Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Ickle Pickle

Isaac's favorite toy currently is the ickle pickle.  It is a pickle-shaped (and pickle-colored) rubber toy with three slits along the side in which you can shove treats.

If you don't know Isaac, you might not understand why it is known as the ickle pickle.  If you have ever met Isaac and seen how much he can drool, especially when chewing on a favorite toy with treats inside, you would understand perfectly.  If Isaac ever happens to drop his ickle pickle in your lap, all covered with slobber and slime, you'll agree it is perfectly named.

Bad Night for Cayenne

Or maybe just a bad night for me.

Last night, around the time I was getting ready for bed, Cayenne jumped down from the window ledge where she'd been dozing, squatted, and peed on the floor.  She was squatting there for a while, but when she finished, there was only a tiny spot of urine on the carpet.  She jumped back up on the window ledge.  I sighed and got up and fetched the spray bottle and some rags to clean it up.

Then I saw she was peeing again, this time on the window ledge.  Luckily I moved the curtains and some books out of the way just in time.  Apparently she'd thought she was done peeing on the floor but she wasn't really done.

I think she's having trouble peeing.  She wasn't squatting on the floor for an excessively long time, but long enough that she should have produced more than the little spot of pee that she left on the carpet.  And since when do cats pee a little, stop, jump up on something and then pee some more?

It just worried me.  I wonder if the tumors in her abdomen are starting to interfere with her urinary system or something.  My first thought was oh crap, I should call the vet in the morning and I have no money until I get my SSDI in a few days.  My second thought was, I should call Mike and ask him to help me pay the vet and just tell him what's going on and that I'm worried.  Interesting, that, since we are not a couple anymore and since now that I think about it, I am certain Cayenne's vet would see her today and let me pay them in a few days.  He did that once before.  It was also about midnight and I was sure Mike would be asleep.

After I cleaned up the pee and calmed myself down a bit, I decided there is probably no need to see the vet right now.  Cayenne does not appear to be in any discomfort.  Well, maybe she has a bit of discomfort when she is trying to pee and having trouble, but other than that, she is eating well, is still very interested in food (two days ago, I had left the lid off Isaac's treat jar and Cayenne walked over to it and had one paw stuck in the jaw, trying to dig out a treat for herself), seems to be resting quite comfortably, enjoys being petted (just a little while ago, she crawled into my lap and purred while I petted her for a while), and likes being brushed (Isaac's friend K brushes her nearly every time she comes over and Cayenne stands up and prances around and purrs).  I would not want to put her through any kind of medical tests unless absolutely necessary, nor would I want to put her through any type of treatment except maybe medication, and that only if absolutely necessary.  I don't want to put her through a car ride unless absolutely necessary; she hates riding in the car, and on the trip from Mike's to my apartment, she threw up.

I think I need to see if I can find a vet around here that makes house calls, though.  When I lived in Cincinnati, there were a few that did that.  Mine only charged an extra $15 fee for the house call.  Then he charged what would be a normal fee for whatever was done, the same fee he would have charged if he saw the cats in his office.  I thought that was quite reasonable.  I think I'd feel better if someone just looked at her, agreed with me that she did not seem to be having any discomfort, that sort of thing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Should Fast Food Workers Get Paid More?

Yeah.  They should.  Minimum wage should be higher.  People should be able to at least earn a living wage.

I thought of this issue today while I was buying a sugar free iced vanilla coffee at  McDonald's.  Since there is no Starbucks near me, I have taken to buying iced coffee at McD's, which is not as good as Starbucks, but is good enough and is also cheap.  A large iced coffee for a dollar.  I can get four or five of those for what I'd pay for one iced skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks.

But if McDonald's employees got paid more, like enough  money that they could actually support themselves and maybe even their kids on their wages, I don't think McD's would be selling iced coffees for a dollar anymore.

I don't believe most people are against fast food workers earning more.  It's just like most people are not really against poor people having health insurance.  It's a matter of people being afraid that if someone else gets something, that will mean something is taken away from them.  People are afraid if we provide medical care to poor people that currently can't get care, it will mean they end up getting less care.  People would not mind if poor people got antibiotics when they are sick, but they don't want to give up their chiropractic adjustments in order for those poor people to get those antibiotics. 

That may sound pretty cynical, the part about chiropractic adjustments, but many insurance policies do cover them these days.  Medicare now covers them and I just found out the other day that Medicaid does in my state, too.  And I think it's great that chiropractic care is covered.  I wish massage therapy and acupuncture was covered, too.  However, I also think we should prioritize.  I would like to be able to get a massage and some acupuncture for my back pain, and I'm glad I could go see a chiropractor for my back pain if I wanted to, but I think antibiotics for someone with an infectious illness are actually more important.  I would be willing to give up my chiropractic coverage in order to give someone else antibiotics.

I take my back problems very seriously.  I have serious back pain.  I think I should be able to get medical treatment for it when needed.  But I think some medical things, like infectious diseases,  prenatal care, and treatment for things like HIV are more urgent and more important and I would be willing to give up some of the medical coverage I have right now in order to provide those things for people that currently need them but can't get them.

I also like being able to get iced coffee for a dollar.  If the price doubled, though, I would still buy iced coffee.  If the price tripled, I might buy it less often.  And I'm talking about McDonald's prices; if Starbucks doubled their prices, I would probably never buy another skinny vanilla latte again.

Would people stop eating at McDonald's if they raised their prices in order to pay workers a living wage?  I don't think so.  Some people might.  Some people might eat there less often or buy less when they do eat there.  But I really do not believe McDonald's would go out of business.

Would customers like paying more?  Of course not.  But you know, some customers wouldn't mind so much, not if they understand why the prices were going up.  I wouldn't mind.  If I knew that I now had to pay $2 for an iced coffee so that a single mother could afford to move out of her parents' house into her own apartment with her daughter, or so that a young man with HIV could afford medication to prevent that HIV from developing into AIDS, or so that a woman with PTSD (like me) could afford to see a counselor a couple times a month, or so that an older gentleman with diabetes would no longer have to choose between buying healthful food or insulin (the food they give out at the food pantry is not very diabetic-appropriate, unfortunately, it's very carb-heavy)... Yeah, I'd be happy to pay an extra dollar.

Would everyone be happy to pay more?  No, I'm sure they wouldn't.  But doesn't it seem like the right thing to do?

Do You Sing to Your Pets?

I do.  I have a terrible singing voice.  I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.  But luckily Cayenne and Isaac do not mind.

I'm probably going to make myself sound really silly here, but they each have their own songs.

Cayenne's song is sung to the tune of Cecilia, by Simon and Garfunkel.  It goes:

Oh, Cayenne-a,
You're breaking my heart.
You're stinking the house up, baby.
Oh, Cayenne-a,
I'm down on my knees.
I'm begging you please
Use your box, use your box.

Alas, it does not inspire her to use the litter box.

Isaac's song is sung to the tune of Clementine.  It goes:

Oh my doggie, oh my doggie,
Oh my doggie, doggie boy.
He's my doggie, he's my doggie,
he's my doggie, doggie boy.

Isaac probably thinks his name is Doggie Boy.

So what do you sing to your pets?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What More Could You Want?

It is a gorgeous late summer day.  There is already a hint of fall in the air and the leaves on some of the trees are already starting to turn yellow.  I am at the dog park, sitting on a bench in the shade with my laptop, watching Isaac run around.  I am supposed to be writing an article about how to inspect your home for mold, but I am not really in the mood for that.

