Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I'm trying to make a list of all the commands Isaac knows.  I might be missing a few, but these are what I've got so far.  He knows a lot!

Sit - obviously, means sit down.  Isaac also has a hand signal that means sit.

Down - means lie down.  He also has a hand signal that means lie down.

Stay - obviously, means stay.  He also has a hand signal that means stay.

Wait - means stay there for a minute, like waiting until the elevator door is completely open to exit the elevator.

Come - another obvious one, means come here.

Go under - means go under the table, like at a restaurant.

Load - means get in the car.

Unload - means get out of the car.

OK - releases him to do whatever it is he wants to do, like if he is sitting and waiting for his dinner, OK means now it's all right to eat.  We also play a game where I toss a treat and he waits until I say OK to go get it.

Get meds - get my pouch of meds and bring them to me.  He is also trained to bring me medication when I start showing certain signs of anxiety.

Get phone - means get my phone and bring it to me.

Get it - pick up whatever I am pointing at and give it to me.  Frequently, but not always, he will also pick up something if I drop it without being told.  Also, if he knocks something on the floor, like if he's wagging his tail and it knocks my mouse off the arm of the couch, he will often pick it up and give it to me without being told.  He also knows the names of some of his toys, so if I say "Get the Kong" or "Get the pickle" or "Get the stick bone" he knows what to get.

No bark - means stop barking (unfortunately, he is not yet perfect at this one).

Lights - turn on the lights.

Tug - means tug on the rope, like to open the fridge.  If pointing at my foot, it means take off my sock (tug it off).  We are still working on the sock thing.  Getting the sock without biting my toes is a bit tricky.

Button - means push the button to call the elevator.

Shake - means give me a paw, as in shaking hands.

Fix it - when he gets his leash under his leg, this means lift his leg and step over the leash so he doesn't get tangled up in it.

Get in (while pointing at the bathtub) - means get in the tub.

Get out - means get out of the tub.

It's not time yet - this is what I say when Isaac gets up way too early.  It means I am not taking you outside yet, it's not time to get up.  I say, "It's not time yet" and he goes back to bed.

Leave it - means leave it alone, whatever "it" is.  If he is trying to sniff Cayenne and I say "leave it," it means leave her alone, get away from her.  If we are on a walk and he stops to investigate some sort of food on the ground, "leave it" means don't touch that, keep on walking.

Drop - means drop whatever is in his mouth.

Bring me a toy - means find a toy, any toy, and bring it to me to play.

Find the car - this is supposed to mean lead me to the car.  We haven't worked on it much in a while and he's not real good at it, although the other day he actually did it.  I was impressed.  We should work on it more.

Paws up - means put his paws on my lap.  We are still working on this one.  It will also mean put his paws on someone else's lap if I say it while pointing at someone else.

Off - means get off whatever his is on, as in get off the couch, get off the bed, or get off my lap if he has his paws on my lap.

Heel - means walk right beside me on my left side.

Easy - means slow down when walking.

Quick quick - means walk faster (I have no clue why I always say it twice, but for some reason I do, so that's the command).

Up - when pointing at the toilet, means lift the lid.

Shut it - means shut whatever door I'm pointing at, like the bathroom door or the fridge (we need to work on this one some more).

Uh uh - means don't do it, whatever he's thinking about doing.  For instance, if he's staring at the cat food, it means don't you eat that.

Watch me - means look at me, pay attention.

How Sweet Is This?

Isaac is such a sweetie. I usually use my laptop when I'm sitting on the couch and I keep my mouse on the arm of the couch. Sometimes Isaac knocks it off and when he does, he picks it up for me. Well, this morning, Isaac was in my bed sleeping and I was on the couch with my laptop and I knocked the mouse off the arm of the couch. Isaac heard it hit the floor and he got up out of bed, come out to the living room, picked up the mouse and gave it to me, then went back to bed. How sweet is that?

Monday, December 30, 2013


In the service dog world, people often refer to a service dog handler and a service dog as a team.  For instance, instead of saying, "Today I met another service dog handler and service dog," they will say, "Today I met another service dog team."  I understood why they would use that word, or at least I thought I did, but before today, I wouldn't say I felt it myself.  When I thought about my relationship with Isaac, there have been many different ways I might describe it, but teamwork wasn't one that came to mind.

Earlier today, I was throwing Isaac's Kong for him.  We probably spend a good hour a day, or more, playing fetch with his Kong.  Well, it bounced behind the Christmas tree.  Isaac started to crawl under the tree to get it and the tree began to tilt dangerously and I thought the whole thing was going to come crashing down.  I guess Isaac thought so, too, because he backed out from under the tree.  And it didn't fall.

Isaac then looked back at me.  It was as if he was saying, "Well, what am I supposed to do now?"

I love the way animals figure out how to communicate with us and we learn to communicate with them.  I think they learn our language more than we learn theirs, at least in most cases.  But it's interesting. 

I remember once when I was visiting my sister, she was out somewhere and I was at her house alone, and her cat decided it was time for dinner.  The cat very clearly announced to me that it was her dinner time and I should feed her right away.  I didn't even know that cat very well but she got her point across. 

And on Thanksgiving, when K's mom was walking Isaac for me, he managed to talk her into feeding him a whole extra meal.  He's only seen her a few times before and yet, he was able to communicate with her.  That's just fascinating to me.

Of course, Isaac and I know each other well by now.  I can often tell what he's thinking.  I know when he wants to go out, I know when he needs to poop, I know when he is thinking about taking off after a squirrel, I know when he is considering eating the cat's food.

