Friday, January 31, 2014

Update on Isaac the Carrying Canine

Today I went to the grocery store to pick up just a few things.  I had a couple shopping bags and a gallon jug of milk.  I'd brought along a cloth shopping bag for Isaac, and when we got home, I sat in the car and repacked the items from one of the plastic shopping bags from the store in the cloth shopping bag for Isaac to carry. 

I got Isaac out of the car and held out the bag, saying, "Take it," and he did.  He seemed unhappy with his grip on it, though, because he then set it down in the snow.  But he picked it back up and carried it across the parking lot, into the lobby of our building, into the elevator, down the hall and into our apartment.  I rewarded him with a bite of hotdog.

So Isaac is now pretty good on his two new commands, "Take it" and "Carry it."  And he really loves carrying things.  He just looks really proud of himself doing it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Service Dog Attacked by Walmart Customer

This morning I read a story (I think you have to be a member of this site to see it, so I'm not bothering with a link) about a woman that was shopping at Walmart in the middle of the night with her service dog and another customer, for no reason, kicked her dog. Hard. Hard enough to make the dog cry. The kicking customer later tried to say the service dog snapped at her and that's why she kicked him.

Walmart employees told the kicking customer to leave but she refused and kept ranting and raving about how dogs should not be in Walmart, so they called the cops. Thank goodness, the cops actually arrested the kicking customer. Apparently there is a law in Texas against injuring a service dog.

I'm absolutely horrified, not just because someone kicked a dog for no reason, but because something like this can potentially cause irreparable damage to a dog's ability to work as a service dog. He could become too fearful to work in public. Or, if he had bitten the kicking customer in response to being kicked (which would seem quite reasonable to me), he would have to be retired from working permanently. Two years of training and approximately $20,000 (the cost of training a service dog) would be down the drain and a person with a disability would likely have to wait another year or two in order to get another service dog.

Edited to add:  The service dog was seen by a vet and is not seriously injured.  He has to take it easy for a week and is on pain medication.  It's too soon to know how he will be affected emotionally.  If he becomes too fearful in stores or if he reacts to strangers in a suspicious manner, he could be unable to continue working.  There are people that have had that experience.  I've talked to a couple people who had service dogs that were attacked by other dogs (not service dogs) and essentially developed PTSD or something similar and were unable to continue working as service dogs because they were frightened or felt threatened when they saw other dogs and responded accordingly.

I think about how loving and trusting Isaac is and about how bewildered and frightened and hurt he would be if someone kicked him like that.  Good grief, he was horribly offended when Mike's cat Indigo swatted him on the nose and I am pretty sure that did not hurt at all.  I imagine if someone kicked Isaac in a store, he would get as close to me as possible for protection, which is pretty much what he did when Indigo swatted him.  He came running to me to save him.  I feel certain he wouldn't bite or respond in an aggressive manner.

But how would it affect him emotionally?  It's hard to say.  Isaac was always a bit wary of Indigo after she swatted him but he was not afraid of other cats.  And he seems to recover quickly from things.  For instance, I once cut one of his nails too short and it must have hurt because he yelped, and it also bled like crazy, and I was afraid he would be scared of getting his nails cut after that, but he wasn't.  He doesn't really like getting his nails cut but he didn't like it before that time, either.

I feel like it's difficult to explain how devastating something like this could be.  If Isaac was injured, whether physically or emotionally, and was therefore unable to continue working in public, I would be faced with a heart-wrenching decision.  I would have to decide whether to get another service dog, but here's the heart-wrenching part.  I could not afford to care for two dogs.  Caring for Isaac is a strain on my budget.  He is definitely worth the strain, but it would be impossible to come up with the money to care for a second dog.  I also live in a small apartment and don't have room for two dogs, plus my apartment complex has a one pet rule and I already got special permission to have Cayenne in addition to Isaac.  In order to get another service dog, I would have to re-home Isaac.

This has been on my mind all day and I am pretty sure I would just have to do without a service dog in order to keep Isaac.  And it could be possible that he could still do tasks for me at home, just not in public.  And honestly, he does more for me at home than out in public anyway.  For some people, it would be the opposite.  For instance, a blind person would rely on a guide dog much more out in public than in the home.  So at least I could manage more easily than some people without a service dog when I go places.  But it would be hard.

If I did decide I needed another service dog, I would have to raise the funds for it, and if it happened at this point in time, I imagine that would be really difficult since everyone I know has already donated as much as they can for Isaac.  I would find it really  hard to raise another $5000.  Of course, it would likely be a year at least before I could get another service dog.  There are long waiting lists.

