Anything’s Pawsable with a Little Pixie Dust – Part 1 by GUGP

Posted September 29, 2020 by growingupguidepup

For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: service dog puppy raiser, guide dog, puppy in training, assistance dog, ptsd dog.

Pixie is now approaching an age where most service dogs in training (sdit) are working on learning specific task skills they will need to aid their partner. We are now ready to make some big decisions on Pixie’s future, and it is not what we were imagining, or expecting when we originally started the process of raising her. This is a bit of a long read, and I am taking a little bit of a risk, and opening up about a very personal journey; here I go…
When we started our journey raising Pixie we were not sure what our plan was or what the outcome would be. We embarked on new territory and for the first time we were on our own to make decisions and work through issues that came up. Pixie belongs to Growing Up Guide Pup (GUGP), not another organization, nor was she promised to a specific organization. I was excited but I was also nervous at the same time.. I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do more than just the basics of what most puppy raisers do, but I had no idea if I could actually do it on my own. Pixie is a bit of an experiment for us.
When Pixie’s litter was born we whelped all nine of the puppies and the original plan was to raise one of the two puppies being donated to Brigadoon Service Dogs. I had my eyes on chunky boy Mr. Yellow, who was later named Paddington. Don’t tell Pixie, but she wasn’t my favorite of the nine in the beginning, but she was always a little unique due to the fact she needed extra attention, including bottle feedings, the first couple of weeks because she was the smallest and not thriving as well as the others. Because she had some special needs in the beginning of her life, we offered to keep her and take on the responsibilities of what she needed, or may have needed, as she grew. At the time we were uncertain how she would develop physically. Turns out she did just fine, being the runt of the litter, she just needed a little extra attention as a baby.
My original thought process was to see what Pixie did naturally as she grew up and then make a decision on what type of service dog she would be best suited for. That would help me decide where she would potentially go for formal training and placement at a service dog organization or if I would try training and placing her myself. Early on I thought she would make a great medical alert dog, she was very interested in different smells, especially with people. Diabetic alert was high on my possibility list. She likes to smell my breath in the morning, and if Matt or I have any type of cut or scab on our body, she finds it and wants to investigate it every day until it is healed. She does this also with other people she meets or friends she greets, she always wants to give everyone a full sniff over and investigation.
So where does Pixie go from this point? What will she be training to do? That is the big question. In October 2019 I did get some new gear to try out with Pixie. We have been working on some momentum pull work and some light balance assistance. Now these tasks are a little different than what the natural instincts that I have described above and I’m going to explain why we went this route.
We have found a potential placement for Pixie where she can utilize these skills that she is learning. Where we are placing her was the last place I thought that she would end up when we started, but it seems to be the most fitting now for everyone involved. If it all works out, and Pixie can get past her training obstacles, it will be quite the story to share. You see…we have decided to try placing Pixie with me.
So far only Matt, my family, a few friends, and my coworkers know about this part of me. In June 2017 I was diagnosed with a benign tumor on my pituitary gland. At first I had very few symptoms and didn’t have a huge impact on my life. I was prescribed some medication to help shrink the tumor and help regulate my one hormone level which was out of normal range. Even my endocrinologist made it seem like no big deal. Unfortunately I had a lot of side effects to the medication and I was never able to take the full dose that was prescribed. Because of the lower dose I was taking it took almost a year, but my hormone levels were finally stabilizing a few months before Pixie was born and was able to taper back my medication, but was still experiencing some side effects.
Because there was so much going on that summer I stopped my medication. We had 9 baby poodle puppies and a mother to take care of, Oscar, our young puppy in training to work with, two pet dogs that needed their usual care, my full time job at the clinic, Matt’s work, some side jobs we engaged in to help pay the bills, in addition to a few extra canine house guests coming and going throughout the summer that we had already promised that we would take care of before we agreed to whelp the puppies. My biggest side effects from my medication was being tired and mental fogginess that caused me to be forgetful and unable to really use my brain the way I needed and wanted it to be. The more tired I became, the worse my symptoms were. There was so much to be done each and every day that we were up and busy from 7am until about 2am. There was no room for being extra tired or unfocused from an outside source, my health, to get through the work needed to be done at home and still be focused while at work. There is really no room for error in my line of work and I had to be able to function at both home and work.