So anyway.  Today when he looked at me, looked at the Kong, and looked back at me, I knew he was asking what he should do.  If I had told him to get the Kong, he would have gone back under the tree and retrieved his toy.  I didn't tell him to do that, though, because I didn't not want his to knock the tree over and I didn't think he could get the Kong without toppling the tree.

Instead, I got up and walked over to the tree.  I think he thought I was coming to rescue the Kong for him, which is what I do when it lands someplace he cannot get to it, like under the bed.  I didn't want to get down on the floor, though, because I knew I would have a hard time getting back up.  Instead, I held onto the tree to steady it and then told Isaac to get the Kong.  He looked a little bit uncertain, like he wasn't sure I was going to keep the tree from falling, but decided to take my word for it and go get his Kong. 

There is a point to this story. 

I was reflecting on how well we had communicated with each other around this event.  But it was more than just communication.  Isaac wasn't sure how to get his Kong and he looked to me for an answer.  I decided to hold the tree so it didn't tip over instead of getting the Kong for him and communicated that plan to Isaac.  He had a moment of worry that the tree would fall, then decided to trust me to hold it.  We were working as a team to solve the problem of the Kong under the tree.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pain Scale

You know how medical professionals always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten? 

I hate that because for me, it's like the pain in what part of my body?  And when?  Because they usually ask me that while I am sitting in a chair or lying on the exam table and not moving.  Right this minute, I am sitting comfortably on my couch and only moving my fingers as I type.  So at this moment, I would say the pain in my back is a level two, the pain in my right elbow is a level four, and the pain in my left knee is a level three.  However, if I move my right arm to pick up the drink that is on the end table beside me and lift it to my mouth to drink, the pain in my right elbow would probably shoot up to a nine or ten.  If I stood up, the pain in my back would probably shoot up to a ten while I am moving, and the pain in my left knee would probably shoot up to an eight.  But once I was on my feet for a minute, the pain in my back would probably decrease to a six or seven.  So which pain level do they want when they ask that question?

Speaking of pain scales, check this one out.  Isn't that awesome?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Morning Breakfast

I'm not Christian but I do celebrate Christmas in some ways.  I have a Christmas tree because I like it.  I like decorating it, I like looking at it at night when it's dark and the lights of the tree are on.  I exchange gift with a few people.  I send Christmas cards because I like touching base with people that way and because I like receiving cards.

I also like to make a special breakfast on Christmas morning.  I don't know why.  I just enjoy it.

This morning, I made myself French toast with blueberry topping.

I made Isaac and Cayenne a scrambled egg with chopped hot dog and cheddar cheese.

Yes, I cooked them breakfast.  I know, it's silly.  But it was fun. 

Cayenne picked all the little bits of hot dog out of hers and left most of the egg on the plate.  So Isaac finished it for her.  He was disappointed that I did not share my French toast with him.  Of course, he was done with his breakfast before I even made it out of the kitchen.

I hope you all are having a nice holiday and something good to eat.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Body Memories

I think I've written before about body memories, more specifically about having the sensation of my arms being stapled like they were in the emergency room.  Body memories seem to be pretty common among people with PTSD.  I tried to do some research on how to deal with them but could not find much.  So I ended up writing an article on the subject. 

How to Deal with Body Memories When You Have PTSD

Info on Psychiatric Service Dogs

Just wanted to post links to a couple articles about psychiatric service dogs.

Do You Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?

How Do You Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Service Dog Info for Businesses

I wanted to link to a couple articles written for business owners or managers about service dogs, including what questions you're allowed to ask a customer or client with a service dog and when you are allowed to ask them to remove their dog.

A Business Owner's Guide to Service Dogs

What Questions Can Business Owners Ask People with Service Dogs?

Lazy Cat

I Love the Fact that Isaac Believes the World is a Good Place

Yesterday it was unseasonably warm, so I took Isaac to the park for a walk.  Neither of us has been getting enough exercise lately, due to the cold weather and my back problems.

At the park, this guy stopped to talk to Isaac and then he told me how he used to have a lab and that lab liked to jump up on people like Isaac sometimes does.  However, he said, he cured his dog of that.  When the dog would put her paws up on him, he would stop on her toes.  I guess he meant the dog put her front feet on him and he stepped on her back toes.  I don't see how he could step on her front toes if they were on his chest.  I mean, how does one step on one's own chest?  Unless one is very skilled at yoga or something.

I have no idea why he thought I needed advice about how to stop Isaac from jumping on people but he assured me repeatedly that his method would work.

When he walked on, I assured Isaac that no one would be stepping on his toes.  Isaac did not look at all concerned.  He cannot imagine someone stepping on his toes on purpose.  After all, he believes the world is a good place, full of good people, people that love him and want to be his friends.

As far as I know, there have been only two times in his life that someone was mean to him.  Unless you count giving him a bath or clipping his toenails as being mean.  I think Isaac might count those things as being mean.  But other than that, I can think of two mean things.

One was the time I used a spray bottle of water to squirt him in the face when he was barking excessively.  I did that on the advice of a dog trainer.  Isaac looked so shocked and offended and like his feelings were terribly hurt.  I felt so guilty.

The other mean thing was when Mike's cat Indigo swatted Isaac on the nose because he kept trying to sniff her and she did not wish to be sniffed.  Again Isaac was horrified and shocked.  He ran to me for comfort.  Actually, he came to me for comfort when I squirted him with the water, too.  That made me feel even more guilty.