I think there should be laws in every state, with very stiff penalties, for injuring a service dog.  Of course, I think there should be laws with stiffer penalties than currently exist for any kind of animal cruelty.  But injuring a service dog is a crime on a whole other level, I think.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Quick Trip to the Grocery Store

Today Isaac and I made a quick trip to the grocery store.  It was really, really cold but the roads were finally decent.  I guess most people were staying in, though, because the store was practically empty.  I also found a lot of perishable food items, like yogurt, marked down.  I guess because of the weather and bad roads, they hadn't been selling as much as they normally do.  So I bought lots of cheap yogurt.

As I was shopping, I noticed how easy it is to shop with Isaac now.  Maybe that seems obvious, like why would I have a service dog with me if it didn't make shopping easier, but it hasn't always been that way. 

For a long time, having Isaac with me made shopping easier in some ways and harder in other ways.  Simply figuring out how to hold the leash and push the cart at the same time took me forever and trying to push a cart with one hand is definitely not easy.  Keeping an eye on Isaac to make sure he wasn't sniffing things he isn't supposed to sniff while at the same time watching where I'm pushing the cart (sometimes with one hand) while also looking at my shopping list and looking for items on the shelves that are on my list, well, I didn't have enough hands or eyes for all that.

I think I've gotten better at holding the leash and pushing the cart at the same time, but Isaac's also gotten better at heeling and better at not sniffing things and probably his skills have improved more than mine.  It was just nice to realize that Isaac's grown into a really good service dog and that having him with me is a lot less work than it used to be (although it's still work and sometimes still a hassle).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hypnic Jerks and Other Annoyances

Do you know what a hypnic jerk is?  No, it's not a particular type of rude or annoying person.  It's that full-body jerk that sometimes happens as you are dropping off to sleep, usually accompanied or immediately preceded by a feeling of falling.  Often, it wakes you up and then it takes time to settle back down and drop off to sleep again.

Well, I've been having those hypnic jerks a lot lately.  I think it may be a side effect of either my pain medication or my muscle relaxer.  It really sucks because not only does it wake me up when I already have enough trouble sleeping, but it frequently causes a muscle spasm in my back, which is really painful.

Also, today my hips were hurting a lot.  They actually feel OK now but earlier, they were feeling bad.  This is the first time they've hurt this much. That bothers me.  I feel like things are getting worse and worse.  First it was my right elbow, then it was my left knee, too, and now my hips.

And my right arm is getting really bad, whatever it is that's wrong with it.  Besides hurting a lot every time I move it, and besides the raw/irritated/burning feeling I frequently have on my elbow, and besides the bruised feeling I have in my right forearm, I feel like I have less strength in than I used to.  I am having trouble doing things like opening jars and childproof pill bottles.  Although it's hard to say for sure whether I'm having trouble because it's painful to do those things or because my arm is too weak.  I don't know. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

So I Got My Meds...

My doctor did call them in yesterday, thank goodness, and I picked them up this afternoon.

Getting to the pharmacy and back was an adventure.  I guess that's a positive way to say it.  Or I could say it was a pain in the ass.  That's probably a more accurate way to say it.

It snowed a lot overnight and all morning.  It was very windy and there were huge snow drifts.  Well, I guess not that huge, at least not compared to some parts of the U.S. right now, but there were snow drifts that came up to my knees. 

One of these drifts was in my parking lot.  Not in the middle of the parking lot, but blocking the part of the parking lot where you would walk from the sidewalk into the parking lot.  The snow removal people had apparently come, plowed the middle of the parking lot, waded through the knee-deep snow to get to the sidewalk, shoveled the sidewalk and left.  WTF?

So Isaac and I waded through the snow (Isaac didn't mind it), I knocked the snow off my car, and we were off.  The roads are bad.  My county is currently under a level two snow emergency, which means you should stay off the roads unless you really need to go somewhere.  Well, I really needed to get my meds.

I picked up the meds with no trouble and then drove home.  There is a short hill, not terribly steep, that you have to drive up to get into the parking lot of my building.  There was snow and ice on the hill and my car could not make it up the hill.  I tried several times.  I ended up having to park in the lot of the building that is behind mine.

I tried to get Isaac to carry my meds from the car back to my apartment and he refused to take the shopping bag from me.  I have no clue why.  I was cold and getting frustrated so I just carried it myself.  I didn't need him to carry it, I just wanted to give him practice doing it.