After the summer of 2018 most of the puppies were gone and things calmed down some, but then we had both Pixie and her sister Scarlett to try and train individually (before Scarlett went to Brigadoon) and Penny was returned to us and that added a third pet dog that needed care. I didn’t really get back onto my medication until well after the holidays and I struggled with staying on them. I felt really crappy on them so I wasn’t very consistent with them. The medication made me feel worse than the tumor did and it was really hard for me to keep taking it. I was taking it on and off, but it was enough consistency to make a difference.
Over this past summer I tried to be more consistent with taking my medication and I felt the worst I ever had. I was exhausted all the time, no matter how much I slept. I would feel worn out like I had done a major workout at the gym just walking the dogs around the neighborhood. I was lightheaded and dizzy at times and was not comfortable standing still and really just wanted to sit all the time. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I was “buzzed” as if I had been drinking all the time. Not drunk, but tipsy. I was also becoming forgetful. I would forget things at home that I needed for the day, or things I needed to put on my to do list. I was also forgetting words. Like when I would be talking to someone, I knew what I wanted to say, but I struggled to get the right words that I wanted out. The interesting thing is that Pixie seemed to notice that there was something off with me as well.
When Pixie is at work with me she lays under a desk where there is a computer that is used by multiple people throughout the shift. She has always been quiet and stayed in her spot without being noticed. She hardly moves my entire shift, with the occasional “I need to potty” look. Over the summer there were a few times while I was sitting at the desk she hit me numerous times with her nose, a behavior that she had never done before. She was also starting to lay out from under the desk where she could watch me more. At first I thought she was just being persistent that she needed to potty or that she was bored and ready to go. These things usually happened when the clinic was really busy and I was running around more. But I did also start noticing that I was having dizzy spells and feeling off balance while at work. I started to wonder if Pixie was actually trying to tell me something that was about me and not her. She has always been very attached to me, but there were multiple times that she outright refused to leave my side, or was very uneasy if I did. Some days she follows me almost everywhere she can. Even if I go to use the restroom at the clinic which is five steps away from where she stays she will paw at the restroom door while I’m inside (when she is not hooked to a tie down). There can be multiple other people in the room with her, but she still follows me. At first I just felt like she was a needy puppy, but now I wonder if there is something more to it.
Pixie sticks very close to me also while at home. If I step outside she jumps up to follow. If I go upstairs, she insists on coming with me. We have a baby gate at our stairs and there have been times that Pixie has climbed over the gate to get to me. This happens even when Matt is home and downstairs with her. When I look back and remember Penny’s training; she has also been very clingy to me. But never to this extent. There are some days when there is a little competition between the two dogs regarding who can be closer to me.
I decided to try being off my medication again to see if this was all side effects due to the medication or if there was something more going on with me. I didn’t take my medicine for a month and I did feel a fair amount better. I wasn’t as dizzy and foggy brained, but I was still waking up not feeling rested and chronically fatigued. I was also still feeling off balance at times as well. When I stood still for more than a few minutes I would feel my feet rocking and would be slightly adjusting constantly. I swayed very subtly. I felt better sitting or leaning against something. I was always looking for a place to lean on when standing. Pixie stopped with the nose bumps but was still keeping an eye on me after I acknowledged that something wasn’t right with me and started adjusting my routine at work. I tried different things to see if I could figure out what was going on with me. I was keeping track of my blood pressure in case I was feeling tired and off balance because It was low. I typically run on the lower side, but not low enough to explain my symptoms. I tried eating more frequently in case my blood sugar was being affected by the hormone imbalance or the tumor itself. It helped slightly, but it was time to visit the doctor again and figure out why I was having increased symptoms and what was causing it.