Isaac is just certain everyone wants to be his friend.  He loves everyone and if he doesn't know someone, he is sure he will love them.  He greets strangers like long lost friends.  He firmly believes everyone wants to pet him.  He believes everyone will love him.

I wish I could be like that.  Well, I don't wish strangers wanted to pet me, but I wish I believed everyone at least liked me.

The park we went to was a new one for Isaac.  He'd never been there before.  And yet, he bounded out of the car as soon as I had his leash on him, full of enthusiasm for wherever we were going and whatever we were going to do.  He is sure whatever we do will be fun.  Good things will happen wherever we go.  I love that about him.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Gifts

A couple days ago, I received a package via UPS from a good friend.  She'd told me to expect a package, but I wasn't expecting so much stuff.  There were gifts for me, for Isaac and for Cayenne.

I was cracking up because you know how little kids sometimes have more fun with the box than with the gift in the box?  Well, Isaac was thrilled to death to see the UPS guy.  Of course, Isaac loves everyone, but still... He feels he and the UPS guy have some sort of special bond.  You could ship Isaac an empty box and just seeing the UPS guy would be treat enough for Isaac.

Isaac was, however, also thrilled at the contents of the box, which included a squeaky toy (which I have yet to present to him, but I am sure he will disembowel it quickly to remove the squeaker, but that's how he likes to play with squeaky toys), two rawhide bones and some milk bones.  I showed him the two rawhide bones and he quickly selected the one that I think was beef flavored.  Here he is, devouring it.

Cayenne got some cat treats, which she loved.  Isaac was disappointed when I refused to give him some of Cayenne's treats.  Cayenne was disappointed when I refused to give her more cat treats.  I only gave her a couple at a time because I don't want her to puke on my couch.  She did not seem to appreciate my concerns for the welfare of the sofa, however.

Cayenne also got a couple of kitty toys.  She is not very playful these days, but you know, she didn't play with toys all that much when she was younger.  She has been a bit more active lately, though, so maybe she will play a little bit.

I got some wonderful gifts, as well.  I actually cried a little bit, it was so sweet of her to send me all that stuff.

Later, I had all the wrapping paper and packaging in the box everything came in and it was sitting on the living room floor.  Isaac kept digging through the box and removing the paper and stuff, checking to make sure I hadn't overlooked any treats.  It was cute.

Another friend of mine got me an electric blanket.  I really wanted one and it's something I would have bought for myself if money hadn't been so tight the last couple of months.  Heat is probably the thing that helps my pain the most.  I have a heating pad but it's small.  Sometimes I sit here moving it around, leaving it on one area for ten minutes, then moving it to another area.

I used it a little yesterday and I really like it.  Unfortunately, it has been really hot in my apartment the last two days.  This afternoon, I had my heat off (it's been off for two days) and all the windows open (they have also been open for two days, except I had to close them for a few hours in the middle of the night when it was super windy and raining in) and it was 75 degrees in here.  I actually considered turning on the air conditioning, which seems ridiculous in late December.  It has been warmer than usually that last couple days, but still, who turns on the AC when it's 54 degrees out?  I have no idea why it's so  hot in here, but I would enjoy my electric blanket a lot more if it wasn't so hot.

I discovered something interesting as I was lying under the warm blanket, though.  It reminds me of my grandma.  When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and my grandmother also had an electric blanket on her bed in the winter.  My blanket is nicer than the one she had, though.  It's much softer, almost velvety. 

Cayenne loves it, whether it's actually turned on or not.  I had a lot talk with her about not peeing or hacking up hairballs on it.

Comments Must Be Approved Before Posting Now

Due to some rude or otherwise inappropriate comments posted anonymously, I decided to change the settings on my blog so that I must approved comments before they post.  I considered changing the settings to disallow anonymous comments but I don't really want to require people to sign up for a Google ID in order to comment.  I really enjoy most of the comments I receive and I like being able to interact with readers of my blog.  Unfortunately, a few people seem to enjoy posting inappropriate or offensive things on blogs.  I don't think this is a problem unique to me, I've heard other bloggers talk about it, too.  So anyway, for now at least, your comments will not show up until I've approved them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Isaac at Panera - Take Two

I read through my blog posts from last December because I thought I would have written about this, but I guess I didn't.  This time last year was a crazy, stressful time for me.  I guess I just never got around to blogging about this particular event.

Last year at Christmas time, I met a good friend for lunch at Panera.  We planned to have lunch, to talk and to exchange gifts.  She lives about three hours away from me, so we were meeting about midway. 

I'd only had Isaac for about a month, but I'd taken him to a few restaurants and he'd done OK at them.  He did not do well at Panera that day, though.  As soon as my friend and I got our food and sat down, he started to bark.  I couldn't get him to stop.  I even took him outside in case he needed to go potty, but I don't think that was what he was barking about.  To this day, I don't know why he was barking.  I just know that I had to cut my lunch, and my visit with my friend, short because I had an out-of-control, disruptive service dog.  It was really cold that day, too cold to just leave him in the car while I ate.  I was really mad at him.

Well, today I met the same friend at the same Panera to have lunch and exchange gifts.  Isaac was so well-behaved.  The difference was like night and day.

I got there before my friend, so Isaac and I waited in the entryway for her to arrive.  While we were waiting, a number of people went by us, either coming into the restaurant or leaving the restaurant.  One middle-aged man howled at Isaac.  Howled.  Like a wolf or something.  That was a new one for me.  I've had people bark and I've had people meow.  But this was the first howl.  And one woman stopped to do some baby talk at Isaac.  Isaac ignored both the howler and the baby talker, though.

