Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Update on Service Dog Program

Finally I got the application from the service dog program I am hoping to work with!  I have almost finished filling it out.  It asks for pretty basic information, doesn't even ask for a full list of tasks I want my dog to help me with.  It asks me to list three things.  But I am going to print out my long list and enclose it when I return the application.

There is a form that must be completed by my doctor.  It doesn't specify which doctor but I am going to take it to my psychiatrist.  I made a copy of the form and I'm going to basically fill it out with all the information I need to have on it and then give that to him, along with some printed information of service dogs and how they can help people with mental illnesses.  He'll have his secretary type the answers and then sign it.

I've done this with him for other things I've needed.  Before I had my gastric bypass surgery, I was required to have a psych eval.  That's a pretty common practice before a patients has bariatric surgery.  I asked the receptionist at my surgeon's office what they were looking for in the psych eval, wrote down what she said, and gave that to my psychiatrist.  He had his secretary type it up on his letterhead and signed it.  So I essentially wrote my own psych eval.  I did basically the same thing when I was trying to get my student loans forgiven due to my disability.

My psychiatrist's office has a policy of charging a fee when they have to fill out paperwork like this, but in the past they have not charged me.  So I don't know if I'll have to pay the fee this time or not.  I may drop off the paperwork tomorrow, but I might need to wait a couple days until I get my disability payment if I have to pay the fee when I drop off the form.

I also have to have two reference letters from people that know me but that are not related to me.  These are just forms my references are supposed to fill out, they don't actually have to write letters.  I don't know who to ask.  Well, Mike will do one of them, but I don't know who the second person should be.  It's not like I have many friends, certainly not close friends.  I think I'm going to ask Mike's mom or dad to do it, but they don't know much about my disability.  They can say that I take good care of my cats and am good with animals, though.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Spoon Theory

Are you familiar with spoon theory?  I only recently came across the concept and it really fits for me.  I’m not going to try to explain it; instead I’m going to provide a link to the explanation as explained by the woman that developed the theory.  She explains it much better than I could.  So go read it and then come back here and we’ll talk some more.

The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino  

OK.  Does this idea make sense to you?  It makes so much sense to me.  And I feel like I never have enough spoons.  And I’m constantly wanting more.  And I’m constantly trying to make my spoons go further than they really can go.  It’s an exhausting battle and a futile one.
Now, I don’t think it’s exactly true to say that people without disabilities have unlimited spoons.  But it seems like a lot of people without disabilities have a lot more spoons than I do.  And I think they often don’t understand what it’s like to live with limited spoons.  To have to plan each day so carefully or risk running out of spoons before the day is done.
I can remember being younger and having so much more energy.  These days, I find myself having to make decisions like should I wash the dishes or should I take a shower?  Should I fold the laundry and put it away or should I cut up some veggies for dinner?  And when I go grocery shopping I am careful to make sure all the cold items get packed together so I can carry those into the house but leave the canned goods and other non-perishable stuff in the car to get later or for Mike to carry in when he gets home, because carrying everything into the house on top of doing the shopping is just too much.  Those just seem like things “normal” people don’t even think about.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fake Service Dogs

This is, apparently, a growing concern.  There are a number of companies that sell “service dog identification kits” or official-looking certificates for fake service dogs.  Some companies will sell certification kits for any animal at all.  Want to certify your pet gerbil or goldfish as a service gerbil or service fish?  There are companies that will send you a certificate and official-looking ID card for them!  With many of these companies, you do not have to prove that you have a disability, that your dog or other animals has had any training whatsoever, or even that the animal actually exists.  Want to certify your teddy bear as a service animal?  You can do so online for a couple hundred dollars!

What’s wrong with this?  Well, it’s illegal to actually take your dog into certain public places, like restaurants, unless it really is a service dog, for one thing.  You could be fined or even sentenced to jail time, although it seems that these laws are not often enforced.  It’s not fair to the restaurant owner, who may think he has to let you bring your dog in if you have some sort of certificate, even if he doesn’t want to.  In fact, in some instances, the restaurant owner may be violating local health codes by allowing dogs other than service dogs into the restaurant, which could result in hefty fines.  It’s not fair to other customers, who may be allergic to dogs, afraid of dogs, or just not wish to dine with your dog.

