For starters, she is 10 years old. To expect a 10 year old to care for a dog for 5 days, including feeding, water, taking it to go potty, and having it attached to her for 5 days straight as she is in a cabin in the woods, and there are no fences, all while everyone is swimming, canoeing, rock climbing, doing archery and the like is a lot to ask, don’t you think?
Secondly, she is safe. She is at a camp ONLY for diabetic children. Surrounded by other type 1 kids, with older cabin counselors that are also diabetic, and with a 24 hour nurses and Doctors on staff. Aside from being at home with us, this has been the only other place we have ever felt comfortable sending her.
And possibly most important, for 5 days, she gets to be a kid. A NORMAL kid, as every other child there has the same disease she has. She is running, playing, swimming, hiking, biking, doing archery, shooting, rock climbing, doing arts and crafts, and yes, learning more about diabetes care and management. All while surrounded by kids just like her. And all those kids think it’s normal to have your finger pricked 10 times a day, to be hooked up to a pump, or get 5 shots a day. All those kids can sleep eat and drink. And for a week, she won’t have the big neon sign of a service dog saying “Look at me, question me, tell me again that I’m not sick enough to require a dog, whisper behind my back”.
Nope. This week, she is a kid.
So what happens at our house while she’s gone? Just like a cable network with a week of specialty programming (think Shark Week), this week at our house is “Dash Week!” celebrating our son while his sister is away at camp. We have had an epic wii Lego Star Wars adventure, went and saw Hotel Transylvania in the park, and we have several more things planned, along with a vacation day on Friday for a whole Dash day (still undecided on where to go).
As a sibling of a child with a terrible disease, sometimes the focus and attention is a little lacking. My wife and I are very conscious of this, and we do a lot of “tag team” parenting, which is when we each take a child separately and go about our day. That child gets all of the parents attention. You see, diabetes affects the whole family. Lack of sleep, constant intervention, always requiring some type of action, and for our son, it is sometimes not our 100%, undivided attention. Hence, ‘Dash Week”.
As for the dogs? Well, they miss Stella. It’s noticeable. But it is also good for them. See, unlike many other types of service dogs, there is no time off for a scent based service dog. There is no “harness on work mode, harness off play time”. The nose never shuts off. And these last few weeks have played havoc with them. Stella has been high more than she normal, due to growth and puberty. The highs tend to annoy the dogs more, as they aren’t easily or quickly fixed. So the dogs get a much needed vacation too. And this isn’t the first time they have been apart. Stella went to camp last year, and I took Major to a conference in May for 6 days away from his girl.
While she is gone, we continue to work with them. We gave them Monday night completely off, but Tuesday night was an obedience session, tonight will be a scent based training session, and that will continue through out the week, helping to keep them sharp.
We had Stella’s door closed, and we have picked up the bringsels for the week, but this morning Major was sitting outside Stella’s room. I opened the door, and he shot in and laid on her bed. He is definitely missing his girl, but she will be home soon. And you will see pictures of the reunion 🙂
As for Mom and Dad? Well, for 5 days we get to pretend we sleep through the night. The reality is, we still worry, and we still don’t sleep as well as we should, and we still wake up at every stir, but we’re trying.