My friend got there, we ordered our food and got our drinks and found a table.  Isaac went right under the table.  He lay down with his head on my foot and slept until we were ready to leave.  When we got up to go, and he came out from under the table, a couple of people seated nearby exclaimed, "There's a dog!  Look, it's a dog!"  They hadn't known he was under there, because he was doing what he was supposed to do.  I imagine last year, everyone in the whole place knew there was a dog there, because he barked pretty loudly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Got a Christmas Card from My Nephew Today

I sent Christmas cards to all four of my nephews.   I did last year, too.  I didn't expect to get cards from them, because they are kids and they are boys.  Well, I guess two of them aren't technically kids anymore, one is a Marine and the other has finished high school, but they are still like teenagers.  I don't expect them to send me Christmas cards.  But I send cards to them.

My youngest  nephew, I think he's in second grade now, loves to get mail.  I used to send him coloring pages and stuff a lot.  I was sure he would like to get a card, and I'm not sure if the older boys care about getting cards or not, but I wasn't going to send one kid a card and not send cards to the others.  So they all got cards.

I guess the other reason I didn't really expect to get cards back is because I didn't expect to get cards from my mother or sister (and I didn't), so I didn't expect my sister to encourage the boys to send me cards.

But I got one today from my youngest nephew.  My sister addressed the envelope for him.  I think sending me a card was probably his idea, not hers.  He wrote the message inside the card himself.  I don't think he even asked for help with spelling words, because there were a couple of things misspelled.

He said, "Dear Aunt Kelly, I miss you very much. I got the letter you sent me in the mail.  Sincerely," and his name.

I cried.

Isaac looked concerned and came over for a hug.  Then he looked around, spotted his Nylabone toy that looks like a stick, and happily pounced on it.  Yes, sometimes Isaac pounces on toys.  Much like a cat.  Only much bigger.  It's cute.  He brought me the toy.  He often thinks a toy of some sort will cheer me up.  He's usually right.

Two years ago, I got to spend Christmas at my sister's.  It was so much fun being with my little nephew then.  He had some "reindeer food" to sprinkle outside in the yard for Santa's reindeer.  It was really oatmeal with a little glitter mixed it.  I took him outside to sprinkle the reindeer food.  Christmas is just magical for little kids.  I liked being there for that.

This year I will be spending Christmas alone, with Isaac and Cayenne.

My nephew's card made me cry.

So Far from Normal

Sometimes I see people moving in a certain way or doing something I just know I couldn't do because of my back and I am struck by how far from normal I am.  And I know there was a time I could do those things, too, but that was long ago.

Yesterday I was watching Master Chef online and the cooks were preparing lunch for a bunch of surfers and at the end, the surfers were supposed to vote for which team they thought made the best fish tacos.  And, ick, but who ever thought fish should go on a taco?  But anyway, to vote, the surfers stood on one surfboard and then jumped onto either the red board or the blue board, to indicate which team's tacos they liked best.  And the thought occurred to me that I would have trouble just stepping up onto the first surfboard, let alone jumping onto another.  But they were all doing it easily.

Also, for some reason, the other day I was thinking about my old apartment when I lived in Cincinnati.  I had this really awesome apartment in a really old building.  But there were three stairs up to the front door and there was no railing.  I had a friend that has multiple sclerosis and she had a hard time going up those stairs and an even harder time going down them.  I didn't have any trouble, but it occurred to me that now I would.  Especially in the winter, if there was snow or ice on the steps.

It's hard to believe I ever took such things for granted.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Seems like time for a poem.


Do not tell me
not to dwell in bitterness
for I dwell in the desert
and the sand is arid and dry
and scratches raw my throat
whenever I speak.

Do not tell me
not to dwell in bitterness
for I shall eat of the acrid herbs
until I am full of them
and only then will they pass
from my body,
leaving clean my heart,
my hands, my soul.

Limitations and Frustrations

I am just feeling really frustrated today about all the things I cannot do or that are really difficult for me to do that should be easy. 

I have to do a load of laundry today.  Have to, because I have no more clean towels for Cayenne the Incontinent Cat to pee on.  She goes through a lot of towels.  At least two a day, sometimes more.  That means I do a lot of laundry. 

But doing laundry is difficult for me, even with Isaac to help.  Sometimes I am able to carry a basket of laundry to the laundry room.  Sometimes I am not.  If I can't carry it, I have to go downstairs in the elevator, get the cart that is kept in the laundry room, take that back upstairs, put my laundry in the cart, and take it back down to the laundry room.  Sometimes I am able to just bend over and pick up the basket of laundry from the floor and put it in the cart.  Sometimes I am not.  Then Isaac has to pick up each article of clothing, one by one, and give them to me to put in the cart. 

When it's time to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I have some difficulty reaching the items in the bottom of the washing machines.  That's not something Isaac can do for me.  If I accidentally drop an item on the floor, he picks it up for me, though. 

Then when the clothes are done drying, I have to wait about ten minutes for the dryer to cool down a little so Isaac can get the clothes out for me.  When the dryer stops, the inside of it is very hot.  I don't want Isaac to burn his feet on it, and neither does he.  So I have to wait for it to cool down.  Then I have to bend over to clean the lint out of the lint tray, because that's not something Isaac can do.  Then it's finally time for Isaac to unload the dryer for me.  He almost always pulls out one item at a time, so it can take a while for him to get everything.

