Thursday, November 28, 2013

Other Thoughts about My Day of Volunteering

I really enjoyed it and it was very fulfilling and I wish I could do it a lot more often.  And I am very aware of why I can't do it real often.  At least not for such long periods.

First, I got very little sleep last night.  I had to get up by 6:15 am so I could leave my house by 7:00 am.  Well, a few minutes earlier than that, so I had time to scrap the ice off my car.  I hate scraping ice off my car, by the way.  I hope I will not have to do that very many times this winter.  But anyway, when I have to get up that early, it often means I don't get anywhere near enough rest.

Second, being on my feet for more than five hours (the only time I sat down was when I went to the bathroom) made my feet tired and sore, but that was OK, that was a good kind of tired and sore.  But it also made my back ache and the pain spread down into my hips.  I didn't really want to sit down, though.  I was afraid it would be too hard to stand back up.

The Community Kitchen is in an old building, built in 1905, that used to be a school.  The bathrooms near the kitchen have very low toilets, as if they were designed for children.  The first time I went to the bathroom, I had a little difficulty getting up off the toilet.  When I went to the bathroom again before leaving to go home, I had a lot of difficulty getting up off the toilet.  Luckily the toilet paper holder was really sturdy; I basically used it to pull myself to my feet.  I'm lucky I didn't pull it right off the wall.

There were several times I had trouble with a task I was doing, due to my back.  One of the volunteers was trying to carry three full plates of food and dropped one of them.  She had her hands full with the other two plates of food, plus had to go back for a new plate to replace the one she dropped, so I jumped in and told her not to worry about the mess, I'd take care of it.  She apologized a bunch and I think she really felt bad about dropping it, but it's not like she did it on purpose.  I knelt down to clean it up and then realized I was going to have a really hard time getting back onto my feet.  Again at the end of the day, I bent over to unplug a coffee maker, and had a really hard time getting back up.

Bending over to wipe off tables wasn't too hard, because I could support myself with one hand on the table while wiping with the other hand.  A couple times I saw a napkin or fork or something on the floor and picked them up and that was hard, and then a few other times I saw something on the floor and I just left it there, and felt kind of bad about doing that, but it was too hard to bend over.

I came home and rested for a little bit, took a hot bath, and got something to eat.  I am really tired and my body hurts just about all over.

I am reminded of why I cannot work.  And I'm a bit frustrated and a bit sad, because I only volunteered for a little over five hours today, and I used to work eight hours easily, sometimes more.  Geez, there was a time when I regularly worked double shifts, 16 hours, as a nursing assistant.  Which was kind of hard but I could certainly do it.

I really enjoyed volunteering today.  But physically, I'm just not up to doing this kind of thing very often.

Serving at the Community Kitchen

Today I spend more than five hours serving at the Community Kitchen in Columbus, Ohio.  It's a wonderful place that operates a food pantry and serves free meals.  They serve breakfast and lunch six days a week.  Once a week, they have a family dinner, and in addition to serving dinner to families, they have games, crafts and homework help for the kids there.

I did a little bit of everything today, signing in volunteers, directing them to their assigned stations, cleaning up spills, serving drinks and desserts, fetching more plates, finding toilet paper, letting the kitchen know they needed more stuffing in the dining room, finding someone to take out the trash.  It was good work, work that was real.

I am now tired, that good kind of tired when you've worked hard, and my heart is full.  What a wonderful feeling that is.

There were so many people that touched me today, that stand out in my mind.

  • There was the man, about my age, that showed me the handful of pills he had to take with his meal.  For his  kidneys, he said.  Tomorrow, he will go to dialysis, as he does three times a week.  He's been on the list for a kidney transplant for several years.  His wife died two years ago and since then, he's been alone.  He hopes to get a new kidney soon so he can go back to work.  He wants to be a mail sorter.
  • There was the mom with her little girl, maybe eight years old, that reminded me of Isaac's friend K.  Both had warm-looking coats and stringy hair.  I'm not sure what it was about them that made them stand out to me.   Maybe it was just that the girl reminded me of K.
  • There was the woman, about my age, that sat alone wiping at tears while she ate her meal.  I went over and ask if she was OK, which in retrospect was a really stupid question.  Of course she wasn't OK.  She said she was, though.  I said, "You don't look so OK," and asked if I could get her anything.  She said no.  I told her I didn't want to pry, but if there was anything I could do for her, or if she wanted to talk, or if she wanted a hug, to let me know.  Then I went and found her some tissues.  As she was leaving, I went over to her and told her I didn't know what she was going through but that I wanted her to know I would be thinking of her this weekend and that she really touched my heart.
  • There was the elderly man with stringy white hair who, after finishing his meal, helped clear the table with hands that trembled so badly he could barely hold a plate.
  • There was the group of four young people, maybe 19 or 20 years old, that got unbelievable excited when I told them they could have a container of leftovers to take home for later.  I might get that excited myself if you told me I could take home a hundred dollar bill.  Maybe.
  • There was the young man whose eyes lit up when I offered him a piece of pumpkin pie like the eyes of a kid at Christmas, looking at a pile of gifts under the tree.
  • There was the woman that timidly approached me and said she'd spilled her cup of Koolaid and asked for some paper towels to clean it up.  I got some paper towels and a soapy rag and together we cleaned the table.  She must have apologized for spilling her drink ten times during the two minutes it took to clean it up.  Then she asked if she could please have another cup of Koolaid, if she promised not to spill it.
  • There was the family, a mom and a dad and three little kids.  I saw the mom scooping some of her mashed potatoes onto her little girls plate.  I guess the little girl ate all of hers and wanted some more and we were not giving out seconds, although everyone that wanted one could have a package of leftovers to take home.
  • There was the man that ate about half the food on his plate, then asked me if he could have a container to put the rest in.  He wanted to take it home for his dog.  I asked him what kind of dog he had and he said she was a pit bull.  He didn't say this, but I got the idea he had trouble buying food for his dog sometimes.  He wanted to share his meal with his dog.  I thought about Isaac then.
  • There was the woman I saw attacking her plate of food in a way that made me think she hadn't eaten in a while.  When a volunteer accidentally dropped a full plate of food and I was trying to clean it up but having trouble bending over, she got up from her meal and came over to help me.
  • There was the man that asked me three times if I would make sure he got his container of leftovers to take home with him.  He was really worried we would forget to give it to him.  That food must have really meant a lot to him.
  • There was the wild-hair man that came in shortly before we stopped serving.  After he finished his meal, he stayed to help clean up.
  • There was the mom that brought her three kids to volunteer.  They all worked so hard and at the end of the day, the mom asked when they could come back to volunteer again.
  • There was the girl, about 13 or 14, that was volunteering with her mom.  She asked me to fill out this paper for her school, saying how many hours she worked and what she did.  I was so impressed with how hard she worked.  I don't think she stopped to take a breath for four hours.
  • There was the elderly gentleman that told me this was the 22nd year in a row he'd volunteered there on Thanksgiving.
  • There was a couple teenage boys volunteering, who also worked really hard.  I was impressed because they did every single job I asked them to do, including taking out the garbage about a million times, and never once complained or balked.  How did their mom get them to do that?
  • There was the volunteer who, at the end of the day, said she was worn out.  I said she should go home and put her feet up.  She said oh no, she was going home to cook dinner and serve it to her family and then clean up.  How do people get that much energy?