When I got home, I called the property manager to inform him that his snow removal people suck.  He said he would call them.  He said he guessed he needed to be more clear with them about the areas they are supposed to shovel.  I mean, you'd think it would be common sense that people need to be able to get from the sidewalk to the parking lot, but I guess not.  There is no way any of my neighbors that use wheelchairs or walkers could get through that much snow, by the way.  Isaac and I were able to wade through it, but a wheelchair would not make it.  So much for accessibility.

Then I got out the pill bottles and realized that for some reason my doctor only called in ten days worth of meds.  Seriously?  So we get to have all this fun again in just ten days? 

I'm kind of mad but it also makes me feel exhausted.  It was a pain in the ass getting these meds refilled.  I don't wanna have to go through all that again in just ten days.

Friday, January 24, 2014

So I Panicked

It was an all around bad day.

I had a plan.  Pick up meds at the pharmacy, get gas, pick up milk and tomato soup at the dollar store, then go to the food pantry to get produce. 

The local food pantry I go to has produce once a month.  Last month I got about a hundred organic bananas.  Well, OK, it was just a dozen or so.  But that's a lot for one person.  I also got corn on the cob, oranges, yogurt and cottage cheese.  I know, yogurt and cottage cheese are not produce.  But I got yogurt last month and the month before and I was hoping to get more today.  I was also hoping for apples.

So I went to the pharmacy, where I found my doctor had failed to call in refills for my Tramadol and Flexeril, and where the pharmacy tech tried to charge me a copay for my Miralax, when I think Medicaid should have paid that copay for me.  I asked the pharmacy tech why Medicaid didn't pay it and she said they paid for more of the cost.  I said no, that would have been Medicare that paid for most of it.  Medicare is my primary, Medicaid is my secondary.  Shouldn't she know that Medicare and Medicaid are not the same things?  Surely she has many other customers that have Medicare and Medicaid.  So she said she'd bill Medicaid and I said I'd call my doctor's office and come back later.

On the way to the gas station, I called the doctor's office.  I spoke with his medical assistant who said, "I think he's working on those refills today."  What does that mean?  I have no clue what that means.  What is there to work on?  It's a phone call to the pharmacy.  Might take 90 seconds.  So I asked her what that meant and pointed out that I will be out of those meds at the end of the day.

Now, I called about those refills on Wednesday, two days before I would run out.  I thought two days seemed like ample time for someone at the doctor's office to find 90 seconds to make a quick phone call.  I didn't call sooner than that because I figured they would not want to call in refills if I still have a lot of pills left.  Plus, I figured my insurance wouldn't pay for the refills if I tried to get them too soon.

The MA seemed annoyed and said she would call me back.

And then I panicked.  What if they didn't call in the refills?  I started thinking of how much pain I'd be in all weekend.  My right arm started hurting more just thinking about it.  I recognized that, I realized that my anxiety was going to make the pain worse.  I cried a little bit.  I took some anxiety meds.  I reminded myself that the anticipation of pain makes pain worse.  I reminded myself that the pain wasn't too bad right then so I needed to focus on that, not on how much it might hurt later.

The panic receded and I went on to the dollar store.

Then I went to the food pantry and found they were closed.  There was a sign on the gate that said, "Sorry we are closed today."  I have no clue why.  I was there Monday for my regular groceries and the woman at the desk reminded me that Friday was produce day.  I was really disappointed.  I had been really looking forward to the yogurt I hoped I would get. 

And I was counting on that food.  Before I set out to do my errands I had carefully planned what to get at the dollar store and how much gas to put into my car, because money is that tight right now.  You know, I was working out, well, I have $7 available on my credit card and $12 in my checking account and $9 left on this gift card, so I can use the credit card for the gas and with the gift card I can buy two gallons of milk and two cans of tomato soup and a package of dog treats for Isaac, like that.  No produce at the food pantry totally messed up my plan.

I'm gonna call them Monday and see if maybe they will be doing produce on a different day.

Shortly after I got home, the MA from the doctor's office called and said the refills would be called in by the end of the day.  I plan to go back to the pharmacy tomorrow.  Hopefully it's all been taken care of.  It was a rotten day.

Hanging out with Mr. Pickle

Isaac's favorite toy is his pickle.  I don't like it much myself because he gets it so disgustingly slimy.  But I think it's cute how much he loves it.

About Two Years Ago

It occurred to me this evening that it was about two years ago when I first started thinking about getting a service dog.

