Monday, August 27, 2012

The Next Step

I emailed the director of the service dog program to find out what the next step of the process is.  She said as soon as she has all my paperwork, which she should be receiving in another day or two because I mailed it over the weekend, she will contact me to schedule a home visit.  Oh.  That means I have to clean my house, doesn't it?

Well, Mike cleaned the toilet over the weekend.  Does that count?

But I'm thinking it probably means I need to scrub the carpet where it smells like cat pee, thanks to Miss Cayenne.  And knock down the cobwebs I noticed around the light fixture in the bathroom the other day.

She told me there are two dogs that are within a few months of finishing their training that she is thinking might be suitable for me.  So I'm excited.  I could have my service dog by the end of the year.

I gotta work more on the fundraising.  I've had a couple churches offer some assistance, so I think it's going well so far.

And at least I have an incentive to clean my house!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finally, a Picture of Indigo

To get it, I had to sneak up on her while she was sleeping.

See, today I meant to do laundry.  But when I went into the bedroom to get the dirty clothes, I discovered Indigo sleeping in the dirty laundry.  She loves to sleep in the dirty clothes.  Cayenne likes to get in the clean laundry when I take it out of the dryer, but Indigo prefers the dirty clothes.  She was sound asleep, all curled up and cute.  So I let her sleep a while.

A couple hours later, I decided that I really needed to get the laundry started.  I decided to try to get a picture of her in the laundry basket, figuring that the flash would startle her and she'd run away and then I'd start the laundry.

She did wake up as I was snapping the picture, but she didn't get away fast enough.  I actually got a picture!

See how perturbed she looks at being disturbed?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Some Good News

The other day I was looking at my bank account online and saw the Social Security Administration had made an unexpected deposit in my account.  The deposit was for the amount normally deducted from my SSDI payment for my Medicare premium.  I had no idea why I was receiving that deposit, so I had to call the Social Security Administration to ask about it.  Not that I don't appreciate some extra cash, but if they make a deposit in error, at some point they are going to want it back.  And if they were refunding my Medicare premium for some reason, I didn't want to discover that unbeknownst to me, my Medicare policy had been cancelled.

If you've never had to telephone the Social Security Administration, well, you're lucky.  They have one of those phone trees where they tell you to press one if you are calling about disability, press two if you are calling about Medicare, and so on.  You have to work your way through layers and layers of this.  They don't tell you what to press if you want to talk to a real live person.  But after ten minutes or so, I was informed that my call would be transferred to a customer service representative.

I then was on hold for 17 minutes waiting for someone to assist me.  And believe it or not, that's a short hold time when calling Social Security.

It was worth it, though, because when I finally got to talk to a real live person, I was informed that I now qualify for the state to pay my Medicare premium for me.  I'm not sure if that's because my income has dropped slightly since last year, due to getting less work from one editor, or because of changes to the Medicaid system thanks to Obama-care, or both.  But who cares?  This means I'll be receiving almost $100 more each month from SSDI.  Which happens to be exactly the amount I've been informed it will cost to care for a dog.

That sure works out nice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Took Cayenne to the Vet Today

She hates going to the vet, she's scared, but there is one thing I like about taking her.  Because she's scared, she gets super snuggly.  I hold her in my arms the whole time and while normally she would never sit still for that, she's happy to snuggle in when we're at the vet.  I enjoy getting to hold her.

Her blood sugar level is good and she has gained back almost all the weight she lost when she was so sick a couple months ago.  However, she had conjunctivitis (pinkeye) and now I have to put ointment in her eyes twice daily for one week.  That sounds like fun, huh?  She doesn't even like me to wipe eye boogers out of her eyes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Started Physical Therapy for My Back Today

It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, and fortunately, the therapist only wants to see me once a week.  I have to do exercises at home but not that many.

She also told me some very interesting things.  She pointed out that the reason my MRI may not have looked bad is because for the MRI, I was lying flat on my back.  Well, my back doesn't hurt when I lie on my back.  It hurts when I bend and move in certain ways.  But they can't really do an MRI of you moving.  But that means that the MRI may not show how pressure is being put on a disc in the back when you move certain ways.

