Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fundraising Update

As of this evening, I have raised a total of $2,038 so far.  Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Pet a Dog

Did you know there is a right way and a wrong way (several wrong ways, really) to pet a dog?  This is.  I was actually reading about it this morning before going to see Isaac.

Here's what to do when you meet a dog you want to pet.

1.  Ask permission from the dog's owner.  The dog may not be friendly, he may be a working dog, or perhaps the owner just wants to tell the dog to sit before someone pets him.  So always ask before petting a dog.

2.  Don't look the dog in the eye.  Dogs interpret that as a challenge.

3.  Turn sideways as you approach the dog.  That makes you look less threatening and tells the dog you're a friendly person.

4.  Give the dog a moment to sniff you.  Dogs learn a lot by smelling people.

5.  Stroke the dog gently from the back of the neck toward the tail.  Don't make any sudden moves.  If the dog growls or does anything that suggests he doesn't want to be petted, stop.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Some Thank Yous

I was a little bit hesitant to post this, mostly because I'm afraid I'll forget to mention someone.  But I really want to thank everyone that has donated so far to help with the cost of my service dog and I want to be able to recognize everyone that's helped in some way.  If I forget to mention your name, please don't think it means I didn't appreciate your assistance, and if you want to send me a message, I'll make sure and add your name.

Thanks from me and Isaac to:


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Introducing Isaac!

Here he is!

He is so friendly!  And he was very well behaved.  We walked around in Walmart for a while, then sat down in Subway and had a drink, then walked around outside, then went back into Walmart and walked around some more.  I think it was kind of long for him, though.  He is still in training and I'm not sure how much public access training he's had so far.  This was not his first time in a store and he did really well, but by the time we went back into Walmart, he was getting distracted pretty easily and seemed a bit stressed.  To be honest, I was getting tired and stressed myself.

It was kind of like being in a store with a very well behaved three year old.  You know how you still have to watch them really closely because they will forget they have to stay right beside you or start to touch something they aren't supposed to touch and you'll have to remind them?  It was a lot like that.  Twice he wanted to sniff another customer that walked close to us, but all I had to do was tell him "leave it" and he stopped.  A couple times he wanted to stop and sniff the floor.  I didn't see anything on the floor but he apparently smelled something interesting there.  And when we were walking through the craft section there was a big pine cone on the floor and I think he was going to pick that up, not just sniff it, because he was going for it with his mouth open.  Each time, as soon as I said "leave it," he did.  It just required me to pay close attention.  After he gets more public access training, I will not have to watch him that closely and it will be easier.

He also started getting bored when we were sitting at Subway.  He was in a down stay under the table and he was fine for probably 15 minutes, then started getting restless.  He would start to get up and when he was told to stay down, he would flop back down, but then get up again just a couple minutes later.  But he will learn to do that longer with practice, too.

I also had to focus pretty hard to make sure I was doing everything I was supposed to do the way I was supposed to do it.  I discovered very quickly that I have a tendency to praise him a bit too much or to seem too happy or excited when I praise him, which causes him to get overly excited.  He responds very well to praise but I don't want to get him too excited or playful in a store or restaurant.  Also, I have a tendency to hold the leash too tight for some reason, so I had to keep reminding myself to relax my arm and hold the leash more loosely.  Maybe that was because I was kind of nervous.

I am absolutely exhausted now, but it was fun and I love Isaac.  I can't wait to spend more time with him.  And the trainer confirmed that I should be able to have him with me by Christmas.

Here's another picture of the two of use together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tomorrow is the Day!

Tomorrow I get to meet Isaac.  I'm thrilled.  I plan to take pictures and will post them here.  I'm just so excited.

However, I'm also stressed out.  Not about meeting Isaac, but about fundraising.  So far I've raised/saved about $2,000, and I still need another $4,000.  I hate asking people for money.  Really, I hate asking for help with anything.  I feel like I am the one that needs a service dog, it should be my responsibility to pay for it.  But it would be impossible for me to pay for it myself.  Well, maybe not really impossible, but it would take a couple of years, probably, for me to save that much money.  I'm on disability.  I also have a lot of medical expenses.  I don't have discretionary income.  I barely earn enough to cover the basics.  I had to borrow money more than a year ago when my transmission went out in my car and I'm still paying that back.