All of this makes doing laundry take a lot longer than it would take a "normal" person.  And even with Isaac's help, there is some bending, reaching and lifting involved, which causes pain.  It's frustrating.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Not Rheumatoid Arthritis

My doctor got the results of my blood tests and x-rays.  He said the x-rays showed degenerative disk disease, which was no surprise because I'd been told I had that before.  He said the blood work was all normal so he does not think I have rheumatoid arthritis.  So now he is thinking it's fibromyalgia and wants to refer me to a rheumatologist.  Which is probably a good idea, but that means seeing a different doctor that I don't know, which makes me really anxious.

Edited to add: I Googled the rheumatologist my PCP said he would refer me to.  She has a LOT of bad reviews online.  Only a couple good ones.  Most people say she doesn't listen to them, is rude, and does not take the time to explain things.  That is totally the opposite of what I want in a doctor!  Most people say they would not recommend her to family or friends.

However, my friend Google also gave me the name of another doctor in the same area, who does have plenty of good reviews.  People say he listens to them and spends plenty of time with them.  I think tomorrow I will be calling my PCP's office to explain why I will not be seeing the rheumatologist they suggested and seeing this other guy instead.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Update on My Pain

Thursday when I saw my doctor, he instructed me to increase my Flexeril to three times a day and my Tramadol to four times a day, instead of just taking it as needed.  When I was taking it as needed, I didn't take it every time I felt pain because I have pain all the time.  I took the Tramadol when the pain was really bad.  I took the Flexeril when I had a lot of muscle spasm.  I filled a script for 60 Flexeril last February and still have four of them left when I saw my doctor.  That's how often I took it.  And on a really bad day, I might have taken the Tramadol three times, but most days I only took it once or maybe twice.  I worried about running out, about not having enough, about being without pain meds when the pain got really bad.  So I tried not to take the meds unless I really, really had to.

Well, yesterday I realized I was having far fewer muscle spasms than I had been having.  I think I had spasms just two times yesterday.  I haven't had any so far today.  And today I notice I'm not in as much pain.  I still hurt, but not nearly as bad.

I've been sleeping a lot.  I think the amount of meds is making me drowsy.  I don't care, though.  I'm just glad to have some relief from the pain.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Over the last two years, I've made big efforts to be more green.  You know, eco-friendly.  Earth friendly.  I've done things like starting using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, cloth rags instead of paper towels, and cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.  I now make my own laundry detergent, cleaning products and toilet paper.  I take my own cloth bags to the grocery store, etc.

Not only are these things better for the environment, they save money, too.  For that reason, I wanted to share some articles I've written about being green for the holidays.

How to Be Green for the Winter Holidays

Green Gift Ideas for the Winter Holiday Season  

Green Gift Wrap Ideas for the Holidays

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cayenne Went to the Vet Today

It was just a follow up from her appointment about a month ago.  She was supposed to have a follow up in two weeks but for various reasons, I kept postponing it.  So she finally went today.

On the way there, she peed and pooped in her carrier.  So it was a stinky trip.  I tried to clean her up as best I could when we got to the vet, but because she'd sat in her poop, it was all matted in her fur and I couldn't get her very clean.  Poor girl.  I know it's not her fault.  I think the stress of riding in the car makes her poop.  She pooped on the way home last time she went to the vet.

The vet wanted to test her urine but wasn't able to since she didn't have any urine in her bladder since she'd peed on the way there.  She said I could schedule another appointment just for a urine check and that she wouldn't charge me for the office visit then, just for the urine check.  But the trip to the vet is so stressful for Cayenne, I don't think I'm going to do it unless she needs to go for something else or shows symptoms of a urinary tract infection or something.

Everything else looked good at this appointment, including the ulcerations on the lumps on her belly.  Her weight is still good; she has lost three ounces since her last appointment, and I'm guessing peeing and pooping right before she was weighed could account for those three ounces.  Her ears look good, her teeth look OK, her lungs sound clear.

The lumps haven't grown any.  This was not Cayenne's usual vet, he had to have some sort of surgery and is off work for a few weeks, which is one of the reasons the appointment got postponed, but we've seen the other vet in the practice before and I like her a lot.  She hadn't seen Cayenne since these new lumps occurred, though, so she couldn't say if they'd grown or not.  I can't tell they  haven't, though.  I feel them regularly to see if they are any bigger or otherwise different.  They haven't grown since the last appointment.

I told the vet how Cayenne had been more active since starting the anti-inflammatory medication.  She just took the last of it a two days ago.  The vet said she probably did have some arthritis that was causing some pain or discomfort and that one of the ways they actually diagnose arthritis in cats is to try them on an anti-inflammatory and if it seems to help, then they might assume the cause of the cat's symptoms were due to arthritis, since of course cats can't describe their discomfort to  you.  I've assumed for a while that Cayenne has some arthritis in her knees and/or hips because over the last couple of years she has seemed to have more and more difficulty jumping up on things and has become more and more reluctant to jump very high.  More recently, she's seemed reluctant to jump off things, too, at least if they are higher than the couch.  Anyway, the vet said we can keep her on the anti-inflammatory since it seems to be helping her, so I am happy about that.

When we got home, Cayenne had to have a bath, which she did not like one bit.  If you've ever tried to bathe a cat, you know how difficult it can be.  After her bath, she hid under the couch for a while.  She has recovered now, though, and is sound asleep next to me.