It is one of those days when I feel perfectly content with my life, one of those days I wish would happen more often.   Sure, back at my home, the bathroom needs cleaning, and yes, I just checked the balance in my bank account and I have about $10 to last me until next Tuesday when I get paid, but right here, right now, all seems right with the world.  What more could you possibly want than a sunny day with a pleasant breeze, a bench in the shade, and a delightfully happy dog?  Oh, and a large sugar free French vanilla iced coffee that only cost one dollar at McDonald’s?  Does life get any better than this?

Student Told She Must Attend a Different School Because Teacher is Allergic to Her Service Dog

An elementary school student in Athens, Ohio, has been told she'll need to transfer to a different school because the special education teach at the school was planning to attend is several allergic to dogs and the student has a service dog. According to the article, the dog is trained to "comfort" the child (comforting is not a trained task for a service dog, according to the U.S. Department of Justice) and the child is tethered to the dog to keep her from wandering away (tethering children to dogs is a very dangerous practice).  I think the school is being very accommodating in allowing the child to bring the dog to school at all, if these are in fact the only "tasks" the dog does.  Now, maybe the dog is actually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the child's disability and the article I read just doesn't delineate them.  But if this is all the dog does, it's questionable whether to dog even qualifies as a service dog.

Supposing the dog really is a service dog, though, the school has a responsibility to accommodate both the student and the teacher.  Transferring the child to another school just five miles away, where she'll be taught by an equally qualified teacher following the same individual education plan (IEP), seems like a perfectly reasonable accommodation to me.  The parents are upset, though, and want the teacher to be transferred instead.  I think they are being unreasonable.  And their solution?  Not to send the child to school at all until the matter is resolved.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coping with Cayenne, the Incontinent Cat

Cayenne's been here for almost three weeks now and I'm really happy having her here, except for one thing.  She does not use the litter box consistently.  Sometimes I think she gets a sudden urge to pee and doesn't have time to get to the box, like the other day when she peed on my lap while I was petting her.  But other times, she goes over to the litter box and pees on the floor right in front of it.  If she is able to get there, she could take one or two more steps and make it into the box before she pees.  She has peed in the box a couple times, and she poops in the box (most of the time, anyway), so it's not that she is opposed to getting in the litter box or doesn't like her litter box.

Now, Cayenne has had litter box issues for many years, and we've been to the vet about it repeatedly, and she does not have any type of urinary tract infection or bladder stones or anything physical that would cause these problems.  Mike and I tried a ton of different things and none of them fixed the problem.  Now that she's nearly 14 years old, diabetic, and dealing with cancer, I don't expect the problem to get any better.  I believe it's only going to get worse from here.

I got some of those disposable puppy training pads and put them in the places she pees most often.  Cayenne does not like those pads, however, so I have to put towels on top of them.  She is perfectly willing to pee on a towel but not on a puppy pad.  I want the puppy pads, though, because they prevent urine from seeping through and getting into my carpet, whereas a towel does not.  Since she avoids the puppy pads unless I cover them with soft towels, though, I am now doing a lot of laundry.  I also picked up some extra towels cheap at the thrift store, but I need to get some more.

Using these disposable pads is so unlike me.  I don't use disposable things like that.  I have been using paper towels to clean up cat pee and cat puke, and I have gone through about half a roll of paper towels since Cayenne has been here, but prior to her arrival, I lived here almost four months and only used about half a roll of paper towels.  I use cloth rags.  I use cloth napkins.  Most of the time, I use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.  I use cloth menstrual pads.  But these disposable puppy pads are the best way I have right now to protect my carpet, so I am using them.

I use vinegar and water to clean the carpet when she pees somewhere not covered by a puppy pad.  I keep a spray bottle and rags or paper towels handy all the time so I can tackle any pee spots right away.  I don't think my apartment smells like cat pee, at least not so far.   Hopefully I can keep it that way.  Ugh.

Did You Know Churches Don't Have to Allow Service Dogs?

Churches, and other religious organizations, are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act.  That means churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious places of worship do not have to allow disabled people to bring service dogs to services.  In fact, they don't have to allow disabled people at all - a church could legally say "No blind people allowed," for instance.  They usually don't do that, but they could, and it would be perfectly legal.

Some churches do refuse to allow service dogs, though.  As far as I know, it's a decision some churches make on an individual basis.  It's not like the Methodists or Presbyterians or Southern Baptists have all decided that their policy as a group will be to refuse to allow service dogs in church.  Some Methodist churches welcome service dogs, while some refuse to allow them to come in.

Now, churches do have to allow service dogs to come to things that are open to the general public.  Like, when I got food from the food pantry at a local church last week, that is open to the general public, so the ADA does apply to that.  They are required by law to let me bring my service dog for that.  If a church has a craft show, or AA meetings, or something like that, they must allow service dogs.  But they do not have to allow them for religious things like worship services, Sunday school, Bible study, etc.

In September, when the local United Methodist church is doing the fundraiser for Isaac, we will be attending the church service in the morning before the fundraising lunch.  I would like to practice with him first, going to a church service somewhere else, just so I know he can be on his best behavior for that length of time.  I think I'm going to ask Mike if his pastor would allow me to bring him to a service or two.  I have to get permission from the pastor, since the church does not have to allow service dogs.

If you attend church, do you know if they allow service dogs?  And if not, do you know why?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why I'm Sometimes Uncomfortable Answering Questions about Why I Have a Service Dog

I've been thinking about this since I went to the church that is going to be doing the fundraiser for Isaac to get food from their food pantry.

I sent the pastor of the church a letter explaining that I have PTSD.  I allowed her to come to my home to learn more about me and my need for a service dog.  She asked me, after first saying it was OK if I wasn't comfortable answering the question, if my PTSD was related to military service or something else.  She assured me it wouldn't affect their decision to hold a fundraiser for me but said some of the board members were just wondering.  She said she thought some of them had some sort of connections that they might be able to use to get some funds if I was a veteran.

I told her it was OK, I was comfortable sharing some information, and that the PTSD was a result of severe childhood trauma due to growing up in an abusive home.  I went on to explain that there is currently a fair amount of funding available for returning veterans with PTSD that need service dogs, but not much funding for people that have PTSD as a result of other causes.  She said she would let the board  members know that.

So I was comfortable sharing with the pastor, and the church board, information about why I need a service dog.  Now, I kind of feel like I need to share some of that information, whether I feel real comfortable with it or not, if I want them to donate money for my service dog.  I mean, sure, I could say, "Hey, I really need a service dog but I don't want to tell you why.  Would you give me some money for my dog, though?"  But I think people are much more likely to donate if they know why I need a service dog and how my dog can help me.

But it wasn't just that.  I am not ashamed of the fact that I have PTSD.  For goodness sake, I write a blog on which I tell anyone with internet access about it!  I've also written several articles, published online in various places, in which I've talked about having a service dog for PTSD.  It's not a secret.

Most people that know me know about the PTSD, to various extents.  No, the lady that sells me stamps at the post office doesn't know, nor does the local library or the cashier at the local Kroger.  But all my friends know, all my family, all my health care professionals, even my dentist.

But I tell them when I want to, when I'm ready, when I feel able to talk about it.  And when I write about it, whether it's an article for publication or something to post on my blog, it's when I want to.  If I'm having a bad day, if I'm feeling particularly anxious, if there are things I don't want to think about on a particular day, I don't write about it then.  I don't choose to discuss it with friends or acquaintances then.  I share what I want to share, when I want to share it.  It's on my terms.