I am Thankful

I have so much for which to be thankful today.
  • I am thankful for Isaac.  And for the wonderful people that trained him and placed him with me.  And for all the people, friends and strangers, that donated money, in some cases large amounts of money, to help cover the cost of getting a service dog.
  • I am also thankful for Cayenne.  I am thankful she's here with me today and that she seems to be feeling better.  I am mindful that this may be her last Thanksgiving with me and I am so happy she is here.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to spend today serving Thanksgiving dinner to people at the Community Kitchen in Columbus, Ohio.  I'm thankful for a place to be, for the ability to serve others, and for people with whom to spend this day.
  • I am thankful for the friend that invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his family.  I won't be there because I'll be at the Community Kitchen all day, but I was so touched to be invited.
  • I am thankful for the people in my life that love me and that have done so many kind, caring, loving, generous things for me.  I'm not gonna try to name them all here.  I'd probably forget to name someone.  But I am thankful for them all.
  • I'm thankful for my neighbors, kind people that love Isaac.
  • I am also thankful for all the readers of my blog.  I love your comments and your encouragement and your support.
  • I am thankful for my home.  I know I didn't like my apartment much when I first moved in but I like it now.  It's home now and I am thankful for all the things I have here.
  • I am also thankful for where I live.  I love being out in the country.  I love the farmland all around and I appreciate it every time I drive somewhere.
  • I am thankful for space that is my own.  Sometimes it's lonely, living alone, but I've loved being able to set up my space in a way that is as accessible as possible for me, given my physical challenges.  I love being able to be more green in my life, doing things like giving up paper products for cloth.  I love having the space to be myself and to try different things.
  • I am thankful that I have enough to eat today.  And every day.  Although money is often tight, I never go hungry.  Most of the time, I have really good food, too.  And I am mindful that many people do not.
  • I am thankful for the local food pantry that helped feed me this month and to all the people that donated food to the food pantry and to the volunteers that staff it.
  • I am thankful for the new boots I bought last month.  I haven't worn them yet.  But I know I will be ever so thankful the first time it really snows and I have to take Isaac out for a walk.
  • I am thankful for my bathtub and a nearly unlimited supply of hot water.  Right now, I am running a hot bath and in a minute I will be blissfully soaking away some of my pain.  Hot baths are one of the things that makes my pain bearable.  I have a big tub and never run out of hot water, unlike where I used to live where the tub was tiny and there was barely enough hot water to fill it.
  • I am thankful for the weighted blankets I made a few months ago.  They've helped reduce my anxiety a lot.
  • I am thankful that five years ago, I was able to have gastric bypass surgery and that I have lost, and kept off, 130 pounds.
  • I'm thankful for the group of women that make up my weekly support group for gastric bypass patients.  I'm thankful for that weekly touchstone.
  • I am thankful for my health.  Oh, I know I complain about my health sometimes, and it is true that I have some health problems.  But I am thankful for the health that I do have.  For instance, I am thankful my back problems aren't even more debilitating (and I think they would be if I hadn't been able to lose, and keep off, so much weight).
  • I am thankful for my  health care providers, including my primary care physician, my psychiatrist, the surgeon that did my breast biopsy six months ago, and the dentist that recently did some fairly extensive dental work for me.  I don't think I've ever been an easy patient, but I've been far more difficult this past year, I know, as a result of the traumatic experience I had in the emergency room last November.  I'm thankful I've found health care providers that are willing to put up with me and provide treatment in a sensitive, caring way.
  • I am thankful for my new bridge.  It's nice to have teeth again.
  • I am thankful for both Isaac's and Cayenne's vets.  They both have wonderful, caring veterinarians.  And I'm thankful that Isaac's vet gives us a discount since he's a service dog.
  • I am thankful for the SSDI benefit I get every month, and for Medicare, and Medicaid, and food stamps, and HUD-subsidized housing.  Those systems aren't perfect but without them, I would be living in my car and would not be getting treatment from my wonderful health care providers (unless they all decided to donate their services, that is).
  • I am thankful for my work as a freelance writer.  I'm thankful for the income it provides, but also for the opportunity to do something I do well and to receive recognition for it.
  • I am thankful for Isaac's dog walker.  Isaac adores him and I can tell he really loves Isaac.
  • I am thankful for my car.  It's old and not in the best of shape, but it runs and the heater works and the air conditioner works, and I'm so glad I have it.
  • I am thankful for my laptop.  I was telling a friend the other day how I would be really isolated without the internet.  My laptop allows me to connect to so many people.  It allows me to work.  It provides information and entertainment for me.  I'd be lost without it.
  • I am thankful that I am resourceful and actually enjoy a lot of money-saving things, like making my own laundry detergent.
  • I am thankful that I am creative.
  • I am thankful for many of the skills that I have, like the ability to sew, to make my own laundry detergent, to research things, etc.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Follow up on Isaac's Church Fundraiser

Remember the church that held a fundraiser for Isaac back in September?  Well, as of today, the program that trained Isaac has not received the money from that fundraiser.

I am frustrated.  Really frustrated.

It was near the end of October when the pastor herself told me the check had been mailed. That was about five weeks after the fundraiser, which seemed like kind of a long time to me, but I was informed by a friend that some churches have volunteer bookkeepers and only cut checks once a month.  So OK.  I can understand that.

Fast forward to now, more than two months after the fundraiser.  The check never arrived.  Last week, yesterday and today, I've been trying to reach the pastor.  I call, the secretary tells me she's not in.  I ask when she will be in.  The secretary says, "After lunch" or "Tomorrow at nine," and I call back then, only to be told she's not in. 

Now, several churches made donations for Isaac out of their Deacons Funds or other funds.  They did not hold fundraisers.  They decided to donate money they had set aside to help people in need.  And one church initially told me they'd donate something and then later decided they didn't have the money available to donate after all.  I was disappointed about that, but I accepted it.  It's not like they owe me money.  It's not like I am entitled to it.  They are giving me a gift, and I deeply appreciate it, but if some churches don't have the money to give, I understand and accept that.

But with this church, it's different.  They held a fundraiser.  Members of the church prepared and served lunch.  Members of the church and members of the community attended and took money out of their pockets and put it in this big bowl that was sitting at the end of the buffet table.  Everyone was told the money was for Isaac.

I put in some work, too.  I designed a flyer about the fundraiser, which a friend printed for me because I do not own a printer, and I hung them up around town.  I contacted the local newspaper and arranged for a notice about the fundraiser to be printed in the paper.  I spoke about service dogs to the entire congregation that day.

And other people put in some work, too.  Someone at the newspaper office did whatever had to be done to get that notice in the paper.  My friend printed flyers, free of charge, and mailed them to me.

They didn't promise me any specific amount of money.  If no one had attended the fundraiser, then I wouldn't have gotten any money and I would have been disappointed but I would have understood and accepted that.  But they promised whatever amount was raised, and they did raise money, and I still don't have it.

It's hard to have to ask for money.  It's really hard to have to call and ask over and over again.  I have anxiety and depression.  Dealing with this is causing me a fair amount of anxiety and it might be contributing to some depression, too.

It's ridiculous.  There is no reason for them to not send the money.

Today a friend of mine, bless her heart, called the church for me.  She is an accountant by trade, which she told them, and she also told them she handles my taxes.  (Do you think she might want to do my taxes for me this year?)  She said she was calling on my behalf and the church secretary informed her I'd been calling a lot.  Well, you know, if someone would call me back, or if they'd just sent the check when they said they did, I wouldn't be calling so much, now would I?  It's not like I am calling because I enjoy talking to the secretary!

