One | Comfort

There are days where all this Service Dog needs to do is this:

... and I am one happy customer. 


life together

among other things,
Cader Cade is adjusting to life here in Stroesslerland. 

very, very well, I might add. 

catching some Inside the American Mob with me on a Friday night. 
we are living large, people. 

family cookout at the Nana & the Jaj's. brilliantly placed to shark some of the food that my Boomps may or may not drop on the floor while he eats. 

my favorite moment so far. at our favorite breakfast place, right around noon (have you MET my boys?) with sweet Cade asleep on my foot underneath the table. life is good. 

hanging out with Jim Gaffigan. 
I haven't laughed that hard since ... well ... probably since his last show. I was sweating and out of the ability to breathe or make the classic Karin Laugh we all know. 
again, Cade was mostly asleep on my foot underneath. 
a shame, too. 
it was a damn good show. 

snuggle up. 

today's fun: trying out the new dog bed we scored off groupon. 

it was major summer thunderstorms all day, rendering my body fairly irritated. 

Shu, Cade & I, however, nailed the Rainy Day, Lazy Day program to the wall. movies, books, Kongs, planes & cars, more movies, jammies until Mark got home from work.

we are amazing at Rainy Days. 

I mean...

...what is this life I have right now?

what a gift. 
your love & support to bring me here does not escape me, kids. 

as Shua would say,
my heart's so "freaking full."

I don't know where he learned to talk like that......


my last obstacle course

we are home, we are home, we are home!

i cannot believe this. its been so beautiful and natural and unreal to have this gorgeous little four-legged make himself right at home here in stroesslerland. he wanders around the house, loves his big backyard, eats like the lab that he is...

we're loving it.

but allow me to backtrack a bit, catch you up on the last few days of Camp.

we walked through all the cues that i had learned, giving me time to really learn this new language. and i was able to shape a new behavior with Cade. they asked me to pick anything i liked, so i figured i would go for something that would be helpful in my life. my brilliant Ginger of a sister-in-law suggested asking Cade to get a blankie for me when i need one.

i often use old blankies of joshua's to cover my skin when it is feeling extra sensie. that soft, super-overly-washed flannel makes a touchable barrier that can block air or other fabrics from touching my skin. basically telling it to shut it, i'm not interested in its opinion. :)

here's a little clippy-clip of my Cader knocking it out:

the other bit i'd love for you all to see is the last 'obstacle course' that Cade and i went through.

Lauren, Janet and Kim set up the training space with spaces to work just about every cue and behavior that Cade and i had learned during Camp. it was awesome. i loved so much the challenge of things like this during my time in VA. i knew there was no other way for Cade and i to bond up and work it than to test ourselves like this.

you'll see him walk through a gate calmly, turn and wait for me. he'll weave through some cones while ignoring piles of food on the floor-- totes not easy. he'll back up when i ask which is not a natural movement. we'll come up to a big door, and he'll grab a tug, pull it open for me and hold it, allowing me to pass through. in that sequence, you can see me ask him to regrab the tug and hold it again-- that's because he released it before i asked him to do so. totes rude.

at the end we do a big, long down stay with a release and recall to me. oh my word, i love seeing him run like that towards me.

and then Kim turns the video off.

and then Kim and i hugged and cried for a very long time.

and here's where i won't tell you that she, a bit overwhelmed with emotion, left me sitting in a chair, crying while she walked out the front of the building and down the sidewalk to get some air.

but i won't tell you that.

she's SUCH a kickass and dedicated sister, dog trainer and sister.

and sister.

here's the video:

isn't that the coolest?
(she says with humility, of course...)
there's so much depth there. so much totally life changing in that little 6 and a half minutes.
no more wearing out my legs squatting, no more getting dizzing leaning over too far, using up my stupifyingly precious energy picking things that i drop up off the ground.
totally life altering. delish.

your support is the same to me.
completely life altering.
thank you.

much loves,



feeling better is so much nicer than, you know, not feeling better.