Does that make sense to anyone?  It made plenty of sense to me.  I came right home and emailed my mother, who works for an orthopedic doctor; in fact, the doctor that originally treated me for my back pain and couldn't figure out what the problem was works in her office. 

She did not seem to think I was making any sense at all and explained to me that they can't do an MRI while you bend over.  Yeah, I know that.  I wasn't trying to say they should have had me bend over for the MRI.  I was just saying that an MRI done in a position which doesn't cause pain might not show a problem that causes pain in another position.

She said that if there was a problem with my back, it should show up lying flat.  Well, it didn't.  And there is most certainly a problem if my back hurts so much I cannot bend over or lift anything.

But no, physical therapists don't know anything, do they?  The doctors know it all.  Even though that particular doctor said he had no idea what was wrong with my back.

Now I'm aggravated. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Keeping My Vet in Business

This evening, I noticed my kitty Indigo is limping.  She is favoring her left front paw.  I looked at the foot very carefully and can't find anything wrong with it, no sores, no thorns, nothing visible and when I gently squeeze the foot she doesn't act like it hurts.  But she doesn't want to put weight on it.  Since she otherwise appears to feel fine, I don't think she needs to see the vet on an emergency basis (which is good because my vet charges an addition $75 fee for emergency visits outside of normal office hours) but if she is still limping Monday morning, she'll have to go to the vet.

The last time I had a cat that was limping and couldn't see anything wrong with his foot, it turned out he had a fractured hip.  And he was only limping slightly and I'd waited about 24 hours before taking him to the vet to see if the limp would just get better, because I had no idea he was seriously injured.  I felt just terrible when the vet showed me the x-ray.  He had to have surgery and I forget how much it cost but I'm sure it was a lot!

I love my cats.  But I don't think my vet needs a new car or a vacation just now, and if he does, I don't want to fund it!

Friday, August 17, 2012


I met the trainer I'd talked to on the phone and saw two of the dogs she's trained today.  One of the dogs is almost done with his training and the other has a little longer to go but both were able to demonstrate things like sitting, down, heeling, opening and closing doors, and retrieving things.  We went for a short walk with one of the dogs and I got to hold the leash and tell him to heel and she showed me what she does when he starts to get ahead of her on a walk.  He was really sweet.  When he started to get ahead of me I told him to heel and he did and then he looked at me and I could tell what he wanted was a treat.  He also really liked sniffing my sandals (I think they smelled like my cats) and licked my feet for a bit.

She told me that service dogs can do more than three tasks, that what she had meant was that they typically only train three tasks before placing the dog with the handler, but then more tasks can be added on.  She said she meant that it's too hard for a dog to learn more than three tasks at the same time, which makes plenty of sense to me.  I think she just wasn't explaining things well over the phone.  Or I just misunderstood, but I  think it was more how she was saying it.

Anyway, she said she thought she would be able to train a dog to do the things I need him to do but that some of the things I would need to work on further after I brought the dog home, and that all made sense to me.  I'm very excited now.  I still need to get the paperwork form my doctor, which I should get sometime next week, and send that in and the director should be calling me sometime next week to talk about when they might have a dog that would be ready for me.

Taking a Trip to See the Trainer Today

Today I am driving to see the trainer with the K-9's in Special Service program.  It's about a two hour drive, unfortunately.  But I'm excited to see a couple of the dogs she's been training and to learn more about her training methods and to discuss the tasks I need a service dog to do.

My plan is - I think - that if the dogs from this program are well-trained and good dogs, I will select three tasks for them to train the dog for me, and then I will work with the professional trainer I would use if I had to train a service dog myself to train the dog to do the rest of the tasks I need him to do.  That will be an additional cost to me but I've been told that the most difficult parts of training a service dog is selecting the dog in the first place, training the dog to behave appropriately in all sorts of public places, and proofing the dog to distractions.  Proofing the dog to distractions basically means that the dog will follow commands and perform his tasks even if there are people around calling to the dog, barking at him, meowing at him, offering him food, etc.  So if the program selects a good dog, trains it for public access, and proofs it to distractions, they've done the hardest parts.  Training the dog to perform additional tasks should not be that difficult.