So my friend said she needed to find out what happened to the check and the secretary either said or implied that it had been sent, and my friend said they could clear it all up by faxing her a copy of the cancelled check.  Which of course they couldn't do because there was no cancelled check because they never sent the check in the first place.  So my friend said something about the IRS and misappropriation of funds. 

Apparently those were the magic words, because she quickly had the bookkeeper on the phone, who told her the check was mailed yesterday.  The bookkeeper said they'd been unable to mail it sooner because they only just got the address.  Which isn't true, I gave them the address back in September. 

I suspect the check did not get mailed yesterday but was going to be mailed today, after this phone call took place.  If it doesn't arrive by the middle of next week, my friend is going to call them back.  I'm guessing it will be arriving, though.

But good grief!  Why is it necessary to go through all this, just to get the money that people donated for this purpose?


I've been exhausted lately.  Of course, the fact that I sleep really poorly isn't helping, but I've slept really poorly for as long as I can remember, so that's nothing new.  I've decided it must be because of all the pain I've had lately.

I don't sleep well, but I've been napping or dozing a lot.  It's usually not a sound sleep, but I lie on the couch with my eyes closed and drift in and out for an hour or two.  And I do that a couple times a day.  Because I'm exhausted.  So exhausted I have trouble keeping my eyes open, sometimes.

I have little bursts of activity, but those exhaust me further.  Like, today I drove over to the home of Isaac's friend K, to see if she and her mom can walk Isaac for me on Thanksgiving since I will be at the community kitchen volunteering all day long, and then I went to Kroger to pick up a few things.  So few things I didn't even need a cart.  And that wore me out.  I came home and lay down for 45 minutes.

Just coping with the pain is exhausting.  Just existing with the pain takes a lot of energy.  Let alone doing daily tasks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Just How Bad My Back Really Is

Yesterday I was talking to a friend, who suggested I take a martial arts class.  I understand why he suggested it.  He thinks it would be empowering for me.  He's probably right.

I kept thinking about my back, though.  I don't know if I could take a class like that.  I don't know if any instructors would want to try to teach me, with all my back problems.  I'd have to be so careful.  There would be movements I just couldn't do, but I think that would be all right.  But I would have to make sure I didn't fall.  I couldn't risk any kind of injury.  Even a small bump could cause so much pain.

And then I realize, my friend just had no idea how bad my back really is.  I think most people don't.  I try not to complain about it too much, although I know I post about it fairly often here.  I try to do as many things for myself as I can.  I try not to ask for help.  I don't tell people about the things I can't do, or some of the things Isaac does for me, because I feel embarrassed.  I want to be independent.  I want to be capable.

Most people don't know, for instance, that last winter I frequently went without socks.  It was too difficult to bend over to put socks on.  I would just slip on my gym shoes and go out in the cold and the snow to take Isaac out with no socks on.  Yes, my feet were cold.  But what else was I going to do?  I couldn't bend over to put on socks and Isaac had to go out to pee.  This year I have some really warm boots, so my feet will be warmer even if I can't put socks on.

By the way, I have been training Isaac to pull my socks off for me.  He can't put them on for me, but he can pull them off.  He just needs to learn not to bite the tips of my toes in the process.

Sometimes I cannot bend the little bit I have to bend in order to lift the lid to the toilet.  So I trained Isaac to lift the lid for me.

There have been times I've been paying for a purchase and dropped a coin or two.  Normally, I would pick up change.  Normally, I pick up a penny if I spot one in a parking lot somewhere.  But there've been times when my back hurt too much.  I had to just leave the coins lying on the ground.  I couldn't bend down to pick them up.  Isaac can pick them up when he is with me, though.

There have been times, many times, when something as  small as stubbing my toe on a crack in the sidewalk has made me cry, the pain was so severe.  Sharp shooting pains going down my legs.

There have been a few times the pain has been so bad it made me vomit.  I still recall one summer morning when I got up to take Isaac out to pee and the pain was so severe I could barely stand.  I held on to the rail in the elevator.  We stood outside the front door and he peed and I puked in the grass.  I had to sit in a chair in the lobby for several minutes before I could make my way back up to my apartment, where I threw up again, took some pain meds and went back to bed.

Do you know how bad pain has to be before it makes you throw up?  More frequently, the pain is bad enough to cause me to break out in a sweat.

At the grocery store, I seldom buy the large containers of yogurt because those are on the bottom shelf and I usually can't bend over to get them.  I have to buy the smaller, more expensive containers instead.  Sometimes I have to buy milk in half-gallon jugs, even though it costs more that way, because I can't always lift a whole gallon.  When I shop at Meijer, I have to buy 1%  milk, not skim milk, because the skim milk in on the bottom shelf and I can't bend over and pick it up.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Visit to a Food Pantry

There is a food pantry in my town that provides fresh produce once a month.  Apparently it's very popular.  They give out produce from noon until 3:00 pm, unless they run out sooner; it's first come, first serve.  I arrived at noon and had to wait in line for an hour to get my produce.  I got a bunch of sweet potatoes, a bunch of onions and five avocados.  I also got some raspberry Greek yogurt, which I am thrilled about, although I'm not sure why Greek yogurt is considered produce.

I'm not sure what I think about waiting in line for an hour, though for potatoes, onions and avocados.  There is something sort of demeaning about waiting in line for a really long time for food.  And to be honest, I was kind of disappointed not to get a bigger variety of produce.  I was hoping for some fruit of some kind.

I also have no clue what I'm going to do with all these avocados.  I'm thinking avocado, tomato and cheese sandwiches would be good.  I have some spicy mustard and I have bread that I got at the food pantry Wednesday.  But I have no tomatoes and no cheese.  I'm not sure I want to spend my $15 in food stamps on tomatoes and cheese.  I have to figure out what to buy with that $15 that will stretch the farthest and I'm not sure cheese is the answer.

I have a box of jambalaya mix in my cupboard.  I normally make it with vegetarian sausage.  But I was thinking I could buy a can of beans (less than a dollar if I buy the store brand) and throw those in there.  Some avocado would be good on top of that.  I could saute some onion and put it in there, too.

I have some homemade salsa that I canned over the summer.  I could buy a can of black beans and put some salsa and avocado on those.

Maybe I'll save one of the avocados, though, and buy stuff to make sandwiches when I get my SSDI the beginning of next month.  Will avocados keep that long?  I have no clue how long they keep.

It's Been Just Over a Year Since Isaac Came to Live with Me

Tonight I reread the post I wrote on his first day with me.  And I've been thinking about how he's grown.  And how I've grown.

Today Isaac and I met a friend at Pizza Hut for lunch.  Isaac went right under the table and did not attempt to squirm his way out.  He did sprawl out under the table, hogging up all the foot room.  I had to tell him a couple times to scoot over.  My friend was not going to be able to put his feet on the floor otherwise.  Isaac is great in restaurants now.  It's been many  months since we've had a bad experience in one, and we sure did have a few bad experiences in the beginning!

Isaac's trainer kept telling him by the time he was three, he'd be a lot calmer.  Well, he is a lot calmer, though I suspect people don't believe me when I tell them that, because he is still so super hyper.  But compared to how he was in the beginning, he is calmer.  Maybe in another year he will not behave like a puppy on speed anymore.

The first night he was with me, he ran off after a cat or something when I was taking him out.  I had forgotten about that until I reread that post.  Unfortunately, he still does that sometimes.  Never when he's working, although of course, there are no cats to run after in Pizza Hut.  If there were, maybe he'd chase them.  I don't know.  He really, really loves to chase deer.  At least I don't panic when that happens anymore.  I know he will come right back.  He always does.

