some veterinary recommended chews with enzymes added to help breakdown plaque.
Pugs and other flat faced breeds have short snouts and their noses can become very dry (as they are “smushed” in), therefore nose butter is a good idea to use weekly. The Blissful Dog has nose butter specially made for pugs in various sizes to cure the chapped blues. I also clean Mav’s face wrinkles with unscented baby wipes to avoid any hidden debris or dirt from building up and causing infections.
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Training Necessities
Since Mav is training to be a service dog, I have a vest for her that reads Service Dog In Training and has her name embroidered on it, a leash cover that is used to warn off strangers from distracting Mav from her duties, and an awesome patch to educate the ignorant. To aid in training I use a Rapid Rewards training pouch to have quick and easy access to rewards for a job well done. Along with the pouch, tasty treats are also recommended (sparingly) alongside their regular kibble. I found these treats that are moist and one of my little one’s favorites. I also purchased these, but they were too large to use as rapid rewards, so I had to cut them in half beforehand. They also are rather hard and difficult for Mav to chew. Because Mavis goes with me to so many different places via car ride, I wanted to maximize her safety. In some countries it is illegal to have an animal that is unsecured in the car! I bought her, her very own booster car seat that allows me to clip her in by the harness (sold separately) into a little seat/basket which attaches to the car’s seat. It also come with little pockets in the front that I keep toys in that keep her occupied (so that she won’t chew on the safety belt). I feel safer knowing that Mav won’t go flying through the windshield should there ever be an accident. You might think this is a little excessive, but I saw a case last year that made me more aware of pet safety: a pet mom and her furry friend were in a serious car accident. The pup broke his neck and had to be euthanized after suffering for over twenty-four hours (the neighbor had taken him to the emergency vet on the night of the car accident, who didn’t notice the broken neck. The next day the neighbor brought him into the clinic I was working in with complaints that something was not right with him and he was not walking, eating, or drinking). I also bought and extra seatbelt for when I am traveling in someone else’s car. This allows her to be safely buckled in without a special seat for her to sit in.
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Identification
Last but not least, the basic necessities: collars, leashes, and tags. I originally purchase this collar as it was cheap and durable, but Mav was so tiny, that I had to get a temporary kitten collar for her to use until last week. I already had an extra leash from Petsmart, so there was no need to get a new one. Finally because I have such high anxiety about social situations, I ordered my tags online along with a super cute strawberry bell. All my items I purchased online through Amazon (choose smile.amazon.com to donate a percentage to your chosen charity. I chose People Hope), with the exception of a few items I bought at Walmart and Petco.
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I hope that this will help make puppy decisions easier. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask!
xo,
Cass & Mavis
Dividers made by Laura Hunt

Relentless Pain.

I haven’t been feeling well. Part of me struggles with trying to pretend things are okay and that I’m fine, but my back and neck pain are now becoming daily reminders again of the war raging inside my body. After my decompression surgery the back pain receded for a while, but it has come back with a vengeance, as I am going on the second week with continuous pain. On top of that, my knee was dislocated this past Saturday at work (two dogs playing rammed into it from the side). The normal individual with no past history of dislocations would have been just fine, but Cassandra. Odd, abnormal Cassandra. Her knee and ligaments remembered the past and dislocated. The knee is fine now. Practically back to normal, as I used to suffer from frequent kneecap and hip dislocations, I “bounce” back quicker, but now my hips are aching, too. I do think that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a likely culprit. I’ve not been diagnosed with it, but I’ve have joint pains, unusual hyper-flexibility, and dislocations for several years. It’s one of those things. I can only be diagnosed with one thing at a time and it’s a long process. Why are diagnoses so important to us, anyways? Maybe it provides us a label for our pain? Perhaps it make our pain “more” real?  Will others accept that we actually do have a condition and are in pain because we are now labeled? I don’t know the answer. I think for me, personally, it’s just knowing there is a reason: it’s not just a medical mystery or the unwarranted “it’s-all-in-her-head” look.

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I went to see my primary doctor today to report my issues (again). I was prescribed some pain medication and advised to see my neurosurgeon again. I’ve been in bed most of the day with a headache and pains. Praying that tomorrow I’ll wake up refreshed for the day.

xo,

Cass

 

Training with Mavis

Week 2

This week my little Mavis (Mahv-is, not May-vis) will be 14 weeks and will have been living with us for 8 weeks! She’s been in training for 2 weeks using Training Your Own Service Dog by  Lelah Sullivan and AKA Shana Cohen. For those who don’t know, Mav is my service dog in training and she is doing incredibly well for her age. After we complete Sullivan’s and Cohen’s book, we will be using a training manual from Service Dog Express. Hopefully once both guides are finished, Mav will be in tip top shape. If not, I have local training organizations willing to help out with basic obedience training. Service Dog Express can also provide further training and instruction via webcam. SDE (located in San Antonio) can evaluate Mavis with a final walk through, after her training, to see if she is ready for the Public Access Test and become a Service Dog! I wanted to start a series of posts dedicated to my tiny terror’s (oh the wonderful puppy stages!) training progress. I’m hoping to help others in their journey to training a service dog of their own and how to go about getting started and what options they can choose.

First of all, I am not a liscensed trainer, but I consider myself a dog expert. I have lived with multiple dogs my entire life, worked in the veterinary field for about two years, and continue to work as a dog behavior analyst as a doggy daycare attendant (which is much more hands on then you’d think). Anyways, I know quite a bit about dog behavior and health which has set me up with the perfect platform to training my dog. I have looked into the alternatives of having a service dog pre-trained and ready, but the cons (for me personally) outweighed the pros. First of all the wait is up to a year or more to be matched with a service dog. Furthermore, the price of a trained service dog is anywhere from $1,200-2,000 and upwards. Another reason I didn’t choose this option is because you really have to be hands on when training a psychiatric service dog because they need to get you and your moods. Your ups, your downs, your triggers. This, in itself, takes persistence, time, and a close bond.

We started the intensive training on April 14th, 2016 and have learned Focus (keeping her eyes on me all the time), Touch (hoping that she’ll use this to alert), and are now working on Blanket (having her lie down on a blanket) commands. Technically it was recommended that the Service Dog Express manual begin at 6 months of age, but we are getting a jump start with Sullivan’s and Cohen’s training guide to prepare us.

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Locations We Have ‘Worked’ At:

Different locations will allow you to bring a service dog in training (SDiT) into their locations if you ask, but it is your liability should anything happen (potty accidents, etc.). On request if someone asked me to leave a location, I would gladly do so because it is their right, since Mav is not a service dog (yet). These locations I we visited had no problem with me bringing in Mavis, but I only worked on training commands in outer locations since she is so tiny and not completely potty trained yet. Documentation is important! So lots of photos, videos, and a log should be written down, in the case your service dog is questioned or legal action is brought against you.

As we perfect our commands and learn new ones, we hope you will follow our journey.

Xo,

Cass & Mavis