I really, really hope things look good this afternoon.  I really hope this program works out.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Well, That Was an Expensive Mistake

This morning I went to the fridge to get out Cayenne's insulin for her injection and discovered her insulin was not in the fridge.  It was, instead, sitting on the shelf with her syringes.  I immediately called Mike at work, hoping to hear that he had given her the injection this morning before leaving for work, although he usually doesn't.  That task almost always falls to me.  Sure enough, he had not done it.

That means I left the insulin out last night when I gave her the after dinner injection.  So it had been sitting out for more than 12 hours.  I figured I already knew the answer, but I called the vet anyway, hoping they would tell me it would still be good.

No such luck.  That means I have to throw out about half a vial of expensive insulin and go buy a new bottle.  Which I think costs something like $80.  Darn it.

Edited to add: I wish a vial of insulin only cost $80!  Apparently I had forgotten how much it was last time I had to buy some.  It was a long while back since Cayenne is on a pretty low dose and one vial lasts a long, long time.  Plus the cost was so high, I probably blocked it out of my mind like a traumatic memory.  $130!

Next time we see the vet, I am going to ask if it would be possible to switch her to human insulin, which I could purchase for less money at Walmart.  Some vets do prescribe human insulin for cats.  I called Walmart to see if they carry the Prozinc pet insulin, which is what I'm currently using, but unfortunately, they do not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thank You Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church of Ashland, Ohio has offered me a substantial portion of the money I need to raise for a service dog.  It's certainly not the whole amount needed, but it's a big portion of it and I am so grateful. 

They asked for some sort of documentation that proves I have PTSD and am disabled by it, which I should be able to get from my doctor tomorrow at my scheduled appointment.  I have no problem providing that kind of documentation; I'd want to see some documentation, too, if I was considering handing someone a big check.

I was feeling really discouraged last night and feel much more hopeful after receiving the telephone call about this donation this afternoon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Can Only Teach a Service Dog Three Tricks?

So says the trainer with the service dog program I am considering working with.  I spoke to her by phone today to set up a time to go visit the program and see a couple of the dogs nearing the end of their training, which I think I will be doing on Friday.

But she also wanted to talk to me about my application and the tasks I'd mentioned I wanted a dog to be trained to help me with.  I listed six or seven things on the application and she said I need to narrow it down to three.  She said they usually only teach the dog to do a maximum of three tasks because if they try to teach the dog more than that, the dog gets too stressed and is unable to become proficient at any of the tasks.  So she told me to look at my list of tasks and decide which ones I think are most important.

I've never heard this before and I think I've done a fair amount of research.  I was in the car on my way to the Cleveland Clinic to see my back specialist when I was talking to her (I know, you're not supposed to talk on your cell phone and drive at the same time, but it's a long drive and it's boring and it's so convenient to make phone calls while I'm in the car) so I just said OK.  I couldn't wait to get home so I could get online and ask some people if this was correct, if service dogs were usually only trained to do three tasks.  Because it doesn't sound right to me.  I am really not sure about this program.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Fundraising Efforts

I’ve set up a fundraiser on the site Go Fund Me, which you can see here:

You can help by posting a link on Facebook, on your blog, or anywhere else where people will see it.  Of course, you can also help by donating!  Remember, even a couple dollars can make a big difference.

Thank you and bless you.

Perks of Disability?

A woman I know that has a service dog told me a strange and disturbing story the other day.  She was at the grocery store and a woman in the store came up to her and told her how lucky she is to be disabled.  Yeah, really.  The woman said she’d always been envious of the “preferential treatment” the disabled get, like better parking places, disability payments so they don’t have to work, service dogs and wheelchairs.  She said she didn’t necessarily want to have a disability but would love to have all the “perks” that come with it.

Never mind the fact that the woman she was talking to, the one shopping with her service dog, does work.  She has a fulltime job.  I’m sure she gets many other perks, just like all disabled people do, right?