It can also create problems for people with real service dogs.  Since many fake service dogs haven’t received the extensive training that real service dogs typically receive, they often don’t behave appropriately in crowded public places or places that hold many temptations for a dog, like restaurants where food is readily available.  Untrained dogs may bark or growl at customers or at legitimate service dogs, lunge at customers or at legitimate service dogs, sniff customers (apparently some people object to having a large dog sniff their butt), jump up on people, lick people, eat food dropped on the floor or take food from tables, sniff or lick food on salad bars or in display cases, beg for food from customers, sprawl out in the middle of the floor where they get in the way of customers and staff, and pee (or worse) on the floor.  And yes, I’ve heard stories of dogs doing all these things when their handlers claimed they were service dogs.  When business owners have experiences with dogs that behave like this, is it any wonder they don’t want service dogs coming into their establishments anymore?

I think part of the problem, though, is that many business owners don’t seem to know their rights.  They are required by federal law to allow disabled people to bring service dogs into their places of business.  They are not permitted under federal law to ask what kind of disability someone has or to ask for proof that someone is disabled.  They are not permitted to ask if a dog is certified as a service dog, since there is no official certification system for service dogs.  They may, however, ask if a dog is a service dog and they may ask what tasks the dog is trained to perform.  If a customer cannot or will not answer those questions, the business owner does not have to permit him to enter the establishment.

If a service dog behaves in a way that is disruptive to a business, the business owner is legally permitted to ask the handler to remove the dog from the premises.  Business owners rarely seem to do this, maybe because they are afraid they will be sued for discrimination or maybe because they think that legally they must allow a service dog to enter no matter how it behaves.  But this is not true.  If a dog is barking at customers or trying to eat food off tables or salad bars or anything inappropriate like that, they can legally be asked to leave.  And they should be.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Update on My Service Dog

I still have not received an application for the K.I.S.S. service dog program.  I emailed the person about it last week and she said she hadn't mailed it yet but would do so then.  But if she did, I should have gotten it by now.  I emailed her back today to tell her I still hadn't received it.

I also never heard back from the Golden Retriever Rescue Resource, the rescue organization to which I had applied to adopt a dog, before I'd discovered the service dog program.  I emailed them again today, too, asking what's up.

I feel a little like I'm sitting in limbo.  I'm ready to get this show on the road and no one else seems in any hurry to do things like respond to emails!

Monday, July 23, 2012


I hate asking for money. Let’s just say that, right off the bat.

Now I have to tell a story.  I once worked for Green Peace.  This was a long time ago.  I canvassed door to door.  I knocked on doors, told people about whatever interesting thing Green Peace was up to at the time, and asked them for money.  I sucked at it.

I liked most things about the job.  I liked talking to people about saving dolphins and rain forests and things like that.  I loved the people I worked with.  They were interesting, diverse, cared about things like the environment and social justice, and liked poetry and folk music.  I liked the office, which was housed in a cool old building near the university. 

Perhaps what I loved best was that, every afternoon after we met at the office to get our assignments for the day, we piled into a van and drove to the area where we would be canvassing, and then we found a place to eat.  Sometimes we ate at Wendy’s or Pizza Hut, but whenever possible, we ate at small interesting places.  We ate at vegetarian places, vegan places, ethnic places.

But after we ate, we went out to canvass.  And I even enjoyed most parts of that.  The walking was nice, being outside was nice except when it stormed, talking to people was not bad.  But it was the asking for money part I hated.  And that was the part I sucked at.

We had discretion as far as how much money to ask for.  If we were knocking on the door of a big house with a fancy car in the drive, we would ask for more money than if we were in a neighborhood of modest houses.  If the people at the door seemed really interested in our mission, we would ask for more money than if they didn’t seem to care much.  But I was always worried about asking for too much.  Sometimes we’d canvass in pairs and after I asked for, and received, a modest donation from someone and the door was closed, my partner would whisper to me, “She would have given twice that much if you’d asked.  She was explaining to her three-year-old that we were activists and what that means!”

OK.  Anyway.  My point is, I have never liked asking for money and I have never been any good at it.

Unfortunately, service dogs are expensive, I really need a service dog, and my income puts me just a smidge above the poverty line at present.  This is the case, I think, for the majority of people that need service dogs.  Not all disabled people are poor, of course, but many are.  Those that cannot work, or that cannot work very much, may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  I believe the maximum amount one can get from SSI in 2012 is something like $710 per month.  Can you imagine living on that?  People on SSDI get more, but often not a lot more.  The amount is based on how much they earned before becoming disabled and unable to work.  My condition affected my ability to earn money even before I went on disability, which may be the case for many disabled people.

Even when they are able to work, people with disabilities may have somewhat limited job options.  They may be limited with regard to how many hours they can work because taking care of a disability can take a lot of time and interfere with typical work hours.  For instance, when I had a regular job, I had to have a job where my boss didn’t mind me leaving work early one day every single week to go to therapy.  And people with some disabilities may tire more quickly than most people; it was difficult for me to work a lot of hours when I was working because I was always exhausted from getting only four or five hours of sleep each night.  And it can take a lot longer to do some things when you have a disability; for instance, I sometimes have a lot of trouble concentrating so it might take me two or three times as long to write an article as it would take someone else to do it.