I've noticed just recently that I've really gotten used to using Isaac to help me with stuff.  What I mean is, for the longest time, Isaac was available to pick up things that I dropped but I would often bend down to pick things up myself without even thinking about it.  Telling Isaac to get it for me was not second nature.  I had to think about it.  And I felt bad about bothering him to get something for me if he was sleeping or eating or playing with a toy or whatever.  Now, it does feel natural to have Isaac pick up things for me.  And I've realized he doesn't mind if I interrupt his sleep or playtime or mealtime to do it.  He's just delighted to be asked.

I'm still paying for him.  I was supposed to have the total paid for by now and that hasn't happened.  So donations are still appreciated!  If you'd like more information about how to donate, you can email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com.

Being Thankful Shouldn't Be a Requirement

This year for Thanksgiving, I will be volunteering at a soup kitchen.  When I met with the volunteer director, she made a comment about some of their guest having a chip in their shoulder.  Well, I get that.  And I told her so.

Who eats Thanksgiving dinner at soup kitchens?  Homeless people that don't have a kitchen of their own to prepare their own Thanksgiving dinner.  People that are so poor they cannot afford the food to prepare their own Thanksgiving dinner.  People that have no friends or family that care enough to invite them to their homes for Thanksgiving dinner. 

I mean, no one says, "Hey, I don't really feel like cooking this years.  Let's eat at the soup kitchen instead!"  No one says, "Forget about homemade mashed potatoes, I want to eat instant potatoes at the soup kitchen instead!  Yummy."

I would be a bit depressed if I was homeless or super poor and had no friends or family that cared much about me.  I would be a bit depressed to be eating instant potatoes off a Styrofoam plate with a plastic fork at a metal folding table in a huge room full of strangers.  Wouldn't you?  And I am not always in a real cheery mood when I'm depressed.  Especially if I am depressed and hungry.  Are you?

Oh, don't get me wrong.   If I was homeless, I would be thankful for a warm room full of people, some of whom would probably even be friendly, where I could sit on a folding metal chair for a while.   It would sure beat the cold concrete doorway where I would later sit on the ground all night, trying to sleep, leaning against the cold brick, all alone.  The instant potatoes might not taste like what my grandma used to make but they would be warm and filling.  I would be thankful for enough to eat, thankful that hunger pains wouldn't be one more reason I would have trouble sleeping in that cold doorway later that night.  I would thank the volunteer that handed me my Styrofoam plate of food and I would clean my plate and I would linger as long as possible in that warm, crowded room.

But being thankful shouldn't be a requirement.  People living in extremely stressful conditions shouldn't have to be happy or cheerful or friendly or thankful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Relaxed Kitty

Visited the Food Pantry Today

Today I visited a local food pantry.  Between Cayenne's vet bills and my dental bills this month, I am totally broke.  I have $15 in food stamps and that is my grocery money for the rest of the month.  I have about $30 in the bank and that is for gas money and for buying cat food.  So I decided to hit the food pantry.

If you've never visited a food pantry before, well, you never know what you're going to get.  What you get depends on what people have donated.  It is not always what you need to put together a balanced, nutritious meal.  However, you might be surprised to get name brand products and even snack foods.

Today, I got:

  • graham crackers
  • teddy grahams
  • iced animal crackers
  • Lorna Doone cookies
  • Fig Newtons
  • Poptarts
  • chocolate brownie Fiber One bars
  • microwave popcorn
  • rosemary olive oil bread (like from a bakery, beautiful and really yummy)
  • whole wheat sandwich thins
  • Great Grains cinnamon hazelnut protein cereal
  • two cans of green beans
  • one can of tomato soup
  • one can of chicken noodle soup
  • frozen pancakes
  • two frozen dinners (both of which contain meat, which I don't eat)
  • beef jerky (Isaac will eat that)
Notice how I got more dessert and snack items than actual food to make a meal from?  And I am supposed to be on a low carb, low sugar diet.  But beggars can't be choosers, right?

Something else about getting food from a food pantry is that you don't always get stuff that goes together.  You get one element of a meal or dish, but not the rest of the stuff to eat with it. 

Like, I got bread.  However, I am out of butter at home.  They did not give me any butter.  What am I supposed to put on my bread?  I don't want to use part of my $15 in food stamps on butter.  Fortunately, I have plenty of olive oil at home and rosemary olive oil bread dipped in a little olive oil is really yummy.  But it would be nice if food pantries gave out butter or peanut butter or something that you could eat on your bread. 

Same with the pancakes.  I don't have any syrup.  I'm not using part of my $15 in food stamps to buy some.  But who wants to eat dry pancakes?

This isn't necessary something that food pantries are doing wrong.  They can only distribute what is donated to them.  But it can be a challenge to put together a meal when, for instance, they give you a box of mac-n-cheese but no milk or butter and you need both milk and butter to prepare the mac-n-cheese. 

I don't know what the solution is.  I guess it would be good to donate food that doesn't require added ingredients to prepare, unless you can donate all the necessary ingredients.  But you know how there are often donation barrels for food pantries at grocery stores?  You can put a box of mac-n-cheese in there, but you can't put milk and butter in there.  I guess you'd do better to donate a box of pasta and a jar of pasta sauce or something like that.

Anyway, I now have breakfast, dessert and snacks to last me a good while.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Luckily He Has a Hard Head

Isaac and I were walking through the lobby of my building.  He was looking back over his shoulder, trying to see who was in the community room.  That means he was not watching where he was going.  So he ran head-first into a chair.

He's done that before. 

Not when he's working, he generally pays attention then.  But when he's not working, he is super nosy.

He has a hard head.  It never seems to phase him.

Doesn't seem to hurt his pride, either.  When a cat does something stupid like that, they act embarrassed.  When Cayenne does something like that, she also acts mad, like it's my fault she fell off the couch or tried to jump onto the table and missed.  Not Isaac.  He just shrugs it off.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sex When You Have a Service Dog

I started to title this "Sex with a Service Dog."  Then I thought, people are going to find this blog by googling some really icky stuff.  So I changed the title.

A while back, I wrote a post called "Dating with a Disability and a Dog."  But what about sex?  I'm gonna try not to be too graphic but, well, if discussions about sex make you uncomfortable, stop reading.

Someone asked me a question today, and it was a good question, and it was a question I actually had myself when I first got Isaac.  And I couldn't find an answer anywhere.  I couldn't even figure out who to ask.

The question was how Isaac would react if he was present when I was being sexual with someone.  But I have to be a bit explicit here to explain why this was even a question, I think.  If you're talking about nice, quiet, under the covers lovemaking, that's one thing.  What about more, um, enthusiastic sexual activity?  What if it's loud?  What if it gets a bit rough?  Consensually, of course.  What if you're into something like spanking?

Gosh, I hope I'm not shocking anyone.

But I wondered how Isaac would respond to things like that.  Would it upset him?  My cats never liked any kind of sexual activity that was loud or shook the bed or anything like that.  It disturbed them and and they would leave the bedroom.  But cats are different than dogs.  Would it bother Isaac?  And if so, would he just leave the room?  Or would he bark?  Would he mistakenly think my partner was hurting me and try to protect me?

I am pretty open about most things.  But I felt awkward and uncomfortable asking Isaac's trainer about something like this.  So I didn't ask.

Mike and I split up around the time I got Isaac.  So I didn't have to worry about it right away.  But eventually I had to figure it out.  Here's what I've got so far.