Oh yes, the many perks of being disabled.... like the opportunity to try to figure out how to live on the little bit of money I get from Social Security, that's a fun one.  

And the excitement of all my many, many medical appointments.  Why, Monday I get to make the 90 minute drive to the Cleveland Clinic to discuss with the doctor the procedure I had a couple weeks ago where they stuck really large needles in my back.  That was great fun!  And the doctor is going to give me a referral to physical therapy, for which I will get to drive one hour there and one hour back three times a week.  It's great to get to sit in all these doctors' waiting rooms reading old magazines and spend my little bit of disability money on gas for the car for all these fun trips.  I am lucky indeed!

The insomnia that comes with my PTSD affords me all sorts of perks, as well.  For instance, I get to be awake to watch the most fascinating infomercials on TV in the middle of the night.  I'm sure people that actually get to sleep more than three or four hours a night are sorry they miss those.

The dissociation and disorientation is great, too.  For instance, the fact that I usually have no clue where my car is when I come out of a store allows me the chance to get a lot of exercise, walking up and down the rows in the parking lot looking for my car.  That's especially enjoyable in the rain.  Not only is the exercise a great perk, but if it's raining hard enough, I can just skip my shower for the day and rinse off while I look for the car!  It comes in so handy.

Of course, all the meds I'm on are a nice benefit of being disabled.  I mean, some people have to spend lots of money and go visit questionable characters in bad parts of town to obtain pain medications.  All I had to do was injure my back badly enough that a couple of disks bulge way out of place and push on some nerves.  Then my doctor was happy to prescribe pain meds and my insurance covers them.  Of course, I spend a fair amount of my disability pay for that insurance, but still...

And don't forget all the little vacations I've gotten to take to various psych units.  There I enjoy deluxe accommodations (semi-private rooms with rather uncomfortable beds), delicious meals (doesn't everyone love hospital food?), and fun-filled activities like stress management group and bingo.  It's especially fun when I get to spend the holidays there.  Hospitals serve such yummy Christmas dinners, you know.

With so many perks to be had, makes me wonder why everyone doesn't go out and injure their backs and endure something that will cause them to develop PTSD.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some Kitty Pictures

I've been meaning to take a picture of Indigo so I could post it here, so today I finally got out my camera and attempted to take one.  It did not work.  Indigo refused to cooperate.  It is very cloudy and rainy here today, so it is dim inside my house.  That means that when I tried to snap a picture, the flash on the camera came on.  Apparently Indigo finds that little flash of light to be very scary.  As soon as it flashed, she fled.  That means all I got on camera was a blur.  I chased her around the house, trying several times, but each time, she ran.  She can be quite a brat.

I did, however, get a picture of Larry in his new favorite bed.  Have you noticed how cats will chose a favorite place to sleep and sleep there all day, every day, for a while?  Then they suddenly decide they don't like sleeping there anymore and find a new favorite place, never returning to the old favorite again.  Well, this is Larry's current favorite.  It's a box of clothes, waiting to be donated to the thrift store.  It's been sitting in my living room floor for about a week but he just discovered it yesterday.  He slept there all day yesterday and all day today.  Cute, huh?

Cayenne still loves to sleep on my old printer.  I had to move it to the center of the table it's on because yesterday and the day before that, both, she fell off it.  Not just off the printer, but off the table.  Landed on the floor, looking dazed and confused.  The printer was in the corner of the table.  So I moved the printer, hoping that if she falls off again, at least she won't fall so far.  She's cute, too, huh?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Selling Fake Service Dog Identification Tags

Today I came across another one of those websites that sells fake service dog identification tags.  I’m not going to post the name of the site or the URL because I don’t want to send them any customers.  The website offers laminated tags complete with a photo of your dog and the words “Emotional Support Animal” or “Service Animal,” your choice, for just $15.  The site then goes on to list the benefits of having “service dog tags:”

“Some rules and benefits of having service dog tags:
  • Ability to bring your dog aboard an airline free of charge.
  • Ability to take your dog into any shopping center or public area free of harassment
  • Ability to bring your dog into hotels while travelling regardless of a no-pet policy. They are not allowed to charge you for the animal.
  • Your dog will be allowed to live in apartments/homes that under normal circumstances do not allow animals, free of charge.”
Um… not quite.