Since September I have seen my primary doctor, my endocrinologist, opthamologist, and a rheumatologist. I have been tested for numerous things, but with almost all negative results that didn’t give us more in the way of answers. My repeated MRI showed that my tumor had grown some, I have an increase in my EAR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) test which just tests for overall inflammation and my prolactin hormone level over 200 points higher than it should be. I recently started a different medication to help lower that hormone level and shrink the tumor with the hopes of less side effects.
So far I am tolerating the new medication much better, but still suffering from the chronic fatigue, headaches, and feeling off balance and sway at times. I am also noticing new symptoms of joint pain and stiffness as well as muscle soreness. I am still uncertain how much of this is caused by the medication or the tumor and hormone imbalance. For awhile I thought that I was becoming lazy or I was imagining the problems. I talked to my doctors about my symptoms, but I really didn’t get the answers as to why I felt this way, nor did I feel like the doctors took my concerns about my symptoms seriously. I was just passed around from doctor to doctor. For a little while I thought that I had just made up these symptoms in my head since the doctors never verified that they were actually real. However I was able to find a great support group online with people who have the same condition that I do. I found out I’m not alone. I am amazed by the variety of symptoms that people have from such a small growth. People suffer from everything from fatigue, where they can barely get out of bed, month long migraines, vision loss, dizziness, mood swings, depression, anxiety, multiple hormone levels out of normal ranges, hot flashes, cold sweats, vitamin d deficiency, osteoporosis, weight gain, and other things. I actually feel pretty lucky that my symptoms are not more in number and not worse in severity so far. So many other people talk about so many different symptoms and how they affect their life, and most of them are not recognized, mentioned or talked about by most doctors or literature on the topic. Being able to ask questions to the members of my group and seeing what other people go though I have a better understanding that the tumor itself, constantly changing hormone levels, and medications all can affect how I feel and that how I feel changes from one day to the next.
My most recent Dr. visit was to a holistic doctor, and for the very first time a doctor took my symptoms seriously. He noticed that I sway when I stand still. He noticed that I am off balance when I walk (granted not always, this comes and goes). He even discovered that one of my eyes wasn’t working as it should (yes I have seen an opthamologist in the last few months as well), and that I developed a nystagmus if I focus on something moving at a rapid pace.
So where does Pixie fit with this? Well Pixie is still a bit of an experiment. I have been testing out the momentum pull with her to see if it helps me conserve energy and to allow me to do more. Right now I have just enough energy to get through going to work and not much else, although my new supplements from the holistic doctor seem to help some. Some days it is hard for me to make it through an 8 hour shift, other days I make it through just fine. Then there are times I need to push myself to “power through” my commitments. If I do more than I can handle in a day, the following day, or even the next, I feel completely exhausted and almost hung over. My whole body is tired and achy. Every morning Pixie is let out of her kennel by Matt and she hops up on the bed to sniff me. Some mornings it is a quick sniff and she is off to go potty and be fed. Other mornings it is a long sniff followed by laying down next to me. Matt will call her to go downstairs and she refuses to budge until I get up. Nightime can also be similar. She will sometimes cuddle with me on the bed and as Matt comes to bed she will hop off and go right into her kennel without even being asked. Other nights Matt will tell her to “kennel” and instead of jumping off the bed she will get up and then sit on me and refuse to budge. I have not been able to figure out why she does this, but I do feel like she is picking up on something going on with me. Is she trying to alert me about something? Can she pick up on inflammation happening in my body? Can she sense my hormone levels changing? Or even pick up that I will get a bad pressure headache before it happens? I have recently started to keep a log of when she displays different behaviors. I write down how I feel at that point in time and then I write down how I feel later in the day to see if I can connect the dots.
For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: service dog puppy raiser, guide dog, puppy in training, assistance dog, ptsd dog.
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Issued By growingupguidepup
Country United States
Categories Business
Last Updated September 29, 2020