20140628-IMG_2755We just spent the weekend competing at the Long Beach Queen Mary dog show. Stella and Raven are going for their AKC Rally Advanced title. They got their Rally Novice title a month ago, and this was their first event going for Advanced. The main difference is Advanced is all off lead.

20140628-IMG_2720 20140628-IMG_2769One of the extra hurdles we have to jump over as a working DAD team with a type 1 handler is blood sugar management. When Stella’s BS is off, Raven will alert. When Stella is in the ring, she takes off the bringsel that often hangs from her belt so Raven won’t get that in the event their is an issue. But Raven will find other ways to alert, potentially sitting down and pawing at Stella, or eventually just becoming disobedient and refusing to continue. With that, it is extremely important that we work aggressively to keep her in range. We spent the entire event with Stella’s BS between 84 and 140. Compounding the difficulty is that her events were after lunch each day, making it extremely important that we time our meals correctly.

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In anticipation of all this, we do several things differently then we would on a typical weekend day out and about. We made lunch at home and brought it with us. Food that we know the exact carb counts for, that we know how it will affect her BS, and that we know exactly how to bolus for. We got extra aggressive with our basal rates, upping them at times by 30%. We watched the CGM constantly, looking for signs of a rise or drop. We timed our meals to be an hour and a half prior to her event to help assure we wouldn’t be in the midst of a high or spike. Also needing to be taken into account is heat and stress/anxiety that also takes it’s toll. All in all, I think we did great! Of course, I am pretty exhausted today, but the extra effort is totally worth it, to eliminate the worry of an alert or a disastrous BS issue in the ring.

20140628-IMG_2643 20140628-IMG_2806 20140628-IMG_2803Once again we competed along with several other Canine Hope for Diabetics dogs and families. It is a special treat to have friends there to cheer for, and in turn to root you on when it’s your turn. And once again the dogs did great, with some 1sts, 2nds, and 3rds sprinkled throughout the weekend for the Canine Hope teams!

20140628-IMG_3047On day 1 we had what I thought was a pretty difficult course, with a command or 2 that we have been struggling with. Along with the uncertainty of a brand new location, working off lead, and all the other distractions, I had no idea what was in store for Stella and Raven.

20140628-IMG_2882 20140628-IMG_2872 20140628-IMG_2860 20140628-IMG_2891The great thing about showing up early is that you get a course map with all the obstacles drawn out. We got to practice doing the exact exercises that would be required, concentrate on a couple of issues, and feel like we prepared as best as we could leading up to the event. But I really had no reason to worry, even if the ships horn sounded off in the middle of their run…

 

 

 

They did great. They got their qualifying score (a 78) and 3rd place. In what seemed to be the longest course ever, they were awesome. We did notice some things to work on that we thought we could improve upon, and made some notes for day 2.

20140628-IMG_3117We noticed that Raven was lagging behind some. And what I saw was that Stella was concerned with proper posture and kept both hands behind her back. As Raven targets Stella’s hands during practice/training (after all, that is where treats come from 😉  ) Raven had to walk behind her to keep an eye on them. We practiced some adjustments, worked on hand placement, and hoped for the best on day 2.

We once again got there early to get our course map. This course looked “fun” to Stella, so we went with it. I thought it looked a little more difficult, and included some distractions. It wasn’t until the walk through that we would know what was in the distractions. It could be food, a toy, a tennis ball, treats. I brought along a stainless steel bowl and some yummy chicken treats, a tennis ball, a stuffed animal and some other items. When they did the walk through we learned it was chicken. So off to practice we went, with a bowl full of chicken and hot dogs!

20140629-IMG_3193 20140629-IMG_3183 20140629-IMG_3180 20140629-IMG_3173 20140629-IMG_3156Ashley and Crystal both helped Stella and Raven get prepared and work through this distraction, and once again it was time to go. Stella had some things to remember, hand placement, excitement, etc. And on that 2nd go through, she did wonderfully. You can see that just by placing her right hand in front, Raven was forced to come up further on her hip to see what was happening. With the exception of a loud “leave it” correction, they did much better. That correction cost them some points, but I told Stella, “just do what you need to do to get through. If you miss an obstacle or skip one it will cost you 10 points. But if you re-do one, it will only cost you 3. Take your time and watch your dog”. She was nervous about the distraction, and she got away from Raven, but she returned and got her focus back.  And that run was worth 88 points and another 3rd place! 10 points better than the day before! I think she learned a lot too.

 

So proud of the patience, focus, and discipline they both displayed this weekend. They worked so hard for this, and they are having fun. It is also nice to see Stella doing something she is proud of too.

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I love that my daughter has found something she enjoys. She is already looking towards getting her 3rd leg, next title, and then going beyond that with Raven. So much fun to watch and be a part of. It has been extremely rewarding for all of us. And what an amazing testament to the program that Canine Hope for Diabetics has built. These dogs are amazing! The great thing is that the more these dogs and handlers work together, train together, practice and play together, the stronger the bond they build, and the harder the dog works. It is wonderful.

And after all of this, they were wiped out. The amount of investment these 2 made mentally was exhausting for them. They had a well deserved rest on our way home.

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Looking forward to the next one (looks like August)

Team Blackdogsrule

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2 Comments

  1. Frank, you’ve done a great job working with Stella, Major and Raven. Your efforts are the foundation of their success. Congratulations to you all. Keep it up… you’re setting a great example for all of us. As a followup question, why did you choose to use Raven for these competitions instead of Major? Is this already old hat for him? Thanks!

    • Frank Wisneski

      First, thank you Jim. I am proud of all the work we have done with this team, and the continued enthusiasm our family AND the dogs have to keep going. As for Raven vs Major, that is a GREAT question. The short answer is a difference in expectations and training when we first started out. When we got Major, my daughter was 8. She wasn’t capable yet of handling her diabetes, not able to work through an alert properly, not able to fix a low in the middle of the night, or properly reward the dog for an alert. She really thought the dog was being obnoxious. As such, we had Major alert to us. He came to us for all alerts, rewards, etc. He still does, and he is amazing at his job. Major is perfectly capable of competing in Rally, he knows all of the commands and loves to work. As a matter of fact, we work with both dogs every weekend at our Canine Hope Rally training sessions. But what happens during the session is if Stella has a blood sugar issue, he will leave the ring in search of my wife or I, and would be an immediate disqualification. Even when on leash, he will be looking for an opportunity to get to me, and will stop working for Stella. When they are training, it is one of the easiest ways for me to tell if Stella is having an issue. He stops listening to her 🙂

      When we got Raven, Stella was 10. She was much more responsible for her diabetes care, and a much stronger dog handler. So Raven will alert to her directly. And Raven can be a little more discreet. So it was easy for us to decide that Raven is the dog Stella should compete with.

      With all that said, I am considering working Major myself in a competition. But I would have to sneak off to a comp that Stella didn’t go to to be sure he wouldn’t alert. Majors big problem is he is just too good at being a diabetic alert dog 🙂

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