  • You cannot bring your dog aboard an airline free of charge unless you are disabled and your dog is a service dog, trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability, or you are mentally disabled and your treating physician writes a letter stating that your dog is an emotional support animal and you need to have your dog on the plane.  Having a “service dog tag” will not exempt you from these requirements, and if you meet these requirements, you don’t need any type of service dog tag.
  • You cannot take your dog into shopping centers or other public areas (unless pets are always permitted there, in which case you don’t need service dog tags) unless you are disabled and your dog is a service dog, trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability.  Having a “service dog tag” will not exempt you from these requirements, and if you meet these requirements, you don’t need any type of service dog tag.  In addition, having a service dog tag does not guarantee no one will harass you in a public place.
  • You cannot bring your dog into hotels while traveling regardless of a no-pet policy unless you are disabled and your dog is a service dog, trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability.  Having a “service dog tag” will not exempt you from these requirements, and if you meet these requirements, you don’t need any type of service dog tag.  Are you beginning to sense a pattern here?
  • Your dog will not be allowed to live in apartments/homes that under normal circumstances do not allow animals free of charge unless you are disabled and your dog is a service dog, trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability, or you are mentally disabled and your treating physician writes a letter stating that your dog is an emotional support animal and is a necessary component of your treatment plan.  Having a “service dog tag” will not exempt you from these requirements, and if you meet these requirements, you don’t need any type of service dog tag.
And if that’s not all bad enough, the site goes on to explain that the Definition of a Service Animal under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Justice is any animal that provides unconditional love, comfort, serves as a crime deterant or pehaps in some way enhances someones physical or mental health by their presence.”

I decided not to correct the multiple misspellings and grammatical errors because I think they just further demonstrate the unprofessionalism of the website I’m talking about.
I’m just amazed at the misinformation on this site.  I guess some people will do anything to make $15.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Little Change Can Change a Life

You know those jars you see on the counters of gas stations and restaurants and stores sometimes?  There by the register to collect change for some charity or another?  They look something like this:

Yep.  That’s me.  On a jar.  
I have two slightly different versions, one for larger jars and one for smaller jars.  Here’s a close-up of the info for the larger jars:

The Evangelical Alliance for Renewal is a Christian ministry that has agreed to assist me with fundraising for my service dog.  I am appreciative of the help!

I’m not sure at the moment how many jars will be placed in businesses around my town.  We’ll see.  I’m gathering jars at the moment.  I also need to get some new colored ink for my printer.  If you were thinking the dog pictured above looks a bit pinkish, that’s why – I’m low on colored ink.

And here’s how you can help.  If you know of a local business or some other public place where you could put a jar, just let me know.  I can email you the photos and text and you can print it out yourself, or I can print it out and mail it to you via snail mail.  Use any glass jar; this is a canning jar but I also plan to repurpose some old applesauce and pickle jars.  Tape the photos and text on the side of the jar.  Punch a hole in the lid of the jar so people can drop in coins or folded dollar bills; I was able to punch a hole in this jar lid with a rather dull steak knife.  Drop in a few coins and a dollar bill to get things started.  Ask the manager of the business to phone you if the jar gets full, but you can also check it often.  I’ll give you the address for the Evangelical Alliance for Renewal, to which donations can be sent.

If business owners want more information about how donations will be used, or information about service dogs in general, please direct them to this website.  I’ll be happy to provide any info they need.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dressed Up Dogs

There is an internet forum for people with service dogs on which I post sometimes.  Recently, I read a post on there by someone who said she dresses her service dog in a dress, diaper, and shoes and pushes her around in a stroller.  At first I thought she was joking.  I mean, how ridiculous is that image?