I can't remember what sparked my interest in getting a service dog.  I think I must have come across something online about psychiatric service dogs, but I can't recall what it was exactly.  Prior to that, I hadn't realized that dogs could be trained to perform tasks to mitigate a disability like PTSD.  I was vaguely familiar with the idea of emotional support animals but didn't understand how they differed from service dogs. 

Once I become curious about it, I dove in.  I always do that with things.  I am good at research and I read everything I can get my hands on about a subject and find people with more knowledge and experience than I have to talk to and learn from.

I remember visiting my sister sometime shortly after I'd become interested in getting a service dog and talking to her about it.  I don't remember exactly when that was but I started this blog in May of 2012 and it was sometime before then.  She teased me, saying I should get a service monkey.  It was a friendly kind of teasing, though.  She was interested in the idea and she also said she thought she'd like to get a puppy.  Which she did, before I got Isaac, but she didn't keep it long.  It was a lot of work, imagine that.

I know I'm lucky that I was able to get a service dog as quickly as I did.  I had no idea two years ago that two years from then I'd be sitting in my own apartment with a wonderful service dog named Isaac.  I had no idea how much my life would change.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Accessibility Means Thinking of Someone Besides Yourself

I've been reading this wonderful blog and it's got me thinking a lot about accessibility.  And today I had one of those light bulb moments.  You know what I mean?  Suddenly something seemed so obvious it was hard to belief it just now occurred to me.  But somehow I missed it until now.

People are often so self-centered.  Myself included.  But when we talk about accessibility, well, real accessibility  means thinking of someone other than ourselves.

Today I was talking Isaac out to pee.  I opened my front door and a sheet of paper fluttered to the floor.  The property manager here sends out notices about various things on a fairly regular basis.  Today's notice was about the severe cold and what we should do to keep pipes from freezing.  When he, or his assistant, or one of the maintenance guys distribute these notices, they wedge them between the door and the door frame.  When you open the door, the paper drops to the floor.  There's no way it won't.

Now, I have a really hard time bending over to pick things up.  Fortunately I have a service dog and he is happy to pick up these papers for me.  If I didn't have Isaac, I would probably just leave the  notices on the floor for the maintenance people to pick up.

The property manager knows I can't bend over to pick up these notices.  I know he knows, because once he was out in the hallway when I opened the door and one fell to the floor, and he asked if I wanted him to get it for me.  I told him no, thank you, but Isaac would do it.  But why does continue to stick notices in my door like that when he knows I can't pick them up?

So today I took the notice from Isaac, put it in my kitchen, and took Isaac out for his walk.  On our way out, I noticed a paper on the floor in front of one of my neighbor's doors.  She is 80 years old, uses a walker, and looks pretty frail.  And I thought, "Hey, I bet she has a hard time picking up those notices off the floor!"  And then I thought of some of my other neighbors, like the one that wears leg braces and uses a cane and the man that uses a wheelchair and only has limited use of his arms and hands, and I thought, "Hey, I bet they have a hard time picking up those notices, too!"

So after Isaac peed and we came back inside, I called up the property manager.  He probably expects these kinds of calls from me by now.  I told him how, if I didn't have Isaac to pick up the notices for me, I would just be leaving them on the floor.  Then I mentioned some of my neighbors I thought would have trouble picking them up, too, and pointed out that they don't have an Isaac to pick up things for them.

The property manager said he hadn't thought about that and I said I hadn't either, until today.  He said something along the lines of he'll think on it and see what they can do differently.

Oh, You'd Like to Have Medicaid?

On the gastric bypass forum on which I participate, someone asked a question about whether or not Medicaid would pay for blood tests.  I responded, saying that Medicaid in Ohio has always paid for my blood work but that Medicaid differs somewhat from state to state. 

Someone else posted, saying, "WOW, so i could get  surgery, labs, meds, vitamins, protein drinks all covered!! can i also get the plastics covered to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   may have to look into how to get this, i have BCBS."

Oh, yes, I am so lucky to be disabled and poor so that I can get Medicaid. It's ever so much nicer than being healthy and able to work and able to have real health insurance.

My response was, "Medicaid in my state does not cover OTC stuff like vitamins or protein drinks.

But if you'd like to get Medicaid, I'll tell you how I did it.  All you have to do is become disabled.  I did that by being sexually abused as a child so that I developed severe PTSD.  So go get sexually assaulted a whole bunch of times and then spend lots of time on locked psych wards taking medications with horrible side effects.  Do that for about 12 years.  Try to work and keep a job during all that time.  Try to kill yourself a couple times in there, because the flashbacks are so horrible.  Have nightmares almost every night.  Then have your psychiatrist and psychologist both recommend you apply for disability.  Quit your job.  Go the the social security office and fill out a bunch of paperwork.  Move in with a sympathetic friend while you wait five months to find out if you will get SSDI or not, because you have no income and can't afford to pay your rent.  Then, when you start getting SSDI, go apply for Medicaid.