Saw My Doctor Yesterday

I was super anxious about going but the appointment went well, I think.  My doctor seemed to take my pain seriously, which I appreciated.  He asked me, on a scale of one to 10, where was my pain and I told him, honestly, if giving birth with no pain meds and no epidural was a 9.5 on that scale, my pain lately has been about a 12 or 13.  He seemed suitably impressed.

He thinks I might have rheumatoid arthritis or possibly fibromyalgia.  He seems to be leaning more toward the RA while I think it's more likely fibro.  At this point I don't really care which it is, or if it's something else, though.  I just want a diagnosis so I don't feel like it's all in my head or that other people will think it's all in my head and so that we can formulate a treatment plan.

He ordered some blood tests to check for antibodies that would suggest RA and some x-rays of my back.  He said he will probably want an MRI of my back but that he would order x-rays first because my insurance probably would not want to pay for an MRI unless I had x-rays first and those were inconclusive.  My last MRI was about 18 months ago and I told him I had it on a disk but he said my back has probably changed since then so he thought some current images were warranted.  I plan to get the blood work and the x-rays done Monday and then I will see him a few days after that.

In the meantime, he suggested increasing my Tramadol, which I take for pain, and my Flexeril, which is a muscle relaxer, and taking them on a regular schedule instead of just as needed.  He prescribed Tramadol four times a day and Flexeril three times a day.  It's probably too soon to tell how much that will help but I think I have had fewer muscle spasms today.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cayenne's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa Claws,

The dog has been very naughty.  You should not bring him anything.

I, on the other hand, have been a very good kitty.  You should bring me a lot of presents.  Here is my list of what I want.

1.  Cheese.  Lots of cheese.  Any kind.  A variety pack of some sort would be nice.  Shredded cheese is best since it requires less chewing.

2.  Ice cream.  Mommy says chocolate is not good for kitties.  Is that true?  If it is, then any flavor other than chocolate would be fine.  If she's just making that up, then some chocolate ice cream would be fine, too.

3.  Yogurt.  Any flavor would be fine.

4.  Cat treats.  Again, a variety pack of some sort would be best.

5.  A new brush.  And could you please tell my mommy she should brush me more?


Cayenne the Pretty Kitty

P.S. If there is a little boy or girl that wants a puppy, could you take them this dog?

Isaac's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa Paws,

I have been a very good doggie all year.  Except for the seven or eight times I chased the deer (but they were not reindeer, I promise I wouldn't chase those), the three or four times I ate the cat's food, and the other day when I rolled in the mud.  I just couldn't resist.  But mostly I have been a good dog.

My mommy has been telling people I want treats, a treat dispensing ball, and some beef bones for Christmas and I would like all those things.  If you are planning to bring them, please do.  But there are some other things I really, really want.  I made you a list.

1.  Cat food.  I know I shouldn't eat the cat's food but it smells so yummy.  It smells and tastes a lot better than my kibble.  So I would really like to have some cat food of my own.

2.  Cat poop.  I know my mommy doesn't like me to eat it but I don't know why.  Like cat food, it smells and tastes yummy.

3.  Cat barf.  It's not quite as good as cat poop but I still like it a lot.

4.  A kitty friend.  The kitty we have does not like me even though I love her and have tried hard to be her friend.  Can I please get another?

5.  McDonald's bags.  Sometimes I find these in the ditch alongside the road on walks and I love them.  They are fun to sniff, to lick, to stick my head into, and to carry home with me.  I especially love the ones with old French fries in the bottom.  White Castle, Taco Bell and Burger King bags are also nice.

6.  Mud in which to roll.  Or poop.  I like rolling in that, too.  If it's not too much trouble, could you bring me some of each? 

7.  Hot dogs.  They are the best food ever.  I need a lot of them.  Pretty please.


Isaac the Service Dog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Cards

I have received 3 Christmas cards so far this year, all from people that live in my building. One was addressed to "Apartment 205," one was addressed to "Kelly and Isaac" and one was addressed to "Kelly and the dog that I love." How cute is that?

Church Fundraiser Update

I don't think I've posted this update yet.  Isaac's program finally did receive the check from the church that did the fundraiser back in September.  It took nearly three months for them to forward the money.  I'm grateful to everyone that donated and to those that organized and ran the fundraiser.  I think it's a shame that those in charge didn't do their part in a timely manner and that they responded in a kind of rude way when questioned or asked to do what they should have done anyway.  But whatever.  The money finally made it to the right place.  A big thanks to my friend Traci for following up with the church for me.  Without her, I think I'd still be waiting for the money to arrive.

Doctor Appointment Tomorrow

I have an appointment with my primary care physician tomorrow to talk about my increased pain and what to do about it.  I feel incredibly anxious about it.  Part of the anxiety is the fear that he won't believe I'm in this much pain and won't want to do anything about it.  Part of it is that I don't know what I want to do about it.  I like going to the doctor with a plan.  Which is maybe sort of silly, but I usually have an idea of what's wrong with me and what I want to do about it.  You know, if I have a very sore throat and a fever, I want a strep test and, if it's positive, an antibiotic.  Or I have a list of blood tests I want, and then if my B12 level is low, I want a script for B12 shots.  But I don't know what I want now.

I spent some time looking online for pain management specialists.  I read lists of treatments they offered, like epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks.  I've tried those things and they provided some temporary relief but it didn't really last long enough.  But also, those things aren't really options for me now because they sedate you for the procedures and you have to have someone to drive you home.  For some of the procedures, you're supposed to take it easy for a day or two afterward.  I don't have anyone to drive me and I can't take it any easier than I already do, because there is no one else to do things for me that need to be done.