I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to raise the money.  I believe a service dog would really change my life, really improve my quality of life.  And I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to make it happen.

I had a huge anxiety attack at the grocery store yesterday.  When I finally made it home, I thought that maybe I should just have Mike do the shopping from now on and I should stay home as much as possible.  It's too hard to go out and do things when I never know when an anxiety attack might strike.  When I told Mike my thoughts about that, he commented that that didn't sound like a very fulfilling life.  Well, of course not!  But having anxiety attacks and breaking down sobbing in the grocery store is not very fulfilling, either.

I really appreciate all the generous people that have donated money for my service dog.  I don't want to sound ungrateful.  I know no one owes me money.  I'm not upset with people that don't donate.  Good grief, there have been plenty of times in my life I would have liked to give money to a good cause but just didn't have it to give.  I understand that.

If anyone is able to help, though, just know it would be so very appreciated.  And seriously, it doesn't have to be a lot.  Really, just a dollar or two would help.  It all adds up.  I have to make this happen.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Talked to the Trainer Last Night

The trainer that currently has my soon-to-be service dog called me last night with a couple questions for me about tasks I need the dog to do, and also she wants to plan a time for us to meet up soon.  In about a week, I should get to finally meet Isaac!  I'm thrilled.

She said he's doing really well.  One of the things he is being trained to do is to interrupt some self-harming behaviors, like scratching myself.  She said he loves doing that.  She said dogs often have a task or two they really enjoy doing, although they'll do whatever they're trained to do.  Isaac loves nudging her hand away if she starts to scratch her arms.  He also likes turning on lights and bringing things to her and dropping them in her lap.

She said when he first gets up in the morning, he is pretty energetic and gets a little goofy, runs around the house all playful and silly for a couple of minutes, but then he wants to eat breakfast and go for a walk and then go to sleep.  I said that sounds like my cats, he should fit right in.

I'm so excited.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spoons, Anxiety, and my Birthday

Are you familiar with spoon theory?  I'm gonna suggest you read about it here, because she explains it much better than I could.  Basically, though, spoons are a unit of energy.  When you're disabled, you don't always have as many spoons as you need.  You have to choose carefully how to spend them.  And you can't always predict how many spoons you'll have on any given day.

Tuesday I got to spend the day with a good friend who lives in another state.  She was visiting her sister who lives a couple hours away from me.  I hadn't seen her in several years and it was so great to see her again.  I had a great time.  I didn't even freak out when my car wouldn't start when it was time for me to leave.  We jump started it and it ran fine the whole way home.  It was a great day.

But apparently it cost a lot of spoons.  Wednesday I was exhausted all day.  I had some errands to run, including a trip to the post office, a trip to the grocery store, and a visit to the driver's license bureau to renew my license (which actually expired two days ago on my birthday; the reason I didn't renew it Tuesday is because I was with my friend all day).  So despite my exhaustion, I headed out to run my errands.

I couldn't find the license bureau.  I'd been there before.  It was before I had ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and the ECT caused a lot of memory loss.  One of the things I lost was directions.  What I mean is, I forgot how to get to a lot of places I had gone to before.  I could not remember how to get to the grocery store where I'd been shopping for many years.  I could not remember how to get to my doctor's office.  And apparently, I also forgot how to get to the license bureau.

But I called the license bureau to find out what documents I needed to bring with me and to make sure they would take a check, and I asked where they were located.  And I still could not find them.  I drove up and down the street where they are supposed to be and could not find them.  I got more and more anxious.  I felt stupid.  I felt overwhelmed.

I ended up going home without renewing my license.  By then, I was completely exhausted.  I was out of spoons.  That failed trip to the license bureau used up more spoons than I'd expected that errand to use up.  I took some medication for anxiety and I took a nap.  I was still exhausted.  I got very little done the rest of the day.

Actually, in addition to being exhausted, I was feeling very lightheaded and dizzy the rest of the day.  Sometimes my blood pressure gets low, especially when I first stand up.  It seemed particularly bad last night.  I don't know why.