But no, apparently she was not joking.  People started asking her why she dressed up her dog, why her dog wore a diaper, and how her dog could perform tasks that mitigate her disability while in a stroller.  She declined to answer most questions, but did say that her dog needed to wear shoes because sometimes the ground is hot and she didn’t want the dog to burn her feet.  Which might make sense, except if the dog is in a stroller, her feet aren’t on the hot ground.  There are actually boots designed for dogs, which protect their feet from hot pavement or from ice and snow, but I got the impression she was talking about baby shoes, not dog shoes.

The Department of Justice says that service dogs must be housebroken, so a service dog has no need of a diaper.  Therefore, if her dog needs a diaper, she is by definition not a service dog.  If she doesn’t need a diaper, why on earth put one on her?  I really wanted to know but she wouldn’t answer that question.

I also really wanted to know what tasks the dog could do from a stroller.  It seems like there would not be very many.  A number of people objected to putting a service dog in a dress and pushing her in a stroller because it looks “unprofessional,” and I agree it does look that way, but I’m more concerned with the ability of the dog to perform the tasks she’s been trained to perform.  If she’s been trained to perform any.  It seems that perhaps her owner doesn’t need her to perform any tasks, if she has her in a stroller from which she cannot perform tasks, in which case she has no legal right to take the dog into public places where pets are not permitted.

Even if we weren’t talking about a service dog, why would someone want to put a dress and a diaper on a dog and push it in a stroller?  If your dog wears diapers and dresses, please, enlighten me!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Do You Have to Pick up Your Service Dog’s Poop?

Someone found my blog by searching for “does service dog’s poop get picked up.”  Well, hopefully it does!  Most places have laws these days saying dog owners must pick up after their dogs and in a few places, service dog handlers are exempt from these laws, but in most places, they also must pick up after their dogs.

People with all sorts of disabilities can learn to pick up dog poop.  It might be challenging to pick up poop when you can’t see it or when you sit in a wheelchair and can’t bend over, but people do it.  For instance, a blind person typically knows when her guide dog is pooping.  Guide dogs are often trained to poop on command, and if you’re walking a dog and it stops and you feel the leash move in a certain way, you might guess that your dog is taking a dump.  You might also smell it.  So a blind person has some idea where her dog just pooped.  She can stick her hand in a plastic bag, feel around on the ground for the warm squishy stuff, pick it up, and turn the bag inside out and tie it shut. 

So, sorry to break it to you, but even if your dog is a service dog, you still have to pick up poop.  I know, bummer, huh?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cats and Dogs

I've been wondering how my cats will react to a service dog.  Larry and Cayenne have never been around dogs before.  Indigo used to have a puppy friend when she was a kitten.  He lived down the street and his owners let him run around off-leash.  One day he came into our yard and Indigo was outside and they started playing together.  It was so cute.  She would chase him and he would get so excited and yap and run around in circles.  All fall, he would come over and if he didn't see her outside, he would bark at our door to see if she could come out and play.  Then it got cold and snowed and she refused to go out and play in the snow.  We never saw the puppy again after that winter.

My next door neighbor just got a new puppy and he is very cute, but I have to say, watching him has convinced me that I made the right decision in choosing not to get a puppy.  He is so hyper and energetic.  Today I was standing on my patio talking to her, and Larry and Cayenne came outside and the puppy saw them and wanted to play.  Larry took off around the side of the house; he wanted nothing to do with that dog.  The dog started to go after him and my neighbor called him to come back to her.  Well, apparently Cayenne thought my neighbor was calling her, because she trotted right over to her and asked to be petted.  So my neighbor was petting her and then the puppy ran over and he was right next to Cayenne and she totally ignored him.  It was like she didn't even see him.  Paid him no attention at all.

I've been wondering if Larry might play with my dog, though.  He is pretty playful at times.  Indigo will play with him sometimes but Cayenne never will.  He doesn't give up though.  He keeps on asking her to play and always seems to think that even though she refused to play the last 700 times he asked, this time she'll want to.  But no, she just growls at him and looks miserable.  So I think he might play with a dog, once he gets used to the dog being around.