When a visitor comes to my home, whether it's a new person or someone Isaac's seen before, Isaac wants to say hello.  For Isaac, this means he wants to climb on the person's lap, bring them some toys, get petted, get talked to, sniff them really well, and maybe give a few kisses.  It takes more than a few minutes.  Then he calms down but he likes to stay in whatever room I'm in and he will frequently come over to check on us.  He sees what we are doing, sniffs around a little, gets a pat on the head or an ear rub, and goes to lie down again.

He does not seem disturbed by, or even interested in, sexual activity or sounds.  No more interested than he is in anything else, I mean.

I can shut the bedroom door, and Isaac is OK with that for a while, but then he seems to get worried he's missing something and he'll start to whine and then bark at the door.  He does that whenever I am in one room and he is in another and a door is closed between us.  Doesn't matter what I'm doing.  So it works out better to let him in the room.

Isaac is not protective at all.  He's not supposed to be.  Service dogs aren't supposed to be.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Maybe if someone was really hurting me, maybe he would try to protect me.  I don't know.  He definitely doesn't think he needs to protect me during any type of sexual activity, though.  He doesn't mistake it for someone being aggressive or violent or anything like that.

Service dogs are trained to take a lot of things in stride.  They are trained not to be phased by loud noises or strange sounds or people doing strange things.  Apparently, at least for Isaac, that includes sex.

And I guess most of that would apply to any dog, not just a service dog.  It's not like I need Isaac to assist me when I'm being intimate with someone.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sometimes It Seems So Simple but I Need to Be Reminded

Last night I spoke to a good friend of mine, someone I hadn't talked to in a while.  He does energy work, like Reiki, and we were able to schedule a time to get together for him to do some work with me next weekend.  I am so grateful, because honestly, that's been the one thing that has helped my back pain the most.  And it's been quite a while since we've had the opportunity to do any energy work together.

After we scheduled the time to get together next weekended, though, I asked, somewhat desperately, I think, "But what should I do until then?  Can you suggest something?  Please?"  Because a week is not that long, but it can seem like an eternity when you're in a lot of pain.

So he starts naming stuff.  Mostly really basic, simple stuff.  Stuff that I should have known, but mostly stuff I hadn't even thought of in the past few days when I was in so much pain.  "Breathe.  Stretch.  Do some yoga.  Massage the area, if you can reach it.  Things that relax the muscles," he told me.

"Incense," he said.  Ooh, aromatherapy!  That sounded good.  I asked what scent he would recommend.  "Whatever you like," he said.  "Whatever relaxes you.  A lot of people like sandalwood but I think it smells like mothballs."

I have sandalwood incense.  Actually, it's sandalwood, sage and lavender.  I do not think it smells like mothballs at all.  I like it.  I lit some.

"Music," he said.  "Spa-type music."  I knew what he meant.  I found the yoga station on Pandora.

I had my windows open and it was raining outside.  In addition to the smell of my incense, which was nothing like mothballs, I could smell the rain.  In addition to the sound of the yoga music, I could hear the rain and the wind.  It was really relaxing.  How much of my pain is just tension?  I wouldn't have thought that much, but seriously, I was much more relaxed and feeling much less pain.  Still some pain, yeah, but much less.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Root of Fear

I've been thinking the last couple days about how frightened I got thinking about winter and the risk of falling on the ice.  I think the reason for my fear, the root of it, is the feeling that I can't take care of myself, can't protect myself, and that no one else is take care of me or protect me, either.  It's strange how threads connect in our minds, isn't it?  You wouldn't think the experience of being sexually abused as a child would have much in common with the experience of falling on an ice walkway, but there are little pieces of both pictures that are the same.  There are emotions and thoughts that go with both experiences that are the same, and when those connect, other emotions and thoughts start to occur, not based on the real experience but on the emotions and thoughts from the other, seemingly unrelated, experience.  Am I making sense there?

I don't think those fears are unrealistic, really.  Maybe the intensity of them is out of proportion.  But the truth is, if I fall on the ice, if it happens late at night, I really could be lying there until morning.  One of my neighbors has a home health aide that arrives around 7:00 am.  I could be lying on the ground from 11:00 pm until she arrives at 7:00 am. 

And if I was injured, if I needed help at home for a while, there is no one that could help me.  I might talk Mike into going to the store for me one time to pick up just a few things.  Maybe.  There is no one else I could even ask to go to the store for me.  There is no one that could do laundry for me or other things around the house.  I could ask Isaac's dog walker if, instead of taking Isaac for his hour long run, he would be willing to come to the house two or three times a day to take him for short walks to pee.  He might do that, but he couldn't do it every day, because he goes to school and has a job.  So he might be able to help with taking Isaac out but he couldn't do it all the time and there is no one else that could help me with Isaac.

Is it likely that I will fall this winter and hurt myself badly?  I don't know.  I fell twice last winter.   Both times I was able to get back up.  Once a friend was with me, but I didn't need much help getting up.  The other time I was alone and it took me a minute, but I got up and walked back to my house.  So I fell, and I survived it, and I had some bruises, but it wasn't that bad.  I was not left lying on the ground for hours and I didn't need help doing basic stuff at home afterward.  I wasn't injured badly.  Probably, if I fall this winter, I'll be OK.

But it's possible I won't.  And I'm afraid.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And an Update on Cayenne

Cayenne went to the vet about a week and a half ago and was given an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic.  I think the anti-inflammatory is helping her.  She seems a lot more active.  "A lot more active" is a relative term, but prior to starting the anti-inflammatory, her daily activity consisted of strolling from one end of the couch to another twice a day, maybe one short stroll to the litter box a day, and moving from the couch to the window ledge to eat.  Now, she walks across the couch maybe a dozen times a day, sits on the coffee table for a bit, even strolled around the living room and entry way and bathroom yesterday.  Compared to Isaac's activity level, she's practically catatonic, but compared to her usual activity level, well, it would be like me going out to run a mile.

However, the antibiotic was upsetting her stomach.  She threw up, not every time she took it, but often after taking it.  The last couple days she was on it, she didn't have much of an appetite, either.  She would look at her food, sniff it, maybe lick it, then walk away.  I was worried because obviously if she threw up the medication, it wasn't helping her, and I certainly didn't want  her to throw up the anti-inflammatory when it seems to be helping so much, plus I don't want her to lose weight, plus I just don't want her to feel bad and of course if she is throwing up, her stomach must not be feeling good.

So I called the vet a couple days ago and asked if we could either switch her to a different antibiotic or add a medication to help prevent nausea.  The vet wanted to try a different antibiotic.  She's had it twice so far and seems to be tolerating it much better.  No puke in two days.  Plus, she only has to take this one once a day instead of twice a day, which she much prefers, because she does not like having pills shoved down her throat.

You know how much easier it is to give Isaac a pill?  To give him a pill, I cut a slice of hot dog, cut a little slit in the middle of it, and stick the pill in there.  He gobbles up the hot dog without even realize there was a pill in it and asks for more.

That trick does not work with cats, by the way.  They will eat the hot dog and then spit out the pill.

Anyway, Cayenne has not thrown up in two days.  Yesterday, she still had little appetite but she has eaten pretty well today.  I am feeding her small amounts at a time, but feeding her frequently, in order to help prevent an upset stomach.  And this way, if she does throw up, there is not so much in her belly to throw up.  Isaac thinks he should get fed more often, too, although he thinks he should get his normal amount of food each time.

Cayenne goes back to the vet on Monday.  Hopefully the infection on her belly will be cleared up by then.