When a stranger at a store or restaurant asks me why I have a service dog, it sometimes catches me off guard, although I guess I should be used to it by now since it happens so often.  But sometimes I'm already having a hard day, I might be tired or stressed about something, I might be feeling anxious (which is common when I'm shopping, by the way), and I'm surrounded by strangers.  It's not an environment that makes me feel safe and comfortable sharing personal things that are kind of hard to talk about.

When I was at the church getting food from the food pantry, I was anxious just being there.  It was a place I'd never been before, I didn't know anyone there (except for Mike, and that's why I asked him to go with me), I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go, all things that create a lot of anxiety for me.  And I was asking for assistance, in the form of food, which is something that makes me feel kind of uncomfortable.  Even though everyone there was really nice and helpful and respectful (except for a couple of intrusive questions about my service dog), it still feels uncomfortable or a bit humiliating to me to have to get that kind of assistance.  I feel the same way about applying for food stamps or subsidized housing.  So in that situation, surrounded by a whole lot of strangers, I was uncomfortable talking about personal, painful things like why I have PTSD and need a service dog.

When people ask why I need a service dog, they don't know they are asking me about how I was abused as a child.  But they are.  And since you have no idea why someone might need a service dog, or a wheelchair or any other type of assistive device, it's better not to ask them, unless you have the type of relationship in which it would be appropriate to ask about personal, painful things like that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Fake Service Dog

Here's an article about a celebrity with a fake service dog.  It seems the only reason his dog is wearing a service dog vest is so the dog can fly in the cabin of the plane with him.  I wish airlines would crack down on this kind of thing.

See the photos of him carrying the dog through the airport?  That is a dead giveaway that it's not even a real service dog.  A real service dog would be walking through the airport, heeling nicely.

What's wrong with people pretending their dogs are service dogs when they're not?  Well, besides the fact that it's dishonest, unethical, and illegal, it ends up making things harder for people with real service dogs.  The public gets used to seeing all these fake service dogs and suspects that real service dogs are also pretend service dogs.  They get tired of dealing with ill-behaved pets and just want dogs to stay out of public places altogether.  I wish airlines and other businesses would start excising their rights and not allowing people to bring in fake service dogs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why Kids Don't Tell When They Are Abused

Today I was watching an old episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show and she was interviewing a teenage boy who was arrested and convicted for killing a family friend who had sexually abused him repeatedly.  Oprah said something I thought was very insightful.  She was talking about why kids don't tell when they are abused, especially when they are sexually abused, and she said that when a child is abused for the first time and doesn't tell, then when they are abused the second time, it becomes that much harder to tell.  Kids feel guilt and shame about what's happening to them, but they also feel guilt and shame about not telling, and they know that people will ask why they didn't tell sooner or why they kept going back to the abuser after it happened the first time.

I'd never thought about that before.  I've thought about why kids don't tell, and I understand the many reasons they don't, but I never considered how it gets harder and harder to tell the longer the abuse goes on.

Why don't kids tell when they are being abused?  The specific reasons might differ from case to case, but usually include several of the following:
  • They are afraid because the abuser has threatened to hurt them and/or their family members if they tell.
  • They are embarrassed or ashamed.
  • They think it's their fault (and may have been told by the abuser that it was their fault).
  • They think no one will believe them (and gee, what happened when I told my mother?  She still doesn't believe me).
  • They are afraid they will get in trouble (and may have been told this by the abuser).
  • They are afraid people will be mad at them (and may have been told this by the abuser).
  • They are afraid the abuser will be sent to jail (and the abuser is often a family member or someone they love).
  • They are afraid they will be taken away from their family and placed in foster care.
  • They don't know how to talk about it (when I was first sexually abused, I was pretty young.  I did not know the words "sexual abuse."  I didn't know the words "molested" or "raped."  I didn't even have the words to talk about what was happening to me).

Here's a Funny Service Dog Story for You

Someone I know that has a service dog works as a court reporter.  One day she was at work, at the courthouse, and came down in the elevator to the lobby.  As she was exiting the elevator with her service dog, someone asked, "Is that a drug dog?"  You know, the type of trained dog that sniffs out illegal drugs.

There were about 100 people in the courthouse lobby, some waiting to go through the metal detectors to get into the building, others waiting for an elevator, others trying to figure out where they were supposed to be going, etc.  She answered, in a loud voice, "Yes, this is a drug dog."

About half the people in the lobby quickly exited the building.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dinner at the Soup Kitchen and Free Groceries from the Food Pantry

The church that is going to be doing the fundraiser for Isaac next month has a food pantry that gives out free groceries once a month.   They also serve a free meal.  They don't call it a soup kitchen, but that's pretty much what it is.  The idea is that you go in, sign up for groceries, then eat a free meal while you're waiting for your turn to get your groceries.  The pastor told me that they serve about 120 families each month, so it takes awhile to put together the box of groceries for each family.  What you get is based on your household size.

I decided to go because, for one thing, I can use some groceries.  It's the end of the month, which is when many people have already used up their food stamps (the $16 in food stamps I get each  month is long gone by now) and when many people have already used up any cash benefits they get at the beginning of the month (no matter how carefully I try to budget, I always seem to be a bit short of cash by now).  For another thing, I thought it would be good to get involved with the church a little, to get to know some people there, since they are doing this fundraiser for Isaac.  I talked Mike into going with me because I felt very anxious about going alone and I didn't have anyone else to ask to go with me.

It's not exactly the first time I've gotten food from a food pantry.  Mike's brother is a pastor and his church operates a food pantry and he used to bring us food sometimes.  But he brought it to us.  We didn't have to go there and wait in line for it.  And we used to get food from a program called Angel Food Ministries, when my teenage nephew lived with us for a while a couple years back.  Angel Food Ministries is no longer in existence, which is too bad because it was a good program.  It wasn't exactly a food pantry, but was a program that purchased large amounts of food in bulk and then sold them to people in need for a very low cost.  We spent something like $40 for a box of food that would include things like some chicken, some pork chops, some hamburger, some rice, a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, some potatoes, some oranges, some apples, some frozen corn, some frozen green beans, a box of cereal, a box of pancake mix, and a box of brownie mix.  It was supposed to feed a family of four for one week, I think.  Anyone could order as many food boxes as they wanted, there were no income guidelines to meet.  Food was distributed at local churches.

This was the first time I've ever eaten at a soup kitchen or anyplace serving free meals like that, though.  I think it was done in a nice way.  It's set up like a cafeteria line and you go through and get your meal.  Last  night they were serving pulled pork sandwiches (I passed on the sandwich so I don't eat meat; they did not offer any type of vegetarian alternative), carrot and celery sticks with ranch dip, melon, potato chips, and a big sugar cookie for dessert.  The dining area has big round tables that seat about eight people and you sit down with your meal and church members come around and serve you drinks at your table.  They had Kool-Aid, milk, coffee, or ice water.  Church members also bus the tables when people are done eating.

They also had live dinner music.  There was a trio of men playing and singing gospel music while people ate. 

I took Isaac with  me, of course.  He did really well.  He went right under the table and lay down.  At one point he was really stretched out under there.  I had to tell him to move closer to me because he was hogging all the foot room.  I thought the music might be a bit loud for him but he seemed OK with it.  At one point a woman came and sat down across the table from me and she didn't even realize there was a dog under the table until another woman sitting next to her pointed it out to her.  She was tickled to look under the table and see a dog lying by her feet.

Everyone liked Isaac, of course.  We saw the pastor as soon as we walked in and she recognized me right away.  I guess they don't get many people with service dogs.  She remarked that Isaac as much calmer or better behaved or something than he was when she visited my apartment.  I said yes, this is how he behaves when he's working, and he knows the difference between working and not working.  He was behaving badly when she visited, really, but he did climb in her lap and lick her face and I don't think she really wanted any doggie kisses.  Isaac thinks everyone loves his kisses, though.  I was glad she got to see him in "work mode," though.  And he really was good.