I'm very sure you needed me to explain that. 

I'm here for you, guys, with my incredibly sound and intelligent statements. 
Here. For. You. 

a few pictures to catch you up on CampityCamp:

Cade and I have worked on life with a scooter. We also now have a new tethering system on the scoot (who clearly needs a name, we're open to suggestions) so that neither he nor I need go back from whence we came on Tuesday. thank you Kim and Janet and Lauren and your combined brain powers. my rotator cuffs thank you, too. 

Mark loves to pet Cade. 

Cade loooooves to get pet by Mark. 
(another casualty to Gingeritis.)

or is the Ginger just buying his way into Cade's heart??

my little hero can open big, heavy doors for me.

he can also sleep VERY well. 
he's a Stroessler, after all.

Cader can also help me get my toddler fix. He's so sweet on these meet & greets.

here is a short clip of us practicing him picking up something I drop. In this one, its my wallet.

and just in case you need a Shua fix...
I know I do!!
here is a video we were sent today.
look what he's learned to do on his Blast!
my preface contains two bits of ShuFact:
1.) he was barely putting his face in the water when Mark & I left OH.
2.) just two days ago, he came up from underwater, wearing the goggles he has owned for two summers now, looked at Madison and exclaimed, "Madi! You can SEE UNDERWATER with these things on!"
(not real, real sure what he thought they were for... but that's a whole other post. probably a whole other blog...writer...Internet...)

tonight we head to Janet's house for a fun cookout and playtime. 

my brain is growing increasingly fried, so this will be a welcome break.
expect plenty of pictures.
labs, Bernese Mountain dogs, a Great Dane puppy...



reality whiplash

today was a short day. 
t'was not supposed to be,
but my MS got in the way.

to be more specific, my MS got in the way of my hands giving Cade a treat for giving me such nice eye contact. I fumbled the treat, as these fingies are wont to do, so it dropped and rolled in front of my scooter. Cade, feeling ever so entitled to that there treat, also dropped and dove head down for the treat... taking my right shoulder and neck with him. Lab-induced whiplash. I don't recommend it, my friends.

I was hooked into a hands-free leash, which has its place and time... we just learned that there and then were not that place and time.

I could have worked through the muscle ache- I am, truthfully, in muscle aches and pains most days. but this kind of thing doesn't produce in me only an annoying muscle ache anymore. with this ridiculous disease, I got bizarre shots of icy-hot tingles all up and down my arm, right into my hands, right through my fingertips.

that kind of sensitivity I experience is super painful and distracting and annoying as hell. 

and today, it broke me. 

I just couldn't work with it. couldn't hold the leash, couldn't drive my scooter, couldn't pet Cade or treat him... couldn't even really concentrate on what was happening around me. Mark, Lauren, Kim, and Janet (another wonderful SDVA trainer) took over, tried to help, waited to see if things would settle. but my tingling just wouldn't shut up.

so, I cried quite a bit, as you can imagine.

in pain, yes,
but mostly?

mostly, y'all, I was pissed.

if you, dear reader, have even a slight knowledge of a Larson-Lusnia woman... you know this:
we cry when sad.
we really cry when pissed.

I was pissed off at this body that circumvents my decision making and does things "to" me that I sure wouldn't opt into myself. pissed off at this insidious disease that can suck the life out of me, the humor out of me, the joy out of a moment in a snap. pissed off that I can't always do what I want to do, dammit.

(did I just say that?)
(did someone bring a three year old in here??)

so we took the afternoon off :)

Mark went to the store and bought me some small heat patches. I've had one on and off my shoulder, and it's been working well on the muscle pain. the tingly schmingly is what it is. a good night's sleep with my guys here should help a lot. 

tomorrow is another day. 
we'll see what hand I'm dealt and go from there.

because here is the thing: 
I'm here at this Transfer Camp because of this crap. despite it.