Tuesday was my birthday.  I had planned to make myself a birthday cake.  Anyone else make themselves birthday cakes?  I was going to make a  Jello cake - you can see the recipe here, if you're interested.  It's yummy.  It's my very favorite cake ever.

Monday I went grocery shopping at Meijer, and discovered they do not carry sugar free cake mix.  I can't eat regular cake because I can't tolerate that much sugar due to my gastric bypass.  So I planned to go to Kroger to get sugar free cake mix because I knew they carry it.  But I didn't do that Tuesday because I was with my friend all day.  Yesterday I did make it to Kroger before having the melt down when I couldn't find the license bureau, and after my nap I did bake the cake.  I didn't finish it, though, because I was so exhausted and so dizzy every time I stood up.  So I'm finishing my cake today.  So what if it's two days late?  It's cake.  It's good.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thank You Lexington Presbyterian Church Deacons

The Women's Association of the Lexington Presbyterian Church donated some money for my service dog a while back, but yesterday I received another donation from the same church, this one on behalf of their Deacon's Fund.  I'm thrilled with their generosity.  The letter they enclosed with the check also said everyone there is praying for me, that we are able to raise the money needed (and I'm sure we will; if for some reason we did not raise enough or something happened that I did get end up getting a service dog, all donations would be returned) and that am able to receive my service dog soon, which I thought was very nice.

So far I have about $1500, so I have about $4500 to go.  I think I posted something a few weeks back saying I had more, but something fell through, which seems to happen occasionally.  If anyone is able or willing to help, please email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com for more info on how to donate - it doesn't have to be a large amount.  It can be just a dollar or two, seriously.  It all adds up.

Friday, October 12, 2012

People Aren't Dying from Lack of Health Insurance?

Mitt Romney announced that people in the U.S. do not die from a lack of health insurance.  I guess the 45,000 people that die each year because they can't get medical care due to lack of insurance will be happy to know that.  I bet their families feel better now, too.

That number comes from a study conducted by Harvard, by the way.  But I guess Romney has conducted his own research and considered his statistics more accurate.

He explained that people without health insurance don't die from lack of medical care because they just go to the hospital and get treated anyway and if they don't have insurance, some charity, the government, or the hospital pays for their care.  I bet all the people filing bankruptcy due to medical bills they can't pay will be happy to hear that some charity, the government, or the hospital will pay their bills.  (According to the American Journal of Medicine, 62% of folks that file bankruptcy do so because of medical bills they can't pay.) 

For that matter, I have some medical bills I'm having trouble paying.  Does anyone know how to apply to get some charity or the government to pay them?  Romney neglected to mention how that works.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Can't You Pet a Service Dog?

Well, actually, you can pet a service dog - if the dog's handler gives you permission.  In fact, you should ask permission before petting anyone's dog.  Not all dogs are friendly and approaching a strange dog and trying to pet him is a good way to get bitten.

However, it's even more important to ask permission before petting a service dog.  That's why many service dogs have patches on their vests or harnesses that say something like "Do Not Pet" or "I'm Working, Do Not Pet Me."

Why shouldn't you pet a service dog?  Because the dog is working.  Petting the dog distracts him from his job.  A dog that's too distracted to do his job might merely inconvenience his handler, but it may actually put his handler in danger.  Remember, people only have service dogs if they have a disability that causes significant difficulty with basic activities.  They need their service dogs to perform the tasks for which they are trained.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Service Snakes?

Have you heard about the guy with a service snake?

Well, I'm sure there are more than one out there, but there is this guy in Washington state that has a boa constrictor that he claims is a service animal and he's been fighting for several years now to get his snake acknowledged as a service animal under state and federal law.  Yes, he thinks he should have the right to take his snake into public places, just like he would be allowed to take a service dog into public places.

Daniel Greene says his snake alerts him when he is getting ready to have a seizure.  That might be true.  No one quite understands how some animals, including some dogs, are able to know when seizures are getting ready to occur.  Since no one knows how some animals know that, though, there is no way to train a dog (or other animal) to alert.  They either do it or they don't.  That means that alerting is not a trained task, so an animal that alerts is not considered a service animal under the ADA definition.