I had to wait a long time to get my food.  They give out  numbers when you first arrive and then call people in ten at a time to complete some paperwork and then get your food.  I got there at 5:00 pm and got number 94.  It was 7:00 pm before I got called in.

I thought it was handled in a really nice, respectful way.  People do have to fill out a form, but it's a short form, just name and address and how many members in the household, and then sign something saying your income is below the amount listed in the chart on the form, indicating you qualify for services.  They asked to see some sort of identification but not proof of income.  I guess they figure there aren't a lot of people that want to wait in line for two hours for free food if they don't really need it.  I think they are right.  There was a woman in line in front of me that didn't have her ID with her and they said that was OK, just bring it next time, and went ahead and served her.

It was more respectful, more dignified, than applying for food stamps or even subsidized housing.  The church members working there were all really nice.  It's still sort of humiliating, though.  When we finished eating, we sat at the table for a while, then went downstairs to wait by the room where you get your food.  There were not many chairs so people ended up sitting on the floor in the hallway to wait.  Sitting on the floor waiting for over an hour for free food is just sort of humiliating.  It's humbling, at least.

There was a little boy, ten years old, and his mom waiting next to me.  The little boy asked to pet Isaac and I said OK.  I let everyone pet him there that asked.  I didn't know who, other than the volunteers working there, belonged to the church and who didn't and I wanted to be friendly and make a good impression with all the church members since they are going to be doing this fundraiser for Isaac.  The little boy asked me about Isaac and I told him some of the things Isaac helps me with, like picking things up if I drop them and taking clothes out of the dryer.  The little boy looked at his mom and said, "Maybe we should get a dog like that!"  Isaac really liked the little boy, of course.  He ended up rolling over and getting a belly rub, looking like a very dignified service dog, the silly doggie.  He did demonstrate how he picks up my car keys very nicely, unlike the time at Hobby Lobby when I tried to show a little boy how he does that and he ended up making me look like an idiot.  The boy was suitably impressed.

Most of the people I saw there were older folks, but there were some younger people and a few families with kids.  I thought about what it would have been like when I was a kid, to go to some church for a free meal and to wait in line for a couple of hours to get free groceries.  I really can't imagine it.  I also thought about what it would be like to have to live like that all the time, you know, to eat at soup kitchens regularly, to stay at shelters or things like that.  I just can't imagine it.  And I know how lucky that makes me.

I was asked twice if I was training Isaac, asked three times what he does for me, asked once what kind of service dog he was (which is sort of the same as asking what he does for me), and asked once if he was a Seeing Eye dog.  That was the first time I've ever been asked if he was a Seeing Eye dog.  I said, "No, he is a service dog."  And then I couldn't help myself, I added, "I can see all right."

Here's something you might not know.  A Seeing Eye dog is a specific brand name.  It's a dog trained by a specific program as a guide dog for the blind.  Not all guide dogs for the blind are Seeing Eye dogs.  It's like an Oreo is a cream-filled cookie but not all cream-filled cookies are Oreos.  And of course, not all cookies are cream-filled cookies.

Anyway.  I know you can't always tell by looking at someone if they are disabled or what their disability is, but I don't think it's likely anyone would mistake me for being blind.

I tried to be extra polite.  A couple of the people that asked about what he does for me were volunteer church members and I may speak to the pastor about it.  They did not mean to be rude or intrusive, I know, but I did not want to explain what my disability is and why I have a service dog while I was in line to get my free food.  I also hate that I felt like I had to be extra polite because they were giving me free food.  Like I somehow have fewer rights, like I have to give up some of my privacy or self-respect in that situation.  And they didn't tell me I had fewer rights or that I was less entitled to my privacy there than I would be at the grocery store, that's just how it felt to me.  And I think that's common.  The experience of receiving charity engenders those feelings in people in this society.

I want to stress how nice everyone was.  They didn't mean to make me feel that way.  They didn't mean to be inappropriate.  They were curious about the doggie.  One of the men that has helping to give out food said something about they didn't have any dog bones there and he seemed genuinely sad about that.  I assured him that Isaac has plenty of dog food and treats and bones at home.  People remarked about how pretty he is, how well-behaved he was, how calm he was, how they wished their dog was so well-behaved.  One lady insisted on helping to carry my food out to the car, even though I said Mike could carry it for me.  They were really helpful and kind and caring people.

It was an interesting experience.  It made me think a lot, which is always good.  And I was really happy with how well Isaac did.  He was patient and quiet and well-behaved.  And I got free groceries - sweet corn on the cob, peaches, oranges, yogurt, peanut butter, soup, oatmeal, grapefruit juice, vegetable oil, frozen blueberries (three pounds!), and a frozen pizza.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do Service Dogs Poop?

Someone I know that has a service dog told me this story a few days ago.

She was getting ready to go into a grocery store with her service dog and she stopped in a grassy area at the side of the parking lot to let her dog go potty before entering the store.  The dog pooped and she picked it up with a plastic bag.  She noticed another customer staring and her and her dog, looking shocked and amazed.

The customer said, "Could I ask you a question?"

The service dog handler said, "Sure."

The customer said, "Do they all do that?"

The service dog handler said, "All do what?"

The customer said, "Poop."

The service dog handler was, naturally, a bit confused.

The customer explained, "I thought service dogs didn't poop.  I thought they bred them that way.  I've always felt bad for them because they can't poop."

Um... how could they breed a dog so it couldn't poop?  But if they do, I want one of those service dogs.  I want a cat that doesn't poop, too.

OMG, My Back Hurts!

For the first time in a while, I woke up in the middle of the night in a lot of pain.  I got up, put a heating pad on my back, took some Percocet, and after an hour or so felt a little better and went back to bed.  Isaac actually let me sleep until 9:00 am, a record for him.  But when I got up, my back was so bad. 

It's the kind of pain that makes me nauseous, it's so bad, but I don't want to actually throw up because, while you might not realize it, you use your back muscles when you vomit.  It hurts my back to throw up.  Plus, getting down on the floor to throw up in the toilet is painful and it would be very difficult to get back up.  And bending over a bit to throw up in the sink is not that easy, either.  That also hurts.

It's the kind of pain that shoots down my legs, and makes my legs feel weak, and makes me feel slightly dizzy, as well as feeling like barfing.  I don't want to move.  It hurts too much.

I took Isaac out this morning and he had to poop and I had to pick it up.  I couldn't bend over.  I had to sit down on the ground to pick up the poop and then getting up was really difficult.

I think I am spending the day on the couch with my heating pad and pain pills.  Blah.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Isaac's Fundraising Lunch

The fundraising lunch for Isaac is on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 11:45 am at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mt. Gilead, Ohio. There is no set cost, it's just a "donate what you can" type of deal. I'm not sure what they are serving but I expect it to be good. Church service is at 10:30 that morning and you are invited to attend but are welcome to just show up for lunch if you prefer. Email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com if you need directions or more information. Please, show up and help support Isaac!

Asking for Help... and Asking Isaac

I've mentioned before how much I hate asking for help.  I know many people feel that way.  We live in a society that encourages independence and looks down on people that can't do things for themselves.  I also grew up in a family where asking for help was considered a very bad thing.  Unfortunately, people with disabilities often need a lot of help.

A while back on a forum for people with service dogs (Service Dog Central, check it out if you want to learn more about service dogs), someone posted about how she hates to ask for help and she was wondering if, when she got a service dog, she would feel bad about asking the dog to do things for her all the time.  I thought it was a great question.