In addition to earning low wages, or receiving limited payments from Social Security, it’s important to understand that it is expensive just to exist as a disabled person.  Of course the cost varies depending on what type of disability someone has and what their specific needs are, but people with disabilities frequently have expenses that people without disabilities don’t have.  I spend a lot of money on therapy.  I also pay for several prescriptions each month and pay to see my psychiatrist at least once every few months and am still paying for the ECT (electoconvulsive therapy) I had 18 months ago.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m trying to justify why I have to ask for help raising the money for my service dog.  I’m just trying to provide some information about the socio-economic issues facing people with disabilities.  I think.  But maybe I feel a bit guilty about having to ask for help.  Asking for help is not easy for me.

You can donate through Paypal.   I tried to put a button here that would make that easy but it didn't work for some reason and I can't figure it out.  So I'll give you a link, instead.  Paypal  My Paypal address to send donations to is poet_kelly at yahoo dot com.

You can also donate by check or money order through the mail.  I recommend against mailing actual cash, though; it’s too easy for cash to get “lost” in the mail.  Checks and money orders can be made out to Kelly Morris.  They can be mailed to 1307 Preakness Drive, Mansfield, Ohio 44906.

Any amount would be helpful, even just a couple of dollars.  All funds raised will be used to cover the cost of a service dog; I will stop fundraising when I’ve raised $6,000, the amount I need initially to obtain a service dog.  If I somehow end up with extra funds, they will be donated to a program that provides service dogs for people in need.  The actual cost of raising and training a service dog is more than $6,000, often closer to $20,000, so organizations that provide service dogs need donations in order to keep costs down for the people they serve.

Thanks to all that can help.

Funny Search Terms

Blogspot provides statistics about who visits a blog and how they find it, which I always find interesting.  If someone finds my blog through Google or some other search engine, blogspot tells me what search terms they used.  Most of the search terms seem reasonable to me, like "service dog for insomnia," "service dog for dissociative identity disorder," or "service dog find the car."

However, the other day someone found this blog by searching for "had to pee."  I'm trying to imagine why one would be searching for information on "had to pee."  What information was that person hoping to find?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

PTSD and Fear of the Dark

I feel silly just saying I am afraid of the dark because it’s something we are supposed to outgrow as children, isn’t it?  And anyway, it’s not always true.  Sometimes I have no fear of the dark.  Sometimes I even like it.  Sometimes I feel safe in the dark; no one can see me.  And it’s restful for my eyes.  And I have always been comfortable moving around in the dark; I can find my way around my house in the dark without bumping into things, for instance.  I can take a CD out of my CD player and put in a new one, without turning the light on. 

But then there are times I am afraid.  I relate it to my PTSD, although I’m not really sure that’s always what it’s about.  There are plenty of nights I sleep with a light on, usually with a blanket pulled over my eyes to shield them from the light, because the light bothers me when I am trying to sleep.  And yet, I am afraid to turn the light off.

One of the tasks I want my service dog to be trained to do for me is turn on lights.  I may need to replace the light switches in my home, or some of them, at least, with those switches that are like touch pads.  You just push them and the light comes on; push them again and the light goes out.  I’ve read that they are easier for a dog to operate than the typical light switches that have to be flipped up and down. 

Also, I often sleep on the living room couch at night and the lights in the living room are not operated by switches at all.  There is no overhead fixture, only two lamps, one at either end of the couch.  I saw a video about a service dog recently and the dog was stepping on a round switch on the floor to turn on a light.  When I say switch, in the this case I am not talking about a light switch like you would have on a wall, but the type of switch a disabled person might use to turn something electronic on and off.  I tried to find a picture online of what I’m talking about, but the closest I could find was this plate switch which is rectangular instead of round.  When I worked with kids with disabilities, though, we always had round ones.  Anyway, my dog will need a way to turn on a light in the living room.

I want my service dog to be able to turn on a light in the room when I have a nightmare, preferably without me having to give the command to do so, because it can take me a while to wake up enough to realize what’s happening and that I need a light on.  I also need my dog to go into a dark room ahead of me and turn a light on.  As I said, I can find my way around the house in the dark just fine, and sometimes I have no trouble walking into a dark room.  Other times, though, I’m terrified of walking into a dark room. 