despite being waylayed by MS, I'm still constantly moving forward in life. 
I'm still finding ways to giggle like I always have, from the joy and hilarity I find in life. 
I'm still enjoying life with my Ginger, doing my best to make him laugh out loud at least once a day.
(a girl has to have goals.)
I'm still loving the heck out of my Shu. I miss him dearly and want to share every single experience I have with him...and know every single detail about the experiences he has. 
I'm still engaged with family, grateful for how beautifully gifted I've been with those I've been surrounded with in this world. 
I'm still loving and engaging with dogs, only now it's in an incredible new and inspiring way.

so let me show you this. 
to end on a high note, because this post is For Serious right now,
check out this video of Cader and I working the scooter for the first time today. we scooted the shiznit out of a grocery store and then worked our way down the strip mall's sidewalk. just look at my boy here, keeping pace with me. such a good four-legged.

and, as usual, we end with a shot of sweet Dillon, gazing upon Markus. (sigh.)


I love this school.

what I have loved the most about this experience so far is the sheer amount of fun I'm having. I'm eating this information up, reveling in being side by side with Cade all day, laughing at all the personalities of a center full of dogs at work and play. It's a bit of heaven on earth for Mark and I. at times I think I shouldn't being having this much fun... but then I realize that's possibly the dumbest think I've ever thought. 


we have talked and worked quite a bit with the notion of breaking any task down into small, incremental bits. this helps the young pups learn what we want without being overwhelmed. we've set them up to succeed every step of the way-- something that is so crucial. 

the beauty of this way of teaching is that when things start to disintegrate (say, during the transfer of Cade from Kim to me...), we can break the task down. 
take Cader as far back on the learning process as he needs to go to be able to "remember" the task... or take me back there, have me learn exactly what the criteria have been all the way through so I know what to look for in the finished "product" of a task.

if that makes little to no sense to you... just let me know in the comments. I'll be happy to clarify. by which, of course, I mean I'll have Kim swoop in here and answer for me :)

now for the fun.
for the part I always jump to in blogs...
the pictures. 

here's Lauren. she's fantastical. 
clearly she's listening to me make some phenomenally intricate insight into the world of dog training.
or not.
I'm more likely asking the same question I did earlier, just phrased slightly differently to mislead her into thinking I really do have some memory retention. 
(and there's poor Dillion, sick with Gingeritis. sing it to me, Dill. I hear you barking.)

yep. see my hand going up? I'm very insightful. 
(dog trainers are a very patient bunch.)

here's Cade knocking out the cue "your mat" like it's his job.
which it is.
which is great.
because he knocks it out.

I'm holding my hand behind my back because (slightly more than) occasionally I can't keep my hand out of the treat bag. 
and when your hand is in the treat bag, your dog is thinking about nothing else
which frankly, I can totes relate to. more than most, I dare say. 

learning "back."
the "back" cue is a nice one to know when you're in an aisle of Red Walmart (otherwise known as Target, for those of you without children named Joshua who will immediately yell "Target? Can I come? Can I get a treat?") and you missed what you were going for by a couple of feet. rather than having to do a spin turn that can make a girl like me a little wonky, Cade and I can just back up right next to each other. we practiced next to those white gates so the pups knew we wanted them right by our sides. although, you're all correct in thinking it (and you know you are) who would leave that redhead's side?


poor Dillon. I'm paying for therapy when we leave. I know what I'm like without him...


so today's our rest day. if you're on Facebook or Instagram, you'll have seen that my two gentlemen here have been in a sleep competition that would put just about everyone to shame. it warms my heart. but not my stomach.

someone needs to get this girl a treat bag.

love and clicks and treats,

the Shu

while Cade is being transferred to us, the Shu has been transferred to Kristen & Jeff's house for what he has told me via phone is, and I quote, his "Ten Day Blast." 

as in, "I only have six days left of my Blast, mom."