Does that really sound like something you'd like to do?"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

She Doesn't Want to Look Like a Mental Patient

There is a forum I participate on for people that have had weight loss surgery.  Tonight I read a post from someone that had weight loss surgery several years ago and now has to have surgery again to repair a hernia.  She was advised to wear an abdominal binder afterward and posted to ask for advice about where to get one.  If possible, she said, she would like one that she could wear under her clothes because she doesn't want to look like a mental patient.

Well.  I have been a mental patient.  Many times, in fact.  In many different mental hospitals.  Well, OK, most were not  mental hospitals, they were general hospitals with psychiatric wards, but two of them were psychiatric hospitals.  That's all they did. 

Anyway.  I have been a mental patient and I never wore an abdominal binder of any kind when I was in a mental hospital.  None of the other patients wore abdominal binders, either, as far as I knew.  Which is what I said in my reply to her.

Now, I know what she meant.  She meant that she doesn't want to look odd or abnormal.  She doesn't really think mental patients wear abdominal binders, nor does she think that people might think she is wearing an abdominal binder because she has schizophrenia or PTSD or bipolar disorder.

But... I think she probably thinks mental patients look odd or abnormal.  Or maybe she doesn't just think they look odd or abnormal, maybe she thinks they are odd or abnormal.  If she didn't think that, why would she suggest she would look like a mental patient if she wore an abdominal binder?

Her question had nothing to do with mental health.  Nothing to do with mental illness.  Why stick that little jab in there about how  mental patients are weird?  It was unnecessary.  She probably didn't mean to be cruel, but it is cruel to suggest that mental patients look abnormal.  It is cruel to say she wants to make sure she is never mistaken for one.

Words matter.  They do.

She hasn't replied to my response to her.  We'll see if she does.

Sometimes I Feel Scared

No, not me.  Well, sometimes I do, but this is not about me.

Isaac and I were coming back in from a walk and a couple of my neighbors were sitting in the community room which is right by the elevator.  Isaac has discovered that now that it is so cold out, people do not hang out on the patio anymore.  During the summer, he always wanted to head to the patio whenever we went outside to check out who was there.  Now that it's cold, he has discovered that people sometimes gather in the community room and he always wants to stick his head in there to see who is there.

This one particular neighbor really loves Isaac.  She lets him kiss her on the face.  She loves it.  Isaac is not a particularly kissy dog, which is OK with me, but he kisses her.   She is an older woman and I'm not sure but I think she might be in the early stages of some sort of dementia or maybe she has some serious mental illness going on.  About half of what she says does not make much sense and I can't tell if she thinks it makes sense or if she's just making up stories or what.  She is very nice, though.

Another neighbor told us he'd heard that someone that lives nearby lost their yellow lab a few days ago but that they finally found it.  The neighbor that loves Isaac said, "Oh, I would feel so bad if something happened to Isaac.  I would feel terribly if I couldn't see  him at least once a day."

I said something like, "Isaac loves seeing you, too," which is true.

Then she said, "Sometimes I feel scared."  And I bet she does.  Sometimes she tells me that people have been trying to break into her apartment, stuff like that, which I feel pretty certain is not true.  I don't know if she's delusional and thinks people are trying to break in when they aren't or what.  I know everyone feels scared sometimes but if she really believes some of the stories she tells me, I bet she is scared a lot.

"Sometimes I feel scared," she said.  "But not when Isaac is around.  I know things are OK when he is around."


I rearranged my living room today.  I didn't make any big changes, but sometimes it's the little things that count.

In the past, I typically sat on one end of the couch and Cayenne sat/lay/slept/lived on the other end.  Her end is covered with disposable puppy pee pad with a soft blanket on top of them.  Except when she pees on both her blankies and then she gets to sleep on a towel until I get around to doing laundry.  On the floor in front of Cayenne's end of the couch were more puppy pads covered with towels.