Rethinking the Day

I had plans for a busy day today.  I need to go to the Medicaid office, which is always fun.  I was going to do some cleaning and maybe a load of laundry.  I also need to pick up some things at the grocery store.

But then I woke up.  I woke up in a lot of pain.  Not just my back, but my elbows and knees hurt.  My knees.  I have arthritis in both knees but they have not hurt since I lost a bunch of weight several years ago.  But they hurt today.  Especially the right one.

So I had to rethink my plans.  No laundry, for sure.  To much lifting and bending involved, even with Isaac to unload the dryer.  No cleaning, because I can living with a messy house for one more day.  The trip to the Medicaid office and a trip to the store, but a shorter grocery list.  Some stuff I can live without for a few more days.

I'm trying not to be frustrated that I can't get done the things I want to get done, the things I feel like I need to get done.  I'm trying not to panic about being in pain and alone.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When Do Service Dogs Get to Poop?

I get a kick out of some of the search terms through which people find my blog.  Recently, someone found it by searching for "when do service dogs get to poop?"

Isaac frequently poops in the morning and again before bed.  Exercise also makes him poop.  If we go to the dog park and he runs around, he is sure to poop at least once.  He usually poops on his run with the running buddy.  Sometimes he poops at other times.  A couple weeks ago, he woke me up at 3:30 in the morning, because he had to poop.  He does not do that often, though.

When I am out running errands with him, I generally give him the chance to go potty before going into a restaurant or store or other business.  Most of the time, he just pees then.  But he gets the opportunity to poop, if he needs to.  By giving him the opportunity to go potty before going into a business, he usually doesn't need to go while we're in there.  It's not like I spend hours in a store, shopping.  But if we are in a store or restaurant or something and he really needs to go, he lets me know.  He starts getting restless, then gives me this certain look.  If I ignore him, he will begin to whine softly, and then get louder and louder, until I pay attention.

So.  Service dogs do poop.  And they get plenty of opportunities to do so.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More Winter Worries

I just took Isaac out for his usual pre-bedtime poop and something else occurred to me.

When I pick up after Isaac, I dispose of the poop in the dumpster that is at the far end of my parking lot.  There is a trash can right outside the front door of the building but the property manager asked me not to dispose of poop there because it might smell.  Well, I can walk on the grass almost all the way to the dumpster, but then I have to walk a short way on the pavement.  This evening, all the ice is gone and it was not slippery at all.  But I'm sure it would have been slippery this morning.  I'm sure it will be slippery at times this winter.

So what do I do with Isaac's poop?  Risk walking on the icy pavement to throw it away?  Seriously, if I fall out there by the dumpster at 11:00 at night, I could be out there on the ground all night long.  But what else can I do with the poop?  Take it back inside with me, keep it in my apartment until the ice melts later on and I can safely dispose of it?  That's... rather gross.  Although I guess I'd go for gross over lying on the cold ground all night long.

Not only is this frightening to me, it's very frustrating and it's also embarrassing.  There is some shame involved with not being able to do things independently that most people can do easily.  There is some embarrassment in saying, "I don't know how I will dispose of my dog's poop."

Worried About Winter

Last night we had the first snow of the season.  Ick.  It should not be snowing before Thanksgiving!

When I took Isaac out to pee before bed, he was surprised to see the snow.  Then he was delighted and excited.  He likes snow.

I do not.

This morning I had an appointment about an hour away at 8:00 am.  So at 6:45 am, I headed out to clean the ice and snow off my car.  It was hard to even get to my car.  My parking lot was a sheet of ice.  It was like an ice skating rink.  Halfway across the parking lot, I almost turned around and went back inside.  I was terrified of falling.

I got to my car, but then I had to scrape ice off all the windows.  I was trying to hold on to the car with one hand and scrape the ice off the windows with the other hand.  I am so scared of falling. 

I remember being worried about falling last winter but I don't think I was as terrified as I was this morning.  It was awful.

My back hurts so much all the time, I can't imagine how much it would hurt to fall on the ice.  Well, I can imagine, and I hate what I imagine, and that's what terrifies me.   But that's not all that frightens me. 

If I fell in the middle of my parking lot, I don't know if I'd be able to get up.  If I fell next to my car, I could probably hold on to the car and get back onto my feet.  But in the middle of the lot?  With nothing to hold onto?  I don't know if I could get up.  Maybe I could crawl over to a car or something to hold onto.  But what if I fall and can't get up?  How long would I be lying on the ground before someone came along that could help me? 

And what if I hurt myself?  I can't be injured.  I mean, I live alone and there is really no one to help me with stuff.  If I fall and hurt myself and am unable to, say, lift a basket of laundry, there is no one that I can ask to do a load of laundry for me.  I just would not be able to wash clothes for however long it took for me to recover.  If I could not take Isaac out to pee, there is no one I can ask to walk him for me (other than the dog walker, and I can't afford to pay him to come more than three times a week, even if he was available more often).  He would have to pee in the house.  If I ran out of dog food and couldn't drive to the store to buy  more, there is not one person I could ask to go to the store for me.  I would have to feed Isaac something else.  Maybe I would feed him cat food or hot dogs or something else I had on hand.  There is no one to do any of these things for me.  I have to be able to do them for myself.  So the idea of falling on the ice and hurting myself terrifies me.

I'm going to try to go out as little as possible when it's icy out.  I will try to shop when the weather is good and stock up on things.  But sometimes I will have to go places, even if it is icy.  I hadn't worried about it at all until this morning, but now I am really scared.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Making Laundry Detergent

This morning I made some laundry detergent.  Anyone else make their own?  I started doing it about a year and a half ago.  It's easy, doesn't take long, and it saves a ton of money.  It costs about one to two pennies per load, which is way less than name brand detergents and less than even the cheap brands I used to use.  It's also better for the environment.  It works well and it smells good.  This time I added a little fir needle essential oil to it.

Here are instructions, if anyone is interested in trying it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Cayenne: Bleh-arf! (barfs on couch)

Me: Oh, Cayenne.  I'm so sorry your tummy is upset... but, well, ick.

Isaac: Barf?  Can I have it?

Me: Well, at least you didn't throw up on me.  Guess I should be thankful for small favors.

Cayenne: Since I threw up my breakfast, will you feed me again?

Isaac: I didn't throw up my breakfast, but will you feed me again, anyway?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sometimes I Get Tired but Isaac Never Does

This evening, my stomach as a little upset.  Um, I think I ate too much pizza for dinner.  Anyway, I had just settled down on the couch and gotten comfortable when Isaac came over, rested his head on my knee, tail wagging happily (it always is), and gave me the look that means, "I need to go out to poop right now, please."

I told him I'd take him out in a few minutes and suggested he go lie down.  Most of the time, when I say that, he does go lie down.  At least for a few minutes.  Once in a while, he doesn't.  Tonight, he didn't.  He kept his head on my knee, tail still wagging happily, and repeated the look.

I got up.  Put on my coat and shoes.  Said, "I love you, Isaac, but sometimes I get tired of going outside."  Isaac just looked at me and wagged his tail.  "I know, I know, you never get tired of going outside," I said.

And then I thought, he never gets tired of doing things for me, either.

A couple nights ago, Isaac was snoozing happily on his blankie in the corner of the living room, his favorite place to nap.  My back was hurting a lot.  I could have gotten up to get my pain meds but it's hard to get up when my back hurts and so I called Isaac's name.  He jumped up instantly, eager to see what I wanted.  I told him to get the meds and he ran to get them, then ran over to me, tail wagging like mad, to give me the meds.  I took them from him, told him he was a good boy, rubbed his ears, and told him he could go lie down.  He trotted back to his blankie and flopped down, happy to have done something for me and gotten an ear rub.