But then I thought, if I go in there and start saying oh no, I can't do this and I can't do that, they are going to think I am being difficult and that I just want drugs.  Which isn't true.  I mean, I'd love a pill that made the pain go away.  But I don't want to become addicted to pain meds and I also don't want meds that make me too drowsy.  I can't take a pill that knocks me out all day.  I have to take the dog out and feed the cat and stuff.

Most of the pain management specialists seem to require a referral from your primary care doctor, but I don't even know if I want a referral.  I don't know if I want to see a pain management specialist.  I don't know what I want.  I just want the pain to stop.

I'm really anxious about the appointment tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Little Victories

I know I write a lot about problems I'm having but I want to try to focus on positive things more and there have been a few positives in the last week or two.

  • I know I've mentioned how much I hate asking for help.  Well, about a week ago, I needed to do a load of laundry and I had enough quarters for the washing machine but was one quarter short of  having enough for the dryer.  I spent some time searching for one more quarter, in the bottom of my purse, under the seats in my car, everywhere I could think to look, but could not find one.  I thought of going out in the bad weather to an ATM machine, withdrawing $10 (and paying a fee for using an ATM at a bank where I did not have an account), and going to the grocery store to see if they would give me some quarters.  I thought of just washing my stuff and hanging it up all over my apartment to dry.  I also thought of asking one of my  neighbors if they had a quarter (I had nickles and dimes, just no quarters), but that seems a lot like asking for help, and I didn't want to.  But I finally did.  And of course, she gave me a quarter.  And it was so much easier than going to the ATM and then to the grocery store, so much easier than having wet laundry hung up all over the place to dry. 
  • And tonight, I asked a friend if he could stop on his way home from work and bring me a gallon of milk.  I hated asking for that.  But it is freezing out, it's snowy, the roads are kind of icy still, and my back hurts.  To go out to the store, I would have had to scrape ice off my car windows, which is hard on my back.  The cold makes my joints hurt.  I just really, really didn't want to go out.  I need some stuff from the store, but I figured if I just had someone to bring me some milk, I could have a protein shake for dinner and another for breakfast in the morning and I can figure out getting to the store in another day or two.  So I asked.   And I got milk.
  • About a week ago, I was in the kitchen making my morning protein shake.  I poured a glass of milk, added calcium citrate powder and Miralax, and was getting ready to add the vanilla protein powder - and I knocked over the glass.  Spilled milk all over the counter.  Luckily it didn't get on the floor, so it wasn't too hard to clean it up.  What's notable about this is that I didn't get too upset about spilling the milk.  Normally, a little thing like this sets off this whole downward spiral for me.  I get angry at myself.  I start thinking about how I always mess things up.  I would feel guilty about wasting the milk, and also the calcium citrate powder and the  Miralax, because I can't afford to waste stuff like that.  I would think about how stupid and clumsy I am.  These kinds of thoughts would just spiral out of control and the whole day would be ruined.  And this time, that just didn't happen.  I cleaned up the milk.  I made another protein shake.  I took some anxiety medication and I got on with my day.  This probably sounds like a silly little thing, but it really was a victory.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Isaac Really Loves to Work

This is not news to me, of course.  But I've just been realizing lately how much he enjoys working.  I've had some days lately when I have not felt well.  I've been tired, and depressed, and in pain.  I don't do much on those days.  And Isaac gets bored.  He gets restless.  He bugs me, wanting treats, wanting to play, wanting to go outside.  Making sure he gets enough exercise, like going for runs three times a week with the dog walker, helps.  Making sure he has time to socialize with people, like our neighbors when we see them in the lobby of the building, helps, too.  But so does making sure he has work to do.

Lately I've been having Isaac do some tasks even when I don't really need him to do them, just because it seems to make him happy.  For instance, Isaac can open the refrigerator for me.  I don't need him to do that, I am perfectly capable of opening the fridge myself.  But he opens it by tugging on a braided fleece rope attached to the handle, and it's good for him to practice his "tug" command, because I use that command with him for other things, too.  And he likes doing it.  His tail wags and he looks really happy every time he opens the fridge.  So during the day, when I want to get a drink or when I am cooking or putting groceries away, I have Isaac open the fridge for me.

I have been having Isaac turn on lights for the same reason.  He likes it and it's practice for him.  Sometimes I need him to do that task, but even when I could do it myself, I've been having Isaac do it most of the time.

I love it that Isaac loves to work.  Today I did a load of laundry and as he was taking the clothes out of the dryer for me, his tail was wagging so hard.  It kept hitting the washing machine that was behind him.  Thump thump thump, the whole time he was getting the clothes out for me.  He was just so happy to be helping.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Helping and Being Helped

While I have a hard time asking for help, I usually do not have a hard time offering to help others.  And I usually like it when friends ask me to help them.  I can't always help everyone, I can't always offer whatever someone needs, but when I can help, I like to do so.

It hurts my feelings sometimes, though, when people decline my offers of help.  I realize that when you offer to help someone with something, they may not accept that help for a variety of reasons.  Logically, rationally, I know that most of the time, it probably has nothing to do with me personally.  I still end up feeling rejected, though.  I start thinking of how much I wish there was someone to help me with things like whatever it is I am offering to help with and I don't understand why they wouldn't want my help.

I realize how messed up that probably is.  If I'm offering to help someone, it should be about them.  Not about me.  Not about what I would want help with.

Bear with me, please.

A couple months ago, I had a friend that was going through a difficult time.  She needed to see a doctor and was stressed out about it.  I offered to go with her.  She didn't want me to.  I was confused and hurt. 