Beside my end of the couch is a two-drawer file cabinet that I use like an end table.  My pain meds were kept there, Isaac's treat jar was kept there, a drink was usually there.  My computer mouse was on the arm of the couch and in front of my end of the couch was the coffee table.  Why was the coffee table only in front of my end of the couch?  Well, it wasn't centered right because I didn't want to put it on the puppy pads in front of Cayenne's end of the couch.  I didn't want to have to move the coffee table every time I changed puppy pads (which is at least once a day, sometimes more, sometimes lots more) and I didn't really want her to pee on the legs of the coffee table, either.

But my right arm hurts.  It hurts a lot.  Picking up a full glass of tea with that arm has become pretty difficult.  And the arm of the couch, which seemed like the perfect place for my mouse just a couple of months ago, now seems a little too high.  Holding my arm at that angle hurts.

So I decided that Cayenne and I needed to switch ends of the couch for a little bit to see how that worked for me.  She immediately switched to her new end as soon as I put her blanket there.  I put my mouse on a pillow beside me, put my drink on the really wide windowsill just to the left of where I would sit, and moved Cayenne's puppy pads a little to the left (hopefully she'll continue peeing on them, I hate to do anything that might cause her to pee on the carpet) so I could move the coffee table a bit so I can still rest my feet on it.

I think this will work.  I think it will be good.  The only negative I can think of right now is that Cayenne will have to march over me every time she wants to get to her food and water, which are kept on the windowsill (they are there because it's easier for her to go from couch to windowsill and back than to go from couch to floor and back, and because they are in a place where I can easily see Isaac whenever he decides he wants to sneak a bite of cat food).  I don't think Cayenne will mind.  I might, though.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Isaac the Carrying Canine

Isaac now loves carrying a cloth shopping bag with something in it.  Loves it.  Today we walked over to the rental office to drop something off.  It's not a very long walk, but I thought it might be too long for Isaac to carry the bag, so I planned to carry it part of the way, then give it to him to carry the rest of the way.  Isaac did not like my plan, however.  It seems he thinks carrying that bag is his job.  He kept trying to take it out of my hand.  On our way home, I let him carry it the whole way and he seemed quite happy to be carrying it.  He walked at a good pace and his head was held high and his tail was wagging like crazy.

I think tomorrow we'll try it with a different bag.  I don't want him to think he can only carry that one bag, that that's his special bag, and not be able to carry other bags if I need him to.  Although the idea has occurred to me to make a special bag just for him.  Maybe one that zips, to make sure nothing falls out if he drops it.  Maybe with a handle similar to the bag my meds are in, because that bag is really easy for him to grab.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Just a Little Update

First, Isaac has mastered carrying items in a cloth shopping bag and he loves doing it.  This evening I took the bag with us when I took him out to pee and then gave it to him to carry back inside.  He carried it to our apartment, when I took it from him and rewarded him with a treat.  I put the bag on the kitchen counter and went and sat down on the couch with my laptop.  Isaac went into the kitchen and returned with the shopping bag, which he'd gotten off the counter, and presented the bag to me.

I think he was hoping for another treat.  He used to do that with my meds a lot, just bring them to me at random times.  He quit doing that long ago, though.  It's unusual for Isaac to get anything off the counter.  He does not counter surf, for which I am grateful.  Occasionally he's gotten one of his toys off the counter, like after I've washed it and it's sitting by the sink.  But anyway, he can now carry a cloth shopping bag and he very much likes doing it.

Second, I just realized a few minutes ago that my pain has been at a very tolerable level today.  I don't know why, I don't know what's different about today.  I'd like to know so I could do it again tomorrow.  But for now I'll just enjoy it.  It's not that I'm pain-free, but today the pain is like background noise, not too difficult to tune out, whereas many days it's like a really loud alarm clock that you'd like to hit with a sledge hammer, only there is no off button. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Update on Carrying the Groceries

Yesterday I wrote about training Isaac to carry in groceries for me.  A reader suggested having him carry things in a cloth bag rather than a plastic one because it would be sturdier and his teeth wouldn't tear the bag.  I would like him to be able to carry a plastic bag because I may need him to carry stuff some time when I don't have a cloth bag available, but I decided to try the cloth bag for now.  Once he's able to do that well, we'll try a plastic bag again.

Today, several different times, I gave him the shopping bag with something light in it, like a small bottle of lotion.  I had him carry it from the living room to the kitchen or from the kitchen to the living room.  He got lots of praise and a treat each time.  We probably did that ten times today, but not all at once.  It was spread out over the whole day.

Also, I had him carry my hat from the lobby into the elevator, then down the hall to our apartment each time we went out to pee.  He got lots of praise and a treat for that, too.  A few times, he got a piece of hot dog for he reward.