Madison & Noah are hooking their cousing up. big time. via their parents, of course. 

post-out to dinner squinty-eyed ice cream love. 

squinty-eyed pooling. 

bright eyes while lunching between errands. (I love this kid.)

wait for it,
I have a couple videos of this, but my Blogger app & I are calling it a truce for the day. 

we shall meet again, dear sir. or madam.

anyone have any insights?



day one

y'all, I am tuckered. 

today was a blast, and I am so thrilled to have started this,
but, y'all, I am tuckered. 

it's so, so lovely to be able to come back to the hotel with absolutely nothing to do but recover. tonight that looked like a little FaceTime with the Shu and his cousins, some unbelievably delicious Mexican food and a big, comfy bed that someone else made. sigh. 

we learned loads today about clicker training, the genius behind it and why SDVA uses it. Karen Pryor is a good woman to google if you're interested in learning more. then, markus and I got to try it out on ourselves. I "trained" him to take his belt off, and he trained me to put my sunglasses on-- all without words, just a "click!" when we were moving in the right direction. it's pretty hilarious to put yourself in the dog's position. 

once we had refined our clicker timing, we got to work with the dogs. my boy Cade and I were together, and markus got to work with one of the dogs SDVA's trainer Lauren (she's our Transfer Camp leader) has been raising, a gorgeous little black lab lady named Dillon. 

I know how you feel, Dillon... gingers get me every stinking time. this one in particular. 
(good girl, close your mouth, he won't see the drool...)

here are Cade and me practicing "watch me," a cue that helps develop eye contact, which in turn helps develop the relationship between person and pup. it was made more difficult because I was holding a treat outstretched in my hand. as soon as he chose to make nice eye contact with me, I clicked and gave him the treat. 

(just look at Dillon! yes, yes, she's a phenomenally trained dog... but I swear it's at least 85/15 Training/Gingeritis.)

Day One. 
In The Books.

flying high, y'all... on this big, floofy bed,


everything for the "last time"

due to some incredibly unfortunate circumstances (read: the mamaLu took a knee-twisting fall at a cookout over the weekend, tearing one, or two, or possibly three various pieces parts in her right knee. ouch.), my exit out of town has been delayed until tomorrow.

but a family of nine children does one thing very, very well: finding a Plan B, and finding it very, very quickly :)

so, mark and i will make the grand exit tomorrow morning, just as soon as the Shu's aunt Mo can swing over and pick him up. he'll be staying with a different set of cousins for the next ten days, but we're nothing if not flexible. and his Virginian cousins will be here in ten days, so it's really a win-win for him. the aunt and uncle taking him in at the very last minute? OBVIOUSLY they win, too.

(love you guys... i take back nearly all of those You're So Old Because You're 40 jokes from last weekend.)

all of this jumbo to say i've had a few more days here to really dwell on the reality of this. i stood in my grocery store this morning, stocking my sister up on red peppers for the Shu's stay, and it struck me that it was the last time i will have to go through there on my own. i nearly dropped something on purpose just to have to pick it up myself one last time.

today's the last afternoon i lay down to rest my humidity-weary, achy body down on this couch in my mom's living room without the lovely, comforting "press" of Cade up against me.

tonight's the last time i will have to take off my socks, my shirt if the fabrics are painful by then.

all these "last times" keep running through my head. a vacancy is about to be filled. 

there is so much to learn between now and then. 


gratefulness abounds

my cup overflows.

mark and i have had so many people step forward in our lives in recent months, so many have leapt forward in these recent days, to make this dream a reality. a reality that i really, truly didn't think could happen for me. sometimes even should happen for me.

you know how this girl can get: all second-guessy and intimidated by love that is greater than her, weirded out by accepting the help she so willingly doles out.

but i've been trying to learn, and i've been available to this whole falutin' process. it has felt lengthy yet rapid, like it would never end yet the time flew by. and now? now, all of a sudden, i am leaving in two days for my Transfer Camp. the details are pouring in, making my head spin and causing mild to moderate breathing issues :)

this is such a gift from you. this chunk of time spent away from everything else in life- just mark and me- learning all we need to know for our lives with this beautiful dog.

thank you, to all of you.
your support means more than i could ever do justice with words.

much love, kids.
we'll talk soon.