Sometimes when Isaac retrieves things for me, when he goes to put them in my hand, they end up getting dropped.  Sometimes it's me being clumsy, sometimes it's Isaac rushing and not being careful with what he's doing.  When that happens, he just picks it up again and tries again to put it in my hand.  He doesn't get tired of doing it.

So it's hard to complain too much about having to take Isaac out to poop, even if it's late and I'm tired and my stomach is upset and it's freezing cold outside.

Taking Care of Cayenne

Today I've done a lot of cleaning up after Cayenne. 

I have these puppy training pads all over the place, in all the spots where Cayenne likes to sometimes pee, including on the living room floor and on the couch.  The puppy pads are covered with towels because she does not like to pee on, or walk or sit on, the puppy pads.  She sleeps on the couch, and sometimes also pees on it, but since she sleeps there, sometimes I put soft pieces of fleece on top of those puppy pads instead of towels for her to sleep on.  In addition to sometimes peeing on the towels or pieces of fleece on the couch, her tumors ooze and bleed on those towels. 

I change the peed upon towels at least once a day, sometimes more.  I try to keep the towels she sleeps on fresh but I don't change them every day.  Sometimes I just refold them so she's lying on a clean side.

She's been peeing frequently on the floor right in front of the couch, and I have puppy pads and towels there, but sometimes she backs up so her butt is almost against the front of the couch and then a little pee gets on the front of the couch.  So today I scrubbed the front of the couch and hung a puppy pad so that it covers that part of the couch.

She's been throwing up today.  I hope this is not going to be a new thing.  I mean, she does throw up once in a while, but not very often.  But she threw up three times this morning, right after she ate her breakfast.  I took the rest of her food away for a few hours, then gave her back a little dry food around lunch time.  She immediately ate some and then immediately threw it up.  On the couch, of course.  So I've been cleaning up puke.

Of course, I also gave her all her medication this morning: the antibiotic pill, the anti-inflammatory liquid, and her insulin injection.  And of course, I'm sure she puked up the antibiotic and the anti-inflammatory.  I was afraid to give them to her again, though, since her stomach was upset.  I was afraid that would make her puke again.  But I'm worried that now she'll have more pain since she threw up the anti-inflammatory.

When I'm caring for Cayenne, when I'm giving her all her medication and especially when I'm cleaning up pee and puke and blood-stained towels, I feel very sad for her and I also feel an immense amount of love for her.  Yes, sometimes I get annoyed or frustrated or tired of it.  It sometimes feels endless.  Like all I do is change peed upon towels and pads and do load after load of stinky laundry.  But I never feel angry at Cayenne and I always think how glad I am that she is still here, that I have the opportunity to take care of her.  I think, some day soon she will be gone and I will be thinking how much I wish she was still here and I could clean up after her one more time.  I am mindful of that all the time.

Taking care of her also reminds me sometimes of when I used to work for a hospice many, many years ago.  When I'm changing puppy pads and cat towels, I am thankful I'm not changing bed sheets.  When I'm clean up kitty puke, I'm thankful it's not grown person puke.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Working with Distractions

I'm pretty sure I posted sometime shortly after moving to this apartment about how Isaac found it very difficult to unload the clothes dryer for me when there were other people around.  He was much more interested in what they were doing, and in trying to get some attention from them, than in getting clothes out of the dryer for me.  Now, unloading the dryer is a task that Isaac usually enjoys.  He enjoys all his tasks, really.  But he enjoys socializing with people more than unloading the dryer.  Who can blame him?

Today Isaac and I went down to the laundry room, and on our way there, passed two of our neighbors in the lobby.  One is a woman Isaac likes and the other is the guy that lives next door to me that Isaac initially did not like but now loves.  I don't know why Isaac did not like him at first but he really didn't.  However, he now adores him.  Isaac spotted the woman first and was on his way over to see her when he realized his guy friend was nearby and then he ignored the woman completely in favor of his other friend.  He is not very polite like that.

I let him visit for a few minutes, then told him it was time to go get the laundry.  He followed me but kept looking back over his shoulder.  I opened the dryer door and he got to work.  He was happily wagging his tail, which kept smacking loudly against the other dryer.  The two neighbors in the lobby came down the hall to stand in the doorway of the laundry room to watch Isaac work.  The woman had seen him getting close out of the dryer before but the man hadn't.  Many of my neighbors get a big kick out of watching Isaac unload the dryer.  They were being really quiet and trying not to distract him, but Isaac knew they were there, so I had to remind him of what he was supposed to be doing a couple of times.

Isaac did such a good job.  I did have to get his attention a couple times and remind him of his job but he did not once try to go over to his friend and he refocused as soon as I reminded him of what he was supposed to be doing.  He's gotten good at working with distractions.

When Isaac was finished, I picked up the basket of laundry and realized the man had left.  The woman was still in the hallway.  As Isaac and I were getting ready to get on the elevator, the man got off the elevator.  He had gone upstairs to his apartment to get some dog treats.  He thought Isaac was working so hard and doing such a good job that he needed some treats.  Now, I did have treats in my pocket and Isaac had gotten three or four while getting the clothes out of the dryer for me.  But apparently my neighbor felt he needed some special chicken treats for his hard work.  Isaac, of course, was most appreciative.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Update on Cayenne

Cayenne saw the vet two days ago and he prescribed an anti-inflammatory for her.  It was to reduce inflammation around the two tumors on her belly, hopefully to help prevent or at least reduce the tissue breakdown around the tumors, and also to relieve any discomfort she might be having.  She didn't appear to be in pain, to me, but it's hard to tell with cats.

Did you know that the reason cats don't act sick or like they are in pain when they are is because of their wild instincts?  Cats are much less domesticated than dogs.  They still have a lot of wild cat instincts.  In the wild, if you act sick or hurt or weak, another bigger animal will attack you and eat you.  So cats hide it well when they don't feel good.

Once Mike's cat Larry was limping slightly.  We looked at his foot and couldn't see any injury.  It was early evening and we decided that if he was still limping in the morning, we'd take him to the vet.  He was eating, walking, jumping up on furniture, being affectionate, acting really normal, except for the slight limp. 

Well, it wasn't better in the morning, but it wasn't any worse, either.  I took him to the vet and it turned out he had a shattered hip.  Not just broken, but shattered.  I couldn't believe what the x-ray looked like.  The vet said he had probably been hit by a car.  I felt so awful for not rushing him to the vet right away.  It had to have been incredibly painful.  He was not only walking on a shattered hip, but jumping up on the couch, jumping back to the floor, landing on that shattered hip.  I can't imagine how much that had to have hurt.  But he was barely limping.  I'm not even sure how long  he'd been limping.  Could have been a couple of days.  It was barely noticeable.

Anyway, Cayenne had one night a couple weeks ago when she seemed to be having some pain, but she seemed better by morning.  Other than that, she hasn't seemed to be in pain.  I've suspected for a while that she may have some arthritis, though, because she hasn't liked jumping very high for a while.  She'll jump onto the couch but she doesn't like to jump much higher than that.  But that's been the case for more than a year.

She still is not jumping around, but she is a little more active, and even though she didn't look uncomfortable before, she looks more comfortable now.  I'm glad.