Snakes cannot be trained to perform tasks because their brains are simply not formed that way.  They lack the part of the brain that is capable of learning "tricks" or tasks.  They operate pretty much on instinct, all the time.  That means that not only is a snake unable to be trained to perform tasks as service animals must be trained to do, but a snake is unable to be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. 

It's also not good for the snake.  Snakes generally need a climate-controlled environment with the right temperature and humidity.  Restaurants, stores, and other public places are kept at a temperature and humidity level that is comfortable for humans, not for snakes.  Carrying a snake around in public is detrimental to the snake's health.

Just to be clear: under the ADA regulations, businesses are not required to allow people to bring service snakes into businesses!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Looking for a Treadmill

I'm starting to prepare for receiving my service dog in a few months - should be by the end of the year - and one thing I need is a treadmill. My dog is about 18 months old and pretty energetic. I plan to walk him a couple times a day but he will need more exercise than that and I am not able to take a dog for a run. The trainer suggested getting him a treadmill, which sounds funny to me, but I'm told he enjoys walking/running on a treadmill. So if anyone has an old treadmill they don't use anymore, or knows anyone that has one, please let me know.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Misconceptions About Disability

I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories like this:

"My neighbors pretend to be disabled but they really aren't.  They can mow their lawn and climb up on their roof to do repairs, so obviously they aren't disabled.  They are just scamming the Medicare system to get money to buy drugs.  They told me they've never worked a day in their lives.  I think that's so wrong."

Well, I think it's wrong, too, if it's true.

But it's not true.  Oh, the neighbors might be faking disability, I don't know if they are or not.  Neither does the person telling the story, though.  When determining if someone is disabled or not, governmental agencies like Social Security don't really take into consideration whether or not a person can mow their lawn or climb up on a roof, unless the person used to work as a professional lawn care person or has been trained as a roofer.

But it's not true that the neighbors are scamming Medicare, because in order to qualify for Medicare, you must be at least 65 years of age, or you must have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years.  If you are 65 years old, it doesn't matter if you are disabled or not, you are entitled to Medicare.  To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked in the past and paid into Social Security, so if the neighbors have never had a job in their lives, they don't qualify for SSDI, so therefore they aren't getting Medicare based on disability.  They aren't scamming Medicare, unless they are pretending to be 65 when they are really younger, which is not what they have been accused of doing.

And even if they were somehow scamming Medicare?  Medicare doesn't give people money that they can then use to buy drugs.  Medicare doesn't give people money at all.  Medicare is basically a form of health insurance.  People pay monthly premiums and then Medicare pays some of their medical bills.  The money for the medical bills goes directly to the health care provider, not to the Medicare recipients.  So the neighbors are not scamming Medicare for drug money.

Oh, I'm not saying that no one ever applies for and gets benefits they aren't really entitled to.  I'm sure it happens sometimes.  But it's not that easy to do.  I think it's much more common for people to need help and be denied benefits.  Only about 35% of people that apply for SSDI get approved the first time they apply.  The other 65% must appeal, a very lengthy process.

And you have to provide all kinds of proof that you are disabled.  For instance, I had to provide letters from both my psychiatrist and my psychologist, records from nearly a dozen hospital stays (do you have any idea how much work it was to track those down?), a letter from my last employer explaining some of the problems I had at work due to my disability, and more.  Could I have faked all that?  Faked being sick enough to require inpatient hospitalization nearly a dozen times?  Have you gone to the emergency room lately?  Do you know how seldom they want to admit patients these days?  If someone can successfully fake all that, they probably deserve an Academy Award or something.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Obligation to be Healthy

Yes, I'm still thinking about this.  The more I think about it, the more troubled I get.

Yesterday there was a discussion on an internet forum about whether or not it is OK to be fat.  Opinions differed but many people said they thought it was OK to be fat IF the fat person was healthy.  That made me ask if people are obligated to be healthy, and one person specifically said, we are obligated to be healthy.  Others seemed to agree with that statement, although they might not have said so in those exact words.  Several people said things along the lines of people need to be able to work and pay their bills and take care of their families so that they are not a burden on society.