I don't feel bad about asking Isaac to help me with things.  Isaac loves helping me with stuff.  For instance, when I lived with Mike, Mike was willing to get laundry out of the dryer for me if I asked him to.  He never complained about it.  But I always felt like I was interrupting him when he was doing something else to ask him to get the laundry for me.  I felt like it was something I should be able to do myself.

But asking Isaac to do get the clothes out of the dryer is different.  Isaac loves getting the clothes out of the dryer.  Have you watched the video clip of him doing it?  Check this out.  See how hard his tail is wagging?  He thinks it's lots of fun.  He's excited to help me.

When I drop something and Isaac picks it up for me, he thinks it's a fun game.  He looks at me with those bright eyes, tail wagging, as if to say, "Drop something else!  Let's do it again!"  In fact, sometimes if I don't drop something else, Isaac looks around and spots something else to retrieve for me anyway - he might fetch my hair brush off the coffee table or my flip flop from the floor across the room.

It's very different than having to rely on a person to do things for me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fundraiser for Isaac

Remember a month or so ago when a local pastor came to meet with me to talk about holding a fundraiser for Isaac?

On Sunday, Sept. 22, Trinity United Methodist Church in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, will be having a fundraising lunch for Isaac. I don't have all the details yet but will post them when I can, probably sometime next week. For now, if you're within driving distance and are free that day, mark your calender! You can come and visit and enjoy a nice lunch and help finish paying for the cost of my service dog, or you can volunteer to help prepare and service lunch and/or clean up afterward. It'll be fun, you can play with a very friendly doggie, and it's a good cause.

Email me if you need more information, want directions, want to volunteer, or would like to make a donation.  poet_kelly at yahoo dot com

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Day at the Beach

Today Isaac and I spent the afternoon at a state park with our friend Julie.  This park has a lake with a doggie beach, but I did not like it was much as the doggie beach at the park that is closer to our home.  Isaac enjoyed chasing geese on this beach, but I was a bit concerned because the dog beach was not fenced as securely as the dog beach we usually go to.

At the dog beach we usually go to, the fence extends way out into the water so that dogs can't swim around it and get out of the fenced area.  At this dog beach, though, the fence only went out a short way and of course Isaac ended up swimming around it.  Then he was running loose on the part of the beach that is supposed to be off limits to pets.

There was a fence between me and Isaac, and the gate was way off in the other direction.  Since I am not in any shape to be climbing a fence, I had to walk up a big hill to get to the gate, walking in the opposite direction from where my dog was.  I couldn't keep an eye on him and walk to the gate.  By the time Julie and I got out of the fenced in area, Isaac could have been long gone.  Fortunately he did not go far and quickly came toward me when I called him.  But it seems really unsafe to me to have a dog park where the dogs can easily get out of the fenced in area.  He could have easily run into the parking lot and been hit by a car or something.

So we won't be going to this doggie beach anymore, but it was still fun.  Isaac had to get a bath as soon as we got home, which he did not like.  After his bath, he beheaded his stuffed hippo.  Now he is conked out on the floor, sound asleep.  I am exhausted, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

She's Making Herself at Home

See?  Doesn't she look right at home?  She is lounging on my couch, on a pile of blankets, totally relaxed.  Except maybe I disturbed her by taking her picture.  That face looks slightly perturbed, don't you think?

Today I went out front to check the oil in my car.  When I came back inside, Cayenne was curled up snoozing on one end of the couch and Isaac was curled up snoozing on the other end of the couch.  They were about as far apart as they could be and still be on the same couch, but they were both on the same couch at the same time.  Apparently Cayenne has decided she can put up with the big bad doggie, after all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Am So Worn Out

This evening I agreed to watch Isaac's friend K and her younger sister, A, while their mom went to her drug treatment program.  According to K, her mom used to take drugs but doesn't anymore.  She goes to some sort of treatment program once a week and usually K and A go with her.  There is some sort of group there that the kids participate in and K said it's "kind of helpful" but "really boring."  They didn't want to go tonight and I said they could stay with me and Isaac, as long as they could entertain themselves for a while because I had some work to do.

Well, they did entertain themselves some.  They are really good kids, but they are still kids.  They are messy and noisy and all that stuff.  There are now granola bar crumbs all over my couch. 

Isaac is completely worn out.  He is passed out on the floor right now, and a few minutes ago Cayenne walked right past him, and he didn't move a muscle.  Normally, he is aware if she goes anywhere in the apartment and usually trots after her, which upsets her greatly.  Cayenne hid from the girls while they were here; they were too noisy for her.  They had a lot of fun playing with Isaac and putting him through is paces.  They had him sit, lie down, stay, turn on the light, open the fridge, etc. about a million times each.

I am completely worn out, too.  They were really well-behaved.  I say they were noisy, but compared to many kids, they weren't that loud.  I was on the phone for a while when they were here and they did a very good job of keeping it down while I was on the phone.  They drew me some pictures and had markers and papers strewn all over the living room, but they picked their things up when I asked them to before they left.  I gave them something to drink and showed them where to put their glasses so Isaac wouldn't knock them over, and they were careful to put them where I said.

As good as they were, I am worn out.  I walked them home, and on my way back home, Isaac saw a cat and took off after it.  Normally when he chases after something, he does not go far at all and he comes right back.  This time, he did not come right back.  I started after him but he is so fast and I can't run at all because of my back.  He ran around a house and was out of sight and when I got around the house, he was no where to be seen.  I called him and he didn't come right back and I started to panic.  I didn't know what I was going to do if I couldn't find him.  I was trying to think of who I could call to help me and I didn't know anyone to call.  I didn't have my anxiety medication; it was back in my apartment and I didn't want to go home to get it because I thought I needed to keep looking for Isaac.

Well, about five minutes later, Isaac came trotting back to me, looking quite pleased with himself.  He wasn't gone that long and while I don't like him running around loose, the reality is just about everyone in my neighborhood knows Isaac, he has on a collar with an identification tag, and he has a microchip.  If Isaac got lost, if I couldn't find him, chances are very good someone would find him and return him.  Really, as friendly as Isaac is, he would not need someone to find him; he would find a person and run up to them to say hello and ask for a belly rub.  My panic was excessive.

I feel like my nerves were just frazzled, though, from having the two kids here for three hours.  Isn't that pitiful?  Two well-behaved kids for three hours is too much for me.  But I think it is too much.  I feel like now I need a whole day to rest and recover from it, plus I need a whole day to clean my house because, well, things are sticky now.

Does He Do Any Tricks?

Today Isaac's friend K came over to visit, as she does every day now.  She asked me if Isaac does any tricks.  He doesn't do any of the typical doggie tricks like rolling over or playing dead, but I showed her how he turns on lights for me.  She was suitably impressed.

I need to make a video of him doing that so I can post it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Some Kids Grow Up Too Fast

Isaac's friend K came over today to visit.  She comes over every day now.  We went out to take Isaac for a walk.

While we walk, she talks to me.  Kids tend to share a lot, although they often stop being so talkative by the time they reach her age, which is nine.  Many years ago I taught preschool for a little while and I always thought how the parents would be amazed, and probably embarrassed or horrified, if they knew the things their kids would tell the teachers.  By the time they reach age nine, though, kids usually start to shut down a little bit.  They start learning that some things are considered "private" and that some things that happen in their homes might not be considered "normal," and they share less.

But K talks.  She tells me all kinds of things.  She told me today how she doesn't like her grandma because her grandma was "mean" to her mom when she was growing up.  She told me she likes her grandpa but rarely gets to see him because he likes to get drunk too much.  She told me how she is not allowed to see her uncle because he molested her and she doesn't know why he isn't in jail for doing that.

