Tuesday, August 17, 2021


After a ten-day adjustment period, Stow and Shiro started their official training this week. Day one got us off to a bumpy start when Shiro sneaked some food that Stow dropped on the floor at Qdoba and then vomited it up the middle of Costco. On the bright side, it wasn't runny, so it didn't go everywhere, but on the less bright side, there was SO MUCH of it and neither the trainer nor I had enough paper products in our bags to deal with it. Saying I needed to clean up a mess, I grabbed a handful of napkins from the nearest food sample station. The napkins were smaller than I expected, though, so I ended up taking more than was socially appropriate apparently, because as I walked away, I heard the employee muttering under her breath about my bad manners. 


Stop number two at Party City didn't go a whole lot better--well, ok, I guess it went better than dealing with a pile of vomit, but there was still a hiccup. When we rounded the corner in our search for birthday plates, Shiro started barking. Nothing sounds louder than a dog barking where they're not supposed to bark (except maybe your baby when it is crying on an airplane), so I was mortified. Turns out she was just really surprised by the giant cardboard stork at the end of the aisle (aren't we all?). I pretended not to know Stow and the trainer and went on with my shopping while they showed Shiro that the bird was not, in fact, real or dangerous. This is clearly why I am not the trainer.

Things have gotten easier each day. Stow and Shiro have trained on campus, at Farm and Fleet, at school, in Walmart, and pretty much anywhere else we can think of. They are both learning what to expect from each other, and Stow is starting to understand what he should do when he wants support from Shiro. The main things we hope she can help with are his anxiety and resultant avoidant and/or impulsive behavior. We are already seeing a big differences with these things at home and when we are out. He is more willing to go places and is less reticent in social situations. Plus, he's learning a lot about responsibility as he works to take good care of his new canine friend. 

Holding hands.

But let’s be honest, Stow and Shiro aren't the only ones being trained this week. Over the past several days, all of us have learned some things. Ren and I have learned that some dogs REALLY love to eat rocks; just how far down a dog’s throat you have to stick a pill so she’ll swallow it; what the appropriate time frame is for picking up poop before it gets consumed (ewwwwww); and that even well-trained puppies need some time to adjust. Falcon has learned that there is enough golden retriever love to go around (times a hundred!!); and that she should never underestimate the stubbornness of her beloved cats. And, Sky has learned that an early morning run with the dog is oddly refreshing and that SOMETIMES it's ok to take a risk and try something new, even if it doesn't seem all that logical.

In the car on our way to training today, Stow forlornly worried that if he grows up his life won't be fun anymore. He cried as he thought about not being able to go places or do things together. I remember being equally scared of change when I was his age, and I still remember what my mom said to me when I had the same conversation with her: "We can never know where life is going to lead. All we can do is be grateful for all of the great things we've already experienced and keep living our lives the best way we know how. " That's what I told Stow in the car today. As a person who never imagined I would be a dog owner, much less the parent of a kid with a service dog, this has been such an incredible experience! I'm really glad my mom was right.
Everybody Needs a Rock

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Dog family

The trainer told us she would arrive between 12 and 1 pm on Wednesday. When Stow gets overly excited, impulse control becomes difficult, so Wednesday morning was rough. By 7 am it was clear that he needed to stick close to me (since I tend to be the best co-regulator for him). So we loaded his backpack with snacks, some books, some markers, and his Switch, and I took him with me to my office--where I was desperately trying to hit a book deadline. (Note to self: the week of a book deadline, is NOT the best time to add a new family member.)

We came back home in time to have some lunch and watch a little TV. It didn't take long for Stow to get antsy, though, so we went outside to wait, killing the time by making bets on which car would be the one with Shiro in it. 


Finally at 1:03 pm, she arrived.

First walk.

The plan was (is? ugh, grammar is hard!) for the trainer to leave Shiro with us for ten days while we all get used to each other and figure out various family dynamics. That way, when it's time for final training, we will have a much better idea of what our challenges will be and can problem solve them before the trainer heads back to Canada. So, after some introductions and some chatting and some quick tips, we found ourselves home alone with our new 9 month-old pup.

We are now officially a dog family. 

Look at those eyes!
Life has been a bit chaotic ever since. If you've had a dog, you know what I mean. Since I'm new to this whole dog thing, I STILL don't know what I mean. I just know that our sleep schedule has changed; the pup is so smart that she seems to be testing us at every turn (and finding all of our many weak spots); and the cats aren't thrilled. Stow has been doing an awesome job making sure Shiro is fed, let out, and walked, and it is fun to watch how happy he is to have the unconditional acceptance of another living being. 


Helping Stow finish his book. Lol.

That said, Stow is also struggling with the fact there has been a change. Change, whether it is good or bad, almost always equals more meltdowns. Fortunately, nothing seems to faze Shiro, who can chill just about anywhere. 

We're working out the kinks right now, but in the end, I'm pretty sure this is going to be amazing!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

One More Sleep

 A little less than eight months ago, following a series of happy coincidences and the support of a large network of friends and strangers, we learned we would be getting a service dog. Never in a million years did I think it would work out for Stow to get a service animal. And it seemed even MORE unlikely that I would want to live with a dog! Still, here we are, one sleep away from Shiro's arrival, and we are a combination of excited and nervous. 

Shiro countdown clock.

The past few months have been up and down. Right before his tenth birthday, Stow was bitten on the face by one of the neighbor dogs just as the bus arrived to take him to school. Fortunately, he only needed a few stitches, and the scar is barely noticeable, but the experience made him fear dogs in a way he didn't before. (It also totally traumatized me since I was the one who encouraged him to go say "hi" to the dog we knew, unaware that the other dog being walked by our neighbor would get jealous and fight for Stow's attention. Ugh--what a stupid parent move on my part!). Anyway, it took a couple of months to help Stow through his new fear of dogs and to convince him that Shiro would never behave like the neighbor dog had.

Smiley Shiro pictures helped, though!

More recently, we have been rearranging rooms to find the right space for Shiro's crate and her doggie bed, and we've been making last-minute trips to the store to make sure we have the food and other things she needs. 

Ren and I got ourselves a dog bath for our birthdays.

It turns out I know almost nothing about caring for a dog. I've been texting the trainer, and I've been texting our neighbor (Winnie's mom), and none of my questions are intelligent ones. What's the difference between a training treat and a chew? What kind of shampoo does a dog use? How often does she need to go out? Will she get along with the cats? Then there were the questions I didn't even know to ask. Did you know that dogs like to eat cat litter? Glad I got the head's up on that one because I am pretty sure I don't want any puppy kisses after Shiro has snacked on "kitty crunchies!"

Shiro left on her journey to our house yesterday. We weren't sure they would be able to make it through the Canada/US border due to COVID restrictions, so all of us were thrilled when the trainer sent a picture of Shiro's first moments in the US. Updates from the trainer have made it easier for the kids to make it through the past couple of days. 

Shiro looks completely thrilled to be in the US!

One last stop at the vet before she comes our way

It's hard to imagine how our lives will change once Shiro comes to live with us. What I do know, though, is that this is our last night of not being a dog family and our last night of wondering whether or not she will love us as much as we already love her.

Thanks again to all of you who helped make this happen! We look forward to sharing Shiro and Stow's story with you!