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If you have been following along on the blog in recent weeks, you know that my mom and I have been partners for a short time. In fact, when this post is published, we have been a team for exactly five months.

Five months today! How exciting is that? I am adjusting to being with my mom. And have to say I think she is awesome!

As you know, due to Covid-19, there are limitations to going places in public. And restrictions on socializing. This means that we have been home much more than my mom would have liked since we have been together.

We have been to quite a few medical appointments. And a few medical procedures. Which has given me the chance to learn what my mom needs at these times. And we have been to the grocery store. And a couple of other types of stores as needed.  

Snoozing next to my mom’s wheelchair while she gets her infusion!

But all of these outings have had a specific focus. And not opportunities to do some extra practicing beyond just the tasks needed at the moment.

My mom had a few different areas where she and Buffy would go regularly to practice skills. Early on, to teach Buffy the ways that best helped my mom. And later, just to practice, so those skills would stay sharp.

Because of Covid, my mom hasn’t been able to take me to these areas to practice. So she feels like we have missed out on some opportunities to advance my skills.

But my mom has found some creative ways to teach me the important pieces of tasks I will later use in public. We will practice at home, and when the time comes, practice in public.

One example of this involves automatic door buttons. With Buffy, my mom would say “look” and Buffy would scan the area in front and to the side of her chair. When Buffy located the button with her eyes, mom would say “push” and Buffy would go push the button.

This saved my mom a lot of maneuvering of her chair because she could stay facing the door and be ready to go through when it opened. Instead of positioning her chair toward the button and move again to go through the door once Buffy pushed it.

So to get me ready to consistently search for the button when my mom says “look” she is teaching me how to search at home. She is using a target for me to find when she says “look” so I know how to search. And then she says “push” and I move to the target.

When my mom says “look” I find the target and “push” when given the cue!

This is a fun game for me! One that has taught me the skills I will need later on. And you know what? I even got to try this on a real automatic door button a few days ago. And did the whole sequence perfectly! Later on, I will do a whole post on automatic door buttons!

I know a few tasks that Buffy didn’t do for our mom. One is elevator buttons. I can push the button for my mom but my accuracy hasn’t been very good. When there are two buttons, one for up and the other for down, I would push the one my nose happened to hit.

My mom wanted to increase my accuracy. So she came up with an idea to try! At home, I have been working on learning “top” and “bottom” so I can push the one she needs. 

“Top”    –    “Bottom”

And the other thing she noticed was how much my paws were sliding while trying to reach the elevator buttons. Some buttons are higher up than others. So sometimes I have to stretch my nose way up high. And even hop up a little to reach. Which sometimes causes my paws to slide.

So my mom put her thinking cap on again! How could she help me be more accurate? And help support my body as I pushed the button?

I’m sure it won’t surprise you! She came up with an idea! I could put my paws up on the armrest of her wheelchair. This way I am steady and can just turn my head to push the button. 

Since we can’t go out much in public right now we have been practicing this at home. I put my paws up on her armrest and target some tape my mom put on the wall. 

And this week I even got to try it on a real elevator when we went to see my mom’s doctor. Since it looked different than the way we had practiced at home, I needed a tiny bit of encouragement. But after doing it once, I did it perfectly the next time!

There are a few other things my mom and I are practicing at home. In preparation for doing them in places of public, once we can start getting out more often. 

And my mom told me that it is good to learn new behaviors in quiet familiar places, like at home. This way I can learn the skills before doing them in new and distracting places, like the hospital. So I guess there are some positive benefits of not getting out quite as much as we normally would have if it were not for the Covid-19 restrictions. 

Besides having the opportunity to learn new skills. And challenge my mom to be creative. I love how these training games are strengthening our relationship. And increasing the trust we have in each other. We are becoming a good team!