She told me how she is no longer allowed to play with the two little girls that live behind her house because "they have pills all over the house" and "spoons with white stuff on them" and the parents were teaching their kids (who are five and seven years old) how to "snort stuff."  Apparently K's mom decided this was not a good place for her daughter play.  I told K I thought her mom was right about that. 

K seemed worried about the two children that live there.  She is kind of like the little mommy of the neighborhood, it seems.  I told her that her mom could call Children's Services if they were worried and someone would come out to check on the kids and make sure they were OK and that if there were drugs lying around the house, they would make them clean it up.

But wow.  Just wow.  I'm pretty sure when I was nine I didn't know anything about "white stuff on spoons" or "snorting stuff."  I think I was in fifth grade before they started the "Just Say No" stuff in school, and even though, I'd certainly never seen drugs.  OK, I am in my 40's and I've never seen most drugs.  I've seen pot but never cocaine or heroin or crack or anything like that.

You know, I did not know the word "molested" when I was nine, either.  I was molested when I was young, but I didn't know the word for it.  I guess it's a good thing kids today have the words for it because that certainly makes it easier to talk about it and to tell someone if it's happening to you.  But it's sad that kids need words for things like that.

What kind of world are we raising kids in?  It's scary.

There's the Pretty Kitty!

Cayenne has decided it's safe to come out as long as the big bad doggie is out with the dog walker, or locked in another room, or sleeping.   

She also migrated from under the bed to the living room, where she hides under or behind the couch, while Isaac and I were out taking a walk yesterday.  There is this little nook beside the couch and the ledge in front of my living room window, where Isaac cannot get to her, but there is room back there for a dish of water and nice soft towel to sleep on.  She comes out into the living room to eat, as long as I put Isaac in the bedroom so he cannot bother her.  Apparently just looking at her counts as bothering her, in her mind.

This morning while Isaac was sleeping on the living room floor, Cayenne got up on the couch and crawled into my lap to be petted.  Unfortunately, I said, "Hi, pretty kitty girl," to her, and Isaac heard me and sat up to see who I was talking to.  He probably thought, or was hoping, I was talking to him.  Well, when he looked at Cayenne, she got mad and went back behind the couch.  It reminds me of little kids.  "Mooommmm, he's looking at me!"

She seems to be settling in all right, though.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome Home, Cayenne

I wanted to post a picture here of Cayenne in her new home, but alas, she has spent most of her time here so far under the bed where the big bad doggie cannot reach her, so there have not been many photo opportunities.

Cayenne finally came home today.  She's been my kitty since she was a baby, and she is now nearly 14 years old, but she stayed with Mike initially when I moved.  She does not like change, does not like Isaac, and was enjoying sitting out on the front porch in the nice weather, which she will not be able to do here.  So for those reasons, Mike and I decided she would stay with him for a little while after I moved.  The initial plan was to move her here at the end of the summer, when the weather began to turn cold, and she would no longer want to sit outside.  With the return of her cancer and her other medical problems, I believe this will be her last summer and I wanted her to be able to enjoy sitting outside on the porch as long as she could.

Mike's mother is now having some health issues, though, and Mike will be staying with her for at least the next few months.  Therefore, Cayenne needed to move before the end of the summer.  I love her and I've missed her, but I also feel a little bad for her, because I'm afraid she won't like living here very much.  I know she will not be pleased to share a home with Isaac again.

Yesterday I went shopping and bought her a new litter box, cat food, all that stuff.  I rearranged my bedroom closet, creating a little nest in the back where she can go and Isaac cannot get to her.  I also set up a little area on the ledge in front of my living room window with a nice little blanket where she can lie and look out the window.

Today I picked her up at Mike's.  Cayenne hates - hates, hates, hates - riding in the car.  I put her in the carrier and put her in the back seat and started the drive home.  She cried some, pitiful little meows.  Halfway here, she threw up, poor thing.  She's never thrown up in the car before but I guess the ride upset her tummy.

I got her home and shut Isaac in the bathroom, which offended him greatly, and then let her out of the carrier.  She went directly under the bed, but then she came out and crept around the bedroom, checked out the closet, and went back under the bed.  I let Isaac out of the bathroom and he really wanted to visit with her, but she was tucked away under the bed pretty well, so he quickly gave up.
Twice I've gone into the bedroom, closed the door to keep the big scary doggie out, and offered her food.  She comes right out from under the bed to eat.  Apparently her stomach feels fine now because she scarfed down her dinner like she was starving.  She also drank some water.  I showed her the nice new litter box I got her, which she did not appreciate one bit.  Cats never seem to like it when you stick them in a litter box.  I left it right beside the bed, which is not where I intend to keep it forever, but right now I want it to be where it's easy for her to use it, and since under the bed is where she wants to be, beside the bed is where the box needs to be.

I'm glad she's here and hope she settles in quickly.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Think You Must Be Really Lonely

Today Isaac's friend K came over to visit him.  I talked to her mom the other day to make sure it was OK for her to come inside, so she got to come in and play with Isaac with his toys.  She said, "You weren't kidding when you said he had a lot of toys!"  He probably has more toys than she does.  Spoiled doggie.

It was an interesting visit.  She is a really smart, articulate, engaging nine-year-old.  She looked around my apartment and said, "I think you like kitties a lot."  I guess the cat curtains in the living room and the drawings of my cats done by a friend of mine gives it away, huh?  But it was pretty perceptive for a nine-year-old, I thought.  She also told me I have "a lot of cool stuff."  I really don't have a lot of stuff, but she liked some of the decorative boxes I have on the living room bookshelf.

Then she said, "I think you must be really lonely here."  I was surprised she said that and asked her why she thought so.  She said, "Because you are all by yourself here in this apartment."

I said, "Well, Isaac is pretty good company." 

She looked doubtful and said, "Maybe you need someone to live with you."

I said, "Isaac lives with me and he is pretty good company.  And after tomorrow, my kitty Cayenne will live with me, too."  She still looked skeptical.  I don't know what I make of that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saw My Doctor Today

I decided to call my doctor today since my throat is still super sore and I still have a fever.  Turns out I have strep throat, so it's a good thing I went.  He said he's seen several patients today alone with strep throat.  He asked if I'd been around anyone sick lately, and I haven't that I know of, but I guess I was around someone with strep, because I had to catch it somewhere.

I'm just glad to have a diagnosis and even happier to have antibiotics.  He told me I will be contagious for 48 hours after beginning the antibiotics, which I started immediately, so I guess I will be staying close to home for the next couple days because I don't want to spread my germs around.  Not that I feel like going anywhere anyway.  I am exhausted and feel crappy.

I feel relieved to have an actual diagnosis, though.  I'm probably weird this way, but I hate going to the doctor and being told nothing is wrong with me.  It's not that I want something to be wrong with me, but if I am feeling sick, I like to know that something actually is wrong and what it is.  If I go to the doctor and say I feel sick and they can't find anything wrong, I feel like they are saying it's all in my head or that they don't believe me that I don't feel well.  I know a lot of that has to do with my PTSD stuff, but I still hate that feeling.

My doctor had some trouble figuring out what antibiotic to prescribe because I am allergic to a couple antibiotics and a couple of the antibiotics I can take, and usually do take for infections, apparently are not effective against strep.  So he finally decided one, which I told him I've had before, but he was a bit hesitant because he said some people that are sensitive to one of the antibiotics I am allergic to have problems with this one as well.  But I am certain I've taken this before without any issues.