I’m troubled by this because I’m not perfectly healthy.  I have some pretty serious health problems, including severe recurrent treatment resistant major depression (how’s that for a diagnosis?) and PTSD.  Most likely, I will have these things forever.  Sometimes I manage them better than others but they aren’t going to go away, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to be healthy.  And I resent the implication that this means I am not OK.

Now, some people posted things like it’s OK if someone is not healthy as long as they are trying to get healthy.  But who gets to decide if I am trying hard enough to get better or not?  What if there are treatments I’ve decided not to try because they are too expensive and I can’t afford them (don’t want to be a burden on society by making all those healthy people pay my expensive medical bills, you know) or I feel the risk outweighs the possible benefits?  And is it really necessary for me to keep trying to “get better” even though I know the chances of recovery are so small?  Maybe I would prefer to accept myself as I am and learn to live with my conditions.  But some people might think that’s not OK.

Sometimes I am not able to work and pay all my bills.  That’s why I get Social Security and Medicare and sometimes I even get food from the food pantry.  Does that make me a burden on society?  Does society really judge our worth based on the amount of money we can earn and spend?  Unfortunately, I think many people do.  And before someone says oh no Kelly, we didn’t mean you, you aren’t a burden, consider why you might say that.  Maybe you think I am not a burden because you know me.   Maybe I’ve helped you in some way, maybe I’ve given you some helpful advice, maybe I stayed up talking to you on the phone the night before your surgery when you were scared.  Maybe you know I took care of my neighbors’ cat after the man next door was shot in the head and his wife spent weeks at his side in the hospital.  Maybe you know I took in my mentally ill nephew when he got kicked out of yet another foster home and needed a loving home.  Maybe you just think I’m a nice person.  And maybe you think those things mean I’m not a burden after all, even though other unhealthy people are.

But what makes you think all those other nameless unhealthy people you see as burdens aren’t nice people, too?  What makes you think they don’t do helpful things, even if they can’t work, even if they have a lot of medical bills that your tax dollars help to pay?

I know some people will continue to believe people are obligated to be healthy and that it is not OK to be less than healthy, no matter what I say.  I can’t change that.  But I can say that such an attitude is offensive and hurtful to me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are We Obligated to Be Healthy?

There is an internet forum for people that have had gastric bypass surgery that I participate on.  Today on that forum there was a lively discussion about whether or not it is OK for people to be fat.  A few people said it is OK for people to be fat.  Some said it's not OK, usually because fat = unhealthy (which isn't necessarily true, by the way).  A number of people said it is OK to be fat if you are healthy.  Apparently, in their minds, it is OK to be fat and healthy, and it is OK to be skinny and unhealthy, but it is not OK to be fat and unhealthy.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Why is it not OK to be unhealthy?  I mean, I assume most people would prefer to be healthy, if given a choice.  But you know what?  Most of us don't have a choice.  I didn't choose to have major depression and PTSD.  I also did not choose to have a herniated disk in my lower back.  Mike's father, who passed away yesterday, did not choose to have cancer and diabetes and congestive heart failure.  Did we somehow fail to meet some obligation we had to society?

Oh, wait.  I'm of a normal weight now, so perhaps my failure to be healthy is forgivable.  But Mike's father was overweight, so I guess it was not OK for him to have cancer.  Does that make sense to anyone?  Because it sure doesn't to me.

Why the double standard?  Why should fat people have to be healthy while skinny people can be sick?

And who gets to define "healthy" anyway?  According to some people, if you are overweight (meaning your BMI is above 25, which means that many highly trained athletes are overweight), you are automatically unhealthy.  Doesn't matter if your blood pressure is normal, your blood sugar and cholesterol are good, you have no illness of any kind.  Overweight automatically = unhealthy.  Other people understand that BMI is not always a good indicator of health.