You know how hard it was for me to find someone to go with me to the hospital when I had surgery to remove the lump in my breast?  More recently, when I had to have oral surgery to remove that broken tooth, I went alone, which meant I couldn't be sedated for the procedure, because there was no one to go with me.  I had a friend that had agreed to go and then backed out at the last minute.  When I had to get a follow up mammogram (follow up from the biopsy) earlier this week, I didn't even try to get anyone to go with me.  I didn't even know who to ask that might possibly be willing to do it.

So it's hard for me to imagine why my friend was so adamantly opposed to me going with her.  Maybe it wasn't about me.  Maybe she wouldn't have wanted anyone to go.  I don't want to post private details about her on the internet without her permission, so I'm not going to say what she needed to see a doctor for.  But she was anxious about it and she had been feeling pretty depressed and I thought it would make her feel better to have someone go with her.  I thought it would make her feel better to have me go with her.  But she didn't want me to.

And there could be lots of reasons why she didn't want me to go with her.  Maybe she just wanted to be alone, maybe she felt it was too private to share with me, who knows.  She didn't explain why and I didn't press her for a reason.  She didn't even have to have a reason.  It's OK to say no for any reason at all.  I believe that.

But it still hurt my feelings.

More recently, a friend had surgery and is therefore somewhat limited mobility-wise.  She recently posted on Facebook asking who wanted to volunteer to come help her with someone.  Again, I'm not giving details because I don't have her permission to post personal stuff about her on my blog.  Several people responded by saying they would help if they lived closer to her.  I replied and said I would be happy to do it for her and to help with anything else she needed.  She replied by thanking me but saying she didn't really need help.

Well.... OK.  Why post saying you needed help if you didn't?  I mean, I know I've posted on Facebook before, saying something like, "Who wants to come clean my bathroom for me?" and I don't really expect anyone to say, "I'd love to, I'll be right over."  But if someone did?  I'd say, "Great!  I'll put on some coffee." 

Would she have accepted the offer if it had come from someone else?  I don't know. 

Do you know how much I would have loved to have someone come walk Isaac for me after my breast biopsy?  The friend that went to the hospital with me took me to the pharmacy to fill my prescription for pain meds, then took me home, then left.  No one even called me to see how I was doing or ask if I needed anything.  No one asked if I needed anything from the store or if they could take Isaac out for me or anything.

But maybe other people don't need help with any of that stuff.  Maybe that's why they don't want my help with me.   Maybe they just don't need that kind of help.  And maybe that's why I have trouble finding someone to help me with those things.   Maybe no one offers to do those things for me because it's not something most people would need help with.  Maybe I just need or want too much help.  I don't know.

I just know that I often feel I don't have help when I need it and I don't understand why people don't want my help or why they don't want to help me.

Christmas Tree Ornaments for Sale

My friend Laura suggested I try to sell some Christmas tree ornaments.  So here you go.  Available for a limited time only on Ebay.

Kitty Cat Ornaments (set of two)

Aqua and Tan Fleece Ornaments (set of four)

Aqua and Tan Fleece Ornaments (set of three)

Cranberry and Cream Fleece Ornaments (set of four)

Proceeds will go to cover the cost of my service dog, of course.

An Ordinary Trip to the Grocery Store

Isaac and I went to the grocery store this morning to stock up on food before it starts to snow later today.

It has occurred to me that I haven't written much lately about trips to various places with Isaac.  The reason for that is that no much of interest happens these days.  I get the usual questions about whether I am training Isaac for a disabled person, I say no, he's already trained, Isaac does his job, and we go home.  Not much new to report.  Isaac behaves well, which is wonderful, but after blogging about how nicely he lay on the floor under the table in a restaurant so many times, I kind of get bored writing about it and I imagine it gets a bit boring to read about, too.

But we went grocery shopping this morning and I was just struck by how well he did.  And by how well he's done everywhere I've taken him lately.

In the dog food aisle, I had to remind him a couple times not to sniff the big bags of food.  I remember when I first got Isaac, the first time I took him down the dog food aisle at the grocery store, I could hardly pull him away from all the food and treats he wanted to sniff.  For a long time after that, we avoided the dog food aisle.  Now, he takes a couple sniffs, I tell him to leave it, he leaves it.

A man at the store today approached Isaac, reached out to pet him, asking as he was reaching for him, "Is it OK to pet him?"  I said, "No.  Not when he's working."  I didn't hesitate to say no.  I used to feel uncomfortable telling people no when they wanted to pet him.  Isaac was looking happy at the prospect of being petted but behaved himself.  He didn't try to jump on the man and he stayed beside me.  He followed me readily when I told him to come.

Near the end of our shopping trip, I accidentally dropped my shopping list on the floor.  Without thinking about it, I told Isaac to get it.  He was busy watching another shopper in the aisle, but he picked up the paper when I told him to. 

It's only been recently that telling Isaac to get something is my first instinct when I drop something.  In the past, even when Isaac was with me, my first instinct would be to bend over and get it myself.  I had to think about it to have Isaac do those things for me. 

I also recall a time in the grocery store when I dropped my wallet and told Isaac to get it and he absolutely would not.  We were in line to pay and he was busy watching other customers and completely ignored me.  After I told him to get it three or four times, I ended up picking it up myself.  I was embarrassed and angry.  Today, Isaac happily picked up the list for me.  He got an ear rub and an enthusiastic, "Good boy!  You are the smartest, best dog ever."