I went to the pharmacy to pick it up, and thank the goddess for good health insurance.  I paid my $2.65 copy, which I think is really, really reasonable and affordable, and according to my receipt, my insurance paid the other $105.99.  This is for 14 pills, one week's worth.  Who could possibly afford that without insurance?  Yes, there are many antibiotics that are much cheaper, but those are ones I can't take because I am allergic to them and they could literally kill me if I took them.  If I didn't have insurance, there is no way I could pay over $100 for antibiotics.  I would just have to go without.  And how ridiculous is it that someone could have strep throat and not be able to get antibiotics?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Feel Guilty

I always end up feeling guilty when I'm sick.  I feel guilty about things I'm not able to get done due to being ill.  Right now, I feel guilty about Isaac.  I've been sick since Sunday morning.  That means I've only been able to take him on very short walks since then, mostly just around the parking lot outside my building.  Yesterday the dog walker came and took him for an hour-long run, but he was not able to come today.  He will be here again tomorrow.  But two hours of exercise in four days is not enough for Isaac.  He is used to having at least one long walk a day, usually two or three.  And a lot of the time he's been cooped up in the house, I haven't been paying any attention to him.  I've been sleeping.

He's been sleeping a lot, too.  He is snoozing on my foot right now.  I gave him some new pig skin chews and a new bone, to entertain him.  I've given him a Kong stuffed with pieces of hot dog.  He got the new baby doll from his friend K today.  But he wants to play.  He at least wants a good walk.  Not only have I been taking him for super short walks, but I can only walk very, very slowly.  He's bored.  He needs to move.  But it's all I can do to stand up and walk out front long enough for him to pee.

I feel guilty.  I should be taking better care of him.  It's not his fault I'm sick.  Whether I feel sick or not, I need to take care of him.  And I just can't do anymore right now.  But I feel very guilty about it.

Isaac's New Baby

Isaac's friend K gave him a baby doll.  I assured her he has plenty of toys but she really wanted to give him a doll.  She gave it to him in the parking lot outside my building, and Isaac proudly carried it inside, into the elevator, then down the hall to our apartment.  He walked around with it in his mouth, apparently trying to decided what he wanted to do.  He finally settled down on one of his blankies (he has two fleece blankies that he loves), still holding it in his mouth, and just sat lay there holding it for a while.

Of course, after that he beheaded it and ripped off a leg.  He is now working on pulling off an arm.

More Stuff You Might Not Know About Service Dogs

Last month I posted some facts you might not have knownabout service dogs.  Here are a few more.

  • The full cost of a service dog is usually about $20,000.  Depending on what the dog must be trained to do, it can be twice that much.  Most people with disabilities do not get service dogs given to them for free.  Most programs that train and place service dogs cover a lot of the cost themselves (through donations and occasionally grants) but it’s common for a person with a disability to have to pay somewhere between $2000 and $5000 for their service dog.  Health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a service, either, at least not in most cases.
  • Churches are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means they are not required to let a person with a disability bring a service dog to church services.  The same goes for other places of worship, like synagogues and mosques.  Some do welcome service dogs, but they are legally permitted to disallow them.  (They must allow service dogs at events that are open to the general public though.  For instance, if a church holds a community craft show or allows AA groups to meet in their building, service dogs must be permitted there.)  Do you know if your church allows people with disabilities to bring their service dog to services?
  •  Hotels must allow people with disabilities to stay there with their service dogs, even if they do not normally allow pets.  They are not allowed to charge an additional fee for the service dog, even if they typically charge an extra “pet fee” for pets (because service dogs are not pets).  If a service dog does any damage to a hotel room, though, the owner must pay for that damage.
  • While most businesses must allow a person with a disability to bring their service dog into that business, they are not required to provide any special supplies or services for the dog.  For instance, restaurants must allow me to bring Isaac in with me.  However, they do not have to provide him with a dish of water (and in fact, I should not be giving Isaac food or water in the restaurant at all.  I keep water, and if necessary, food, in the car and feed or water him before or after I go in to eat).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fever Last Night

Last night I was feeling really feverish so I decided to take my temperature.  It was 102.6.  This probably sounds really weird, but in a way I was glad, or relieved, I had a high fever.  It was proof I was sick.  That it wasn't all in my head.

However, I am also glad, or relieved, that my temperature is down to 99.5 this morning.  I feel much better.  Still sick, my throat is still sore, and I'm exhausted because I slept very little last night because I just couldn't get comfortable.  But much better than yesterday.

Poor Isaac got very little exercise yesterday.  I didn't feel well enough to go for any walks.  I just took him out long enough to pee, walked around the parking lot a little, and came back in.  This morning his running buddy came and Isaac was just bursting with energy.  He was good yesterday, just slept a lot, but he was sure happy to get to go for a run this morning.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thoughts on Pain

I used to say that I had a really high pain tolerance.  I know lots of people say that.  My mother works for an orthopedic surgeon and she told me she has patients call up all the time complaining that they are in terrible pain and need more pain meds and they insist that they have a very high pain tolerance so the fact that they are in pain at that point means it really, really hurts.

Still, I think I used to have a very high pain tolerance.  For real.  I had a natural childbirth when I was 17 years old.  I was in labor for 19 hours and did not want pain medication.  Yes, it hurt, but I would do it again.  It was unpleasant, but bearable.  That's how high my pain tolerance is.  Or was, anyway.

I think I am also good at tuning out painful sensations.  I think I learned to do that as a child, when I was abused.  People with PTSD often do that.  There was no way to escape the pain as a child, other than to tune it out.  To not think about it.  To not feel it. To not recognize it.  It's a form of dissociation.

It's similar to what happens if you take Lamaze classes during pregnancy and they teach you to focus on  your breathing or on a focal point, like a picture or a teddy bear, and to focus on that and not on your contractions.  The contractions don't go away. They don't really stop hurting.  But if you do it well, you don't realize how painful they are.

Adults might have to take a series of Lamaze classes to learn to do that (there are other methods of prepared childbirth that work on a similar principle, as well as methods that work on other principles), but some children, especially young children that are abused repeatedly, figure out how to do it on their own.  It's a pretty creative way to deal with pain that would otherwise be intolerable.  Yay for creative coping skills, right?

But as an adult, that coping skill doesn't always serve you so well.  In November 2008, I had gastric bypass surgery.  A week later, I noticed I was getting a little short of breath pretty easily.  I thought I was just in poor shape, that I needed to exercise more.  I wasn't having any pain with breathing, wasn't coughing, no chest pain, no other symptoms.  I was nauseous a lot, though, and one night I thought I was dehydrated.  I asked Mike to take me to the ER because I thought I needed IV fluids.  We went to the ER, and they did indeed say I was dehydrated and give me IV fluids, but they also said I had pneumonia.  I was surprised to hear that.  They gave me a prescription for oral antibiotics and sent me home.

A week later, I had been up all night vomiting.  I was sure I was dehydrated again and when Mike got up for work, asked him to take me to the ER for more IV fluids.  He seemed annoyed at having to take off work to take me, but I was too sick to drive myself.  I was weak and dizzy and couldn't stop throwing up.  So off to the ER we went.

Again, I was told that I was indeed dehydrated and they hooked me up to an IV for fluids.  They also listened to my lungs and seemed concerned.  They wanted to do a chest x-ray, and after that, they got really concerned.  They wanted a CT scan of my lungs, an ultrasound of my heart.  People were bustling around in a big hurry, looking very worried.  The  ER physician told me they  might have to put a tube into my chest to drain the infected fluid away from my left lung.  He said they might have to put a tube down my throat to help me breathe.  I thought he was nuts.  I did not feel that sick at all.  I thought I just needed IV fluids.  I couldn't understand why they were all so worried.