But again, who gets to decide who is healthy enough and who is not?  Someone on the forum said that if a person was able to take care of their kids, go to work, and pay their bills, they are healthy enough.  Well, I don't have kids, but guess what?  Sometimes I can't work.  That's why I am on Social Security disability.  Sometimes I have trouble paying my bills.  So I guess I am unhealthy and therefore not OK.

Someone else mentioned that unhealthy people are a burden to society and that's why we all have an obligation to be healthy.  So I'm a burden?  A burden, and a failure, since I'm not healthy enough to work and pay all my bills.

Well, at least I'm not fat.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In Memory of Stan Andrews

Mike's dad passed away earlier today.  When I saw him five days ago,  he told me in no uncertain terms that he was ready to go.  I'm not sure those of us that have been left behind were ready, but since he's the one making the journey, I guess it's up to us to adjust to his timetable.

So go with God and walk in beauty, and we'll see you later when we all catch up to you.

And this song's for you.

What Questions Can Business Owners Ask People with Service Dogs?

If someone tries to come into your business with a dog, how do you know if it's really a service dog?  What can you ask the person with the dog to make sure it's really a service dog?

These are actually two different questions, but we'll start with what you're allowed to ask.  There are two questions business owners and employees can ask people that come into their businesses with dogs.

1.  Is that a service dog?

2.  What tasks is the dog trained to do?

That's it.  You cannot ask why a person needs a service dog or what their disability is.  You cannot ask them if the dog is certified as a service dog or require them to show a certificate or other paperwork (that's because there is no official certification for service dogs, and because anyone can buy a certificate for their dog on the internet even if they aren't disabled and their dog has no training whatsoever, so showing you a certificate of some kind would be completely meaningless).  You cannot require that they have their dog demonstrate the tasks it can perform for them.

Asking anything other than those two questions above is a violation of a person's rights under the Americans with Disability Act.  If you or your employees violate the ADA, you may find your business faced with hefty fines.

Now, what if a person says yes, their dog is a service dog and that the dog is trained to perform some task for them, but the dog is not behaving like a service dog?  What if, for instance, it barks and growls at other customers, pees on your floor, licks groceries on the shelves, or otherwise behaves in an inappropriate and disruptive manner?

Then you can ask the person to remove the dog from your business.  Even if it is a real service dog, business owners do not have to allow service dogs that are disruptive.  A person with a service dog must have their dog under control in order to be protected under the ADA and allowed to take their dog into businesses where pets are typically not allowed.

If you must ask a person to remove their service dog from your business because the dog would not stop  barking or the dog peed on your floor or something like that, you must still allow the person with a disability to shop in your store.  However, the person will have to do so without their dog.  If there is a way you can facilitate this, then do so.  For instance, if the person was ordering a meal in your restaurant, offer to package the food to go and to bring it outside to the person when it's ready so that they can take their dog outside to wait but still receive their meal.

It's good to be reasonable when deciding whether or not to ask a person to remove their dog.  For instance, even a very well-trained dog could be ill and that could cause the dog to have an accident indoors even if he is housebroken.  If that happens, though, the handler should clean up the mess immediately and then leave with the dog.  Even a very well-trained dog might yelp if someone steps on his tail, but he should not bark repeatedly and should stop barking when directed by his handler.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Things I Can't Do

I was supposed to go to a meditation class this evening.  I should be on my way home from the class right now.

But I didn't go.  I was really looking forward to it.  I signed up for it several weeks ago.  At the time I signed up for it, I was feeling pretty good.

Then I had that big anxiety attack at the library last Thursday.  Saturday, I had another anxiety attack at home.  Sunday I just felt crappy.  I cried a lot.

There was no way I was going anywhere today, especially not to a class in a place I'd never been, with people I didn't know.  There was just no way.

Would I have gone if I had Isaac?  Maybe.  I think I would have felt more comfortable going with my service dog.  But I also think that the anxiety attack at the library would have been much less severe with my service dog, and I bet the weekend would have been better, too.

I might have gone to the class this evening if Mike or someone else had been going with me.  I just didn't feel like I could go by myself.  I hate it when I can't do things by myself because I really want to be independent.  I want to be able to do things and not have to rely on someone else to help me.  I really think Isaac will help me be more independent.