A couple nights ago, it was the middle of the night and I had to pee.  Normally when I’m up late at night and Mike is already in bed, I don’t turn on the hall light when I go down the hall to the bathroom because the light shines into the bedroom and I don’t want to disturb him.  I walk down the dark hall and into the dark bathroom, where I might turn on the light and close the door, or I might just leave the door open enough that a very little bit of light comes in from the living room. 

But this particular night, that hall looked too long and too dark.  I started to walk down it a couple times, then stopped and returned to the living room, where it was light.  I could not bring myself to walk down that dark hall.  By that time I really had to pee and I was trying to figure out what to do.  Briefly I considered my options; there really is nowhere else to pee in my house but in that bathroom at the end of that dark hall.  Waiting until daylight was not going to work.

I finally decided to turn the hall light on.  Don’t ask me why it took such as long time to decide to do that.  When I am anxious or other PTSD symptoms are bad, my problem solving skills go down the drain.  Even with the hall light on, it was hard to walk into that dark bathroom.  You have to go around a corner to get into the bathroom and light from the hall does leak into the bathroom, but it’s dim.  You pretty much have to step into the bathroom before you can turn on the bathroom light.

I finally made it to the bathroom, but it was a time when I really wished I had my service dog already.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Have You Heard about the Dispute over a Dog in Oregon?

Basically, this young woman found a lost dog.  She says she looked for the owner, but it turns out the owner lived near her and he reported the dog missing to the county animal shelter and checked in there regularly, and she apparently never contacted the shelter as she should have done about finding the dog.  He also says he put up signs in the neighborhood and he posted an ad about the lost dog on Craig’s List.  So there is some question about whether or not she even looked for the owner.

She decided to train the dog to be her service dog because she has asthma.  She says she trained him to bring her an inhaler when she needs it.  I’m not sure why she cannot carry her own inhaler in her pocket or something and most people with asthma are not considered disabled by it, not under the Americans with Disabilities definition, so there is also some question about her need for a service dog.  But she says the dog is now her service dog.

Then one day at a coffee shop, she and the dog happened to cross paths with the original owner, who recognized his dog.  He spoke to her and she agreed to return the dog to him the following day.  She did not return the dog, though; instead, she went out and bought a license for the dog (which by law she should have done long before then).  The previous owner had purchased a license for the dog when he was supposed to do so, but the new owner only did it when her ownership of the dog was challenged.

The new owner says since she’s had the dog for a year, and since she needs him because he is her service dog, she should get to keep him.  The previous owner says that since he reported the dog lost and since he does not think the new owner really looked for the dog’s owner when she found the dog, she should give him back.  The county animal control people investigated and they agree with the original owner.  They told the new owner to return the dog.

But she didn’t.  Instead she hired a lawyer and they are fighting about it.

Recently, she was arrested for refusing to return the dog and the dog is now being kept at the animal shelter until the case is resolved.

She is also now alleging that the original owner abused the dog by kicking him, beating him, and urinating on him and that because he abused the dog, she should not have to give the dog back.  I think it’s unlikely that a dog that has been severely abused had the temperament to become a service dog.  I also think it’s a bit odd that she’s only now making these accusations of abuse.

Of course, the fact that she trained the dog, or says she trained him, to be her service dog is not really relevant.  Animals, including service dogs, are considered to be personal property.  It doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law if the man lost his wallet, his pet dog, or his service dog.  It doesn’t matter how the young woman has used the property she found, whether she trained the dog to be a service dog or a circus dog or whatever.  The issue is who is the rightful owner of the property.

Here are some links to some articles if you want to read more about the case.

BeaumontEnterprise: Stray Dog Dispute Heads for Portland Courtroom  

TheBark: Whose Dog Is It? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Animal Hoarders

Have you seen that show Animal Hoarders?  I'm watching it on Netflix.

Now, I can kinda understand how someone could hoard cats.  I love cats.  And kittens are so adorable.  I have three cats right now and the reasons I don't have more are mainly because cats get unhappy when they are too crowded and because I cannot afford to care for more than three.  I feel very strongly that people should not have more pets than they can care for properly, and that includes paying vet bills.  I just spent more than $1500 on Cayenne's vet bills and believe me, I can't afford another cat right now! 

The most cats I've ever had at one time was six, and besides the cost issue, the "cat density" was too high.  One of our cats began spending almost all of her time outside, rarely even coming in to eat.  She used to hunt and leave mice on our patio for us.  She typically stayed out all night and there would be one or two mice waiting for us almost every  morning.  Then she would come in and sleep in the house all day.  But after we adopted five other cats (she was the first), she began staying outside almost all the time and began eating the mice she caught.  She didn't even want to come in to eat.  I felt bad for her since she was here first and got crowded out, but she was obviously unhappy, so we found her a new home.  We found her a home where she would be the only cat and get lots of attention and she was much happier there.