I was admitted.  They had me on oxygen.  At one point I needed to get out of bed to go to the bathroom and I started to remove the oxygen to do that, and the nurse said oh no, put that back on!  It will reach into the bathroom!  You can't take it off.  The next day, they  moved me into intensive care.  They were rushing, packing up my few belongings and pushing my bed through the halls really fast.  I didn't understand what was happening.  I did not feel that sick.

I understand now that I was, in fact, very sick.  Deathly sick.  Like, if I hadn't been dehydrated and gone to the ER for IV fluids that night, I might have died at home on the couch in another day or two.  As it was, I spent 21 days in the hospital, a good part of that in the ICU.  They did put in a chest tube to drain the fluid away from my left lung, but the fluid was so infected and clotted and congealed that it would not drain.  They ended up having to do lung surgery to clean out the infection.  I was on a respirator for four or five days.  I was really out it, remember very little of those days, which I think is a good thing.  They kept me pretty sedated because I kept trying to pull out the respirator and they had to tie down my hands to keep me from pulling it out and then I freaked out from being restrained like that.

You know how unusual it is to spend 21 days in the hospital anymore?  People have open heart surgery and maybe spend a third of that time in the hospital.  I was horribly, horribly sick, and I didn't have any idea.

Why didn't I know I was sick?  I think I was dissociating.  I think I was tuning out the pain and discomfort, like I learned to do so well when I was a kid.  I can do it so well, I don't even know when I'm doing it anymore.  It makes it really hard to know if I am really sick or injured.  And I worry about going to the doctor and being told nothing's wrong.  I worry that they won't believe me.

Since my experience in the ER last November, though, when I had seven staples placed in my arms with no pain relief at all, I am afraid of pain.  Being afraid of pain makes it hurt more.  That's one of the reasons prepared childbirth techniques work.  The classes take the mystery out of the process and allow women to relax into the pain and open up instead of tensing up and fighting the contractions.  But since that experience in the ER, I am afraid of pain.  I fight it.  Even though I know that fighting it makes it worse, I can't help it.

I woke up early this morning with a very sore throat.  Now my body hurts all over.  I know that when you're sick, you often get achy and sore all over.  But I hurt in places I do not think are related to a sore throat or respiratory virus or something like that.  I think some of the pain I am experiencing is in my head.  I just don't know how much.  And it makes me hesitant to see a doctor because I'm afraid they will just tell me I am not really sick.  That's not the only reason I am anxious about seeing doctors after my experience last November, but it's part of it.  I just can't rely on my pain signals to tell me whether or not something is wrong.  And it's really hard to get health care professionals to understand that.

I came across an interesting article today about the perception of pain and other feelings in people on the autism spectrum.  I don't think I am autistic, but I think I have sort of a similar thing going on and I found the article interesting.

Sore Throat

I woke up this morning with a really sore throat.  I hate being sick.  It always triggers a lot of my PTSD stuff.

I'm frustrated because I have stuff I need to do today.  Like go to Meijer, without Isaac, to buy the stuff I was not able to buy yesterday.  And the store will be crowded and there is no way I can handle that when I am sick on top of everything else.  I'm tired and I just want to sleep.

Also... kitty litter is heavy.  Even the smallest container you can buy.  I have to figure out a way to get it home and into my apartment.  Hopefully without killing my back.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Anxiety and a Bad Shopping Trip

Today I needed to go to Meijer to pick up a few things.  I normally do not shop on weekends, especially not at big stores like Meijer or Walmart, because they are just too crowded and it makes me to anxious.  I plan very carefully so that I can avoid shopping on weekends.  I make sure I pick up anything I'll need for the weekend by Friday morning at the latest.  If I do need something on the weekend, I go to the little Kroger in my small town on Saturday or Sunday evening or occasionally bright and early on Sunday morning, and it's not too crowded there at those times.  But I plan very carefully to make sure I won't need to shop on the weekend.

Well, my cat Cayenne has been staying with Mike since I moved out because she likes to sit outside on the porch in the summer and I can't let her outside here at my new apartment (which isn't really so new anymore, but whatever).  But today I learned that Mike is going to be moving in with his mother, at least for a while, because she is having some health problems and can't be alone right now.  I didn't want Cayenne to go to his mom's with him, partly because she will be stressed out by moving and I don't want to stress her out by moving there and then again later by moving to my apartment, and partly because she pees outside of the litter box often and I don't want her to pee all over Mike's mom's house.  So I was going to pick her up tomorrow and bring her to my place.

But that meant I had to go to Meijer today to get some supplies.  I need cat food.  I need a litter box and kitty litter.  I would have shopped for those things a day or two ago, but Mike didn't inform me until this afternoon that this was happening and it was happening today.  So I had no time to plan.  I had to go to the store today.

So I went.  It was horribly crowded.  I had a really hard time finding some of the things I needed.  I think there were eight things on my shopping list, and it should not be that difficult to pick up eight items and pay for them, but by the time I found everything, I was exhausted and on edge.

There were only a few registers open and there were long lines at all of them.  I don't understand why stores don't have more clerks on duty during busy times.  If they only plan to have a few clerks working, even when it's really busy, why do they install so many registers?  Those registers have to be expensive.  There are something like 15 registers at the front of the store and only five are open, one of which is for people with ten items or less.  That makes no sense to me.

Isaac and I got in line.  And waited.  And waited.  And then, Isaac barked at this guy that walked past us.  He hasn't barked in a store or other public place in several months.  The last time was at the thrift store, when he saw another service dog.  That was before I moved, so it might have been in March or the beginning of April.  And that time, he stopped as soon as I corrected him.

So today, I corrected him, and he stopped.   Then the guy walked past again, and Isaac barked again.  I don't know what it was about the guy that Isaac was barking about, but the guy didn't do anything inappropriate.  Isaac was being totally inappropriate.  The poor guy felt bad and apologized to me, and I assured him it was not his fault and apologized to him.  I pushed my cart off to the side and started to leave the store, with Isaac in tow.  Then I realized I'd left my purse in my cart and had to go back for it.  I was horribly embarrassed.  Isaac was not barking anymore, but I was still embarrassed and anxious and also angry at him for barking and causing me to have to leave without buying my stuff that had been so difficult for me to gather in the first place.

I got out to the car, where I had a full blown anxiety attack.  I took some meds and sat in the car and cried for a long time.

I couldn't leave Isaac in the car while I went back in to finish my shopping, because it's too hot to do that.  I thought I should take him home, then go back to the store (it would take me about an hour to drive him home, then drive back there) and finish shopping, but I just couldn't do it.  It seemed to hard, too overwhelming.  I was mad because it had been so difficult for me to get the things on my list in the first place, and now I had nothing to show for my efforts.  I cried for a while, and then I drove home.  I took more anxiety meds and lay down on the couch for a while.

Maybe I'll try going back to Meijer late tonight, when it won't be crowded.  Without my barking dog, of course.  I don't know what I'm going to do about him.  I'm upset because while he behaves well most of the time, once in a while he doesn't and it makes me afraid to take him places because I am never sure how he'll act.  The program I got him from has not been much help.  I think I need to hire a trainer to help me with him, but I can't afford it.  I'm still paying his program.  I can't afford to pay them plus pay another trainer, and I shouldn't have to pay another trainer, that's what I am paying the program for.  I feel like I should be able to get him under control but I don't know how.  I don't know how to train a service dog, that's why I wanted a dog from a program.