Cayenne's New Theme Song

Sung to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot"

I'm a little pee pot
Cute and sweet
Better watch out
Or I'll pee on your feet!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Poorly Trained Service Dogs Sold to Families Desparate to Help Their Kids

There are several organizations selling very costly "service dogs" to families with young kids with serious medical problems, like juvenile diabetes, and severe disabilities, like autism.  I put the term "service dogs" in quotes because some of these organizations, the ones I'm talking about here, are selling poorly-trained dogs or even untrained puppies and calling them service dogs when they really aren't.

One organization is infamous among service dog handlers for selling puppies as young as eight weeks old for $20,000, claiming the puppies are trained to detect life-threatening changes in blood sugar levels in young children, even from a distance of more than a mile away.  It is simply not possible for a dog to smell anything that far away and an eight-week-old puppy is too young to be trained to do anything; they are barely old enough to be housebroken.

Now another organization is in the news, with parents complaining that the service dogs they paid $10,000 for don't even obey basic commands like "sit" and "stay," that they chew up household items, and have even bitten people.  Naturally, these parents want their money back.  Naturally, the organization does not want to refund their money.

I'm pretty sure this is the organization that trained a service dog for a family that posted numerous pictures on Facebook and videos on Youtube a while back, showing the dog sitting on a chair in a restaurant, sitting in a seat on a plane, and barking loudly at animals in exhibits at a zoo.  The mom said that the dog refused to lie under the table at restaurants.  She was angry because someone on the plane told her the dog was not supposed to be in the seat.  She did not think it was a problem that the dog was barking at animals at the zoo.

I'm not surprised that some people want their money back.  I am surprised that people keeping shelling out so much  money without finding out how the dogs are trained and stuff first, but I guess some parents are so desperate to help their kids, they are willing to forgo common sense.  I mean, seriously, a believing that a puppy can detect changes in your kid's blood sugar from more than a mile away?  Does that sound believable?  But they shelled out $20,000.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed is a pretty common symptom of my depression and PTSD.  Mostly I deal with it by carefully scheduling my days so that I don't have too much to do on any one day.  I mostly know how much I can easily tolerate and how much is pushing things a bit too hard.  Of course, sometimes things happen that are out of my control and I have more to do than I'd like, more than I can easily handle.

I get frustrated because things that are too much for me seem to be easy for most people.  I get tired easily.  I get worn out, physically and mentally, faster than most people seem to.  I have fewer spoons than most people.  Sometimes I forget that.  Sometimes I ignore that fact because I don't want it to be true, because I think I should be able to do more, because I feel guilty for not being able to do more... and then I regret it.

One of the things I miss about being in a relationship with Mike is that, when we were together, whenever I felt overwhelmed and had too much to do, I would just ask him what things I should do and what things I shouldn't.  He would look at my daily "to do" list and tell me,"We really need some groceries so go to the store.  The laundry can wait until tomorrow or the next day. Take a nap instead." 

Somehow, having him tell me that made me feel OK about it.  I can look at my own list of things to do and try to pick out what things are most important and what things can wait, but I have a hard time with it.  I have a hard time putting "take a nap" on my list.

Right now, I feel tired and overwhelmed.  I'm stressed out about how much Cayenne's visit to the vet cost and how much I have to pay Wednesday for my bridge.  I need to get a lot done in the next few days.  Too bad Isaac can't fix my "to do" list for me.

Took Cayenne to the Vet Today

I took Cayenne to the vet today, mostly just for a checkup, but also to see about getting some pain meds to keep on hand in case she needs them.  Mostly, it was good news.  Her diabetes is still under control and her blood sugar level was good.  Her urinalysis was good and her kidneys are working well.  The vet did a couple x-rays to see if the cancer has spread to her lungs or anywhere, and it hasn't.  The tumors seem to be slow-growing, which is good news.  Her weight is good - she weighs two ounces less than she did six months ago.

The bad news is that she has a lot of inflammation due to the tumors and one of them, the one that has been bleeding and oozing the most, is infected.  It's a minor infection, but due to her diabetes, Cayenne is more susceptible than normal to infection and infection is harder to treat.  Unfortunately, as the cancer grows, her skin can be expected to break down more and more, and it will become harder and harder to control the infection.  Since her tumors are growing so slowly, she could die from infection before the cancer kills her.  She could also go into kidney failure because of the inflammation and diabetes, although her kidneys are working surprisingly well right now, so she could end up dying from kidney failure before the cancer kills her.

The vet prescribed an antibiotic for the infection.  He also gave her an injection of an anti-inflammatory medication and sent some more of that home with her.  Hopefully the anti-inflammatory will help keep her comfortable and it may slow the growth of the tumors and the breakdown of her skin.  The antibiotic may or may not help much with the infection, but we'll hope it does.  Probably the infection will get better temporarily but then get worse again.  It's not a bad infection right now, though.

Cayenne did not enjoy her trip to the vet.  When I put her in her carrier to go to the vet, I had to shove her in there.  It was funny, though.  When we were at the vet's and getting ready to leave, I put Cayenne on the counter and put the carrier next to her.  I was going to pick her back up and put her into the carrier but before I had a chance to pick her up, she scrambled right in on her own!  She was like, get me out of here!

Last time she rode in the car, she threw up all over herself in the carrier.  Wanting to be prepared, I took an extra little blankie in my purse so I could put a clean blankie in the carrier if she threw up on the way to the vet.  She did not throw up, though.  However, she did poop in the carrier on the way home.  At least it was on the way home, so I didn't have to try to clean a poopy carrier (and a poopy cat's butt) at the vet's office.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how much it cost.  Let's just say A LOT.  I'm kind of stressed out about that.  In two days, I go to get my bridge for my teeth (yay!  I will have teeth again!) and I owe $1200 then.  So the last thing I needed right now was a big vet big.  But you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Continuing to Train

There are always new things a dog can learn and Isaac likes to learn.  Training is like a fun game for him.  He gets treats during training and he loves treats.  I keep training sessions short, often just five minutes or so at a time, and he always wants to keep going when I stop.  And I do that on purpose.  I want him to think it's fun and I don't want him to get tired of it or become bored.

I've been working on three commands lately.

"Fix it" is a command someone online mentioned her dog knowing, and she uses that command when her dog gets his leash under his leg.  It means "step over the leash so you don't get all tangled up."  I thought that was a great command for a dog to know.  Isaac doesn't like his leash under his leg so he usually fixes it himself without being told, but sometimes he's busy sniffing or something and doesn't seem to care.  I haven't been working too hard on this one, but whenever he happens to get his leash under his leg, I tell him "fix it" and then when he does, reward him with a treat.

"Paws up" is another command I've been working on with him and I think that's a really important one.  It means he puts his paws on someone's lap.  I want him to learn to do that on command, which will hopefully cut down on him doing it without the command.  That way he won't do it unless I tell him to, and I will only tell him to do it with people I know want him to put his paws in their lap.  I have a couple of neighbors that love it if he does that, and then kisses them on the face, but not everyone appreciates doggie kisses on the face.

"Off" is the third command I am working on with Isaac, and it means "get off me" or "get off that person."  If he has his paws up on someone's lap, it means "it's time to get your paws back on the floor now."  People tend to tell dogs "down" when they want them to get off, but many dogs, including Isaac, have been taught that the command "down" means to lie down.  So I wanted another command, one that would get him off people, but allow him to sit next to someone to be petted or whatever.  I work on the "off" command at the same time I'm working on "paws up."  He puts his paws on my lap, gets a treat and gets an ear rub, then gets off and get another treat.

I love it that Isaac learns so fast.  It makes training fun.