Anyway, hoarding cats I can kinda understand.  But on this episode I am watching, this guy hoards chickens.  He has 158 of them.  In his house.  That I don't get.  If you wanted to have 158 chickens, why not build them a big chicken coop?  I mean, even if you didn't mind the horrible mess in the house (and how could you not?), the chickens would be happier outside.

Animal hoarding is really sad, I think, because of the terrible conditions the animals end up living in.  When people hoard things, their lives may be miserable, but when they hoard animals, the animals suffer.  It makes me sad.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Update on the Service Dog Program

I finally got to talk to someone that got a dog from the program I am considering working with.  As I thought would be the case, he was perfectly happy to talk to me.  I talked to both the man with the service dog and his wife.  I did not ask him about his disability or any personal information, but he volunteered a lot of stuff.  He told me what his condition was and about some of his symptoms and some of the tasks his service dog does to help him.

He and his wife were both very pleased with the program and with their dog.  They talked about how well behaved the dog is in public and how helpful the dog has been.  I felt really good about the conversation and I feel less concerned about this program now.

I still don't know why the lady I talked to kept saying none of their clients would be willing to talk because these people sure were.

In a couple weeks, I plan to visit the program and see some dogs in the later stages of their training.  In the meantime, I plan to go ahead and complete the application for the program whenever I get it.  The lady is supposed to be sending it to me but I have not received it yet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Radiofrequency Neurotomy

Yesterday I had a radiofrequency neurotomy at L3, L4, and L5 on the right side of my back.  In English, this means the doctor stuck three big needles in my lower back and zapped some nerve endings with electricity.  It was about as much fun as it sounds.

I got some Versed for the procedure, though, which made it more enjoyable.  It hurt, but as soon as it was over, I fell asleep.  I woke up long enough to leave the hospital, then fell asleep again.  I woke up partway home to eat lunch at Panera, then slept the rest of the way home. 

My back feels good today.  Well, the right side does.  The left still hurts.  I get that side done next week.  After that I have to start physical therapy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More on the Service Dog Program

I emailed the woman from the service dog program and explained that I had some concerns.  She emailed me back and now she is willing to ask some prior clients if they would be willing to speak with me.  She also said there are some dogs in the program that are nearing the end of their training, and I can visit and see them.  So I will plan to do that.

I asked her how many dogs they've trained and placed to date and she didn't answer that question.  She did, however, tell me that the program has been in existence since 2003 and I am the first person to ever ask for references.  I find that hard to believe.

I'm going to visit the program and I will talk to clients if I get the chance but I'm not sure right now how I feel about this program.  Some things just don't quite sound right to me.

More Names for a Service Dog

I have some more ideas for names for my service dog.

Gavrilla – this is a Hebrew name that means “strong woman.”  I’m thinking I would call the dog Gavi for short.

Liberty – could be a girl or boy, I guess.  Because a service dog would give me so much more freedom.

Saffron – could be a girl or boy.  For a golden retriever, because of the color.

Amelia – for a girl, of course.  It means “industrious.”  I like the name and the meaning is OK, but I don’t love the meaning.

Maya – for a girl.  It’s a Hindi name that means “the divine creative source in everything.”  That’s pretty awesome.

Truth – for a girl, I think.  Although I guess it could be for a boy, too.

Adrienne – for a girl, of course.  I found it on a list of names inspired by writers, for Adrienne Rich (do you love her work?).  It is French and means “dark one.”  I think I would call her Ren for short.

Faith – for a girl.

Naomi – also for a girl, of course.  It’s a Biblical name.

Unity – could be for a girl or a boy.

Some “nature names” I found on this site http://www.babycenter.com/0_baby-names-inspired-by-nature_10305329.bc that I kind of like: Winter (could be a girl or boy), Stone (for a boy), Solstice (could be a girl or boy, I think), Sage (for a girl), and West (for a boy, I think).

I found a neat website for helping you choose pet names.  You can look for names under all different categories.  Let me just say, some people name their pets weird things.  Also, Max is the most popular name for a dog.  And Bella is popular for both cats and dogs.  I wonder why.  Anyway, here’s a link to the site if you want to check it out: http://www.petbabynames.com/index.php

And here’s another neat site for finding baby names.  You can look under lots of different categories: http://www.babycenter.com/baby-names-ideas

Does anybody else look at baby name dictionaries for help choosing a name for a pet? 

What names do you like?  What are your pets’ names?