The last two times I took him outside, I gave him the shopping bag in the lobby and had him carry it into the elevator and then down the hall to our apartment.  The second time, we got off the elevator and saw one of our neighbors in the hall.  Isaac likes her a lot and she likes him.  Usually when he sees her, Isaac wants to get petted for a long time.  He does this thing where he sits on her foot and leans against her.  He does that to me sometimes, too.  I think it's sweet, but this neighbor uses a cane and I don't think she has great balance and sometimes I worry that Isaac's going to lean against her too hard and knock her over.  There is a handrail in the hallway, though, and usually when she sees Isaac she braces herself against the handrail so she has her hands free to pet him.

Anyway.  We saw her and Isaac's tail began wagging hard and he kind of wiggled all over.  I told him to give me the shopping bag so he could say hi to her.  He gave it up reluctantly.  He let her pet him for about five seconds, then began trying to take the shopping bag from my hand.  I gave it back to  him and he trotted happily down the hall.  He picked carrying the bag over getting petted by our neighbor.  Usually the only thing he will pick over socializing with people he likes is food.

Learning to Live with Pain

This morning I tried to think about when the last time I could move my right arm without pain in the elbow.  I can't remember.  I think it's been a few months.  I recall that the day after Christmas was when I schedule my appointment with the rheumatologist, and that was after I'd waited a week or so for the rheumatologist's staff to contact me about an appointment.  Before that, I'd had some x-rays and lab work done, and that was about a week after I'd seen my primary care physician.  So I probably saw him sometime in early to mid-December.  And I'd been having pain for at least a month before that.  So probably it's been two months at least.

There comes a time, I guess, when you realize pain is probably not going to go away.  I don't wake up anymore and move my arm to test to see if it hurts today or not.  It hurts every day.  Now, my left knee, that I stretch and flex to see if it hurts and how much.  It usually hurts a lot when I first wake up.  But the pain usually gets better after I'm up and moving around.  Not so with my right arm.

Of course, that's the way it is with my back.  It's been about a year since I've slept through the night without back pain waking me at least once.  It's been about a year since I could bend without pain, without having to worry about whether or not I could get back up again.  I've gotten used to living with the back pain.  Sometimes the pain gets worse and I feel I can't bear it any longer but most of the time, it hurts and I don't like it but I've accepted it.

And I've adapted to it.  Isaac picks up my keys when I drop them in the parking lot.  He picks up the dish towel when I drop it in the kitchen.  He picks up the mouse when I knock it off the arm of my couch.  I put the food I eat the  most on the top shelf in the fridge and do not put anything in the vegetable drawers on the bottom - it's too hard to get things out of those drawers.  There are two washing machines in the laundry room  here but I only use the top loading machine because it's too hard to bend over to use the front loader.  When I have two loads, I do them one at a time, both in the top loading machine.  Now that there is snow on the ground, I keep my winter boots beside the couch, so I can put them on while I'm sitting down, because it's too hard to stand up and then bend  over to zip them up.  I've changed the way I do things, I've rearranged my home, all to accommodate my back pain.

I have not yet done this with regard to my right arm.  But I'm starting to think about it.  Starting to consider how I might rearrange things to accommodate an arm that hurts to bend, that hurts to lift a glass of water to take a drink, that hurts to hold a brush and brush my hair.  Do you know how hard it is to brush your hair with your non-dominant hand?  It's ridiculously hard.  But I've thought that I probably need to learn to do it. 

I've thought about rearranging things in my living room, so that I can keep my drink to the left of me instead of on the end table to the right of the couch.  Now, sometimes I reach across myself with my left hand to pick up the glass, but that's awkward and inconvenient.  I've thought about rearranging my living room but I haven't actually done it yet.  I don't really know why not.  Maybe I just don't want to have to.   Maybe I don't want to say OK, this arm thing is going to be permanent.  It's going to dictate which end of the couch I sit on, where I put an end table, where I put my drink.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Training Isaac to Help Me Carry in Groceries

Someone suggested to me that I should train Isaac to help me carry in groceries.  He should be able to carry a plastic shopping bag with up to three pounds of groceries in it.  Much of the time, I don't really need his help carrying in groceries.  If I only have a bag or two, I can carry them.  If I have a lot of groceries, there is a cart that is kept in the lobby of my building that tenants can use to bring items in.  However, sometimes I have more stuff than I can easily carry myself but not so much that I want to mess with getting the cart.  At those times, it would be great if Isaac could carry a shopping bag.  Even if he carried my purse, that would help.  Plus it's fun to teach Isaac things and Isaac likes learning and likes doing jobs.

I thought this would be a pretty simple thing to teach Isaac, and I still think so, although I've realized it's a bit more involved than I thought it would be.

A couple days ago, I picked up a few things at the dollar store.  I had a gallon of milk and two plastic shopping bags.  Before getting out of my car, I rearranged the items in the shopping bags so that one bag only had a couple things in it and was pretty light.  Then I tied the handles of the bag together so stuff wouldn't fall out and there would be a big knot for Isaac to easily hold on it.

I got out of the car and Isaac got out of the car and I attempted to hand him the shopping bag I meant for him to carry.  He was baffled.  He picks up all sorts of items and gives them to me, including plastic shopping bags if I drop one on the ground or something, but I do not usually give those items to him.  I give him other items, like toys, but not shopping bags.  He didn't understand what I wanted him to do.

I ended up putting the bag on the ground and telling him to "Get it."  I think he was relieved to be asked to do something he understood and he picked it up very fast, with great enthusiasm.  So much enthusiasm, in fact, that he then shook it ferociously.  Which caused the bag to rip and the items in it to fall out on the ground.  Sigh.

This is one of those things that I know Isaac is capable of doing but I need to figure out how to explain to him what it is I want him to do.

So I carried in all the groceries myself that day.

I decided Isaac needed to learn a command that would tell him to take whatever I was giving to him.  So every time he brought me his pickle, I stuffed a small treat in one of the grooves and handed it back to him, saying, "Take it."  I said, "Take it, " every time I gave him a toy or a treat.  I did that all day yesterday and all day today and this evening I held out my hat to him and said, "Take it," and he did.  I praised him enthusiastically and that got him all excited so he dropped the hat, but then he picked it up for me.

I also decided to have him start practicing carrying things.  When he retrieves things for me, he sometimes carries them a little way.  For instance, he gets my medication and will bring it to me anywhere in the apartment, so sometimes he carries that from one room to another.  With most things, though, he just picks them up and gives them to me right away. 

There have been a few occasions, though, when he's carried something kind of a long way.  A couple of times when I've been taking him outside for a walk, he's had a toy in his mouth and didn't want to put it down, so I let him take it outside with him.  And he carried that quite a while.  He has also been known to pick up discarded bags from fast food restaurants that he finds beside the road on walks and carry those quite a while.  So he's not opposed to carrying things.  He just doesn't do it very often.

So starting yesterday, I started having him carry things from the elevator down the hall to our apartment.  I wasn't asking him to take things from me yet, so I dropped whatever I wanted him to carry on the floor and told him to "get it."  Then, when he picked it up, instead of taking it for him I told him "Carry it."  He carried my hat several times and carried a piece of mail once.

Tomorrow I'm going to try giving him a grocery bag with something light in it.  I'll hold it out to him and tell him to "take it," then reward him.  After he does that a few times, I'll have him carry it across the room.  Once he's doing that well, I'll have him carry the grocery bag from the elevator to our apartment.  Then we'll move on to carrying it from the lobby, up in the elevator, and to the apartment.  In a few days, we should be ready to carry a bag in from the car.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Learning to Speak Doggie

As you've probably noticed, people and dogs do not speak the same language.  Dogs communicate with each other primarily with body language but they also make sounds to communicate.  They are not native English speakers, however.  Unfortunately, people are not born knowing how to speak doggie.  As often happens when people that speak different languages, sometimes misunderstandings occur when people and dogs have trouble communicating.

Knowing how to communicate with a dog is very important if you're going to train the dog to do something.  There are a number of things that I know Isaac would be capable of doing but he can't do them at this moment because I haven't communicated the idea to him.  For instance, Isaac turns on lights, but he is  not trained to turn them off.  I don't need him to turn them off, I can do that myself, so his trainer did not train him to turn them off.  He could turn them off, though.  I can't just point at the light switch and tell him to turn them off, though. because he would not understand what I was saying.

There have been several times in our relationship that I have wanted Isaac to do something and he wasn't doing it and I got frustrated and felt like he wasn't cooperating with me.  Then I realized it wasn't that he did not want to do the task, he wasn't refusing to do it.  He didn't understand what I wanted.  And that is not his fault.  If I want to tell him to do something, I need to tell him in a way that he can understand.

Something I want to train Isaac to do is to curl up in a small space.  That's important sometimes when I'm out and about with him.  If we eat at restaurant with small tables, for instance, he needs to fit himself under that small table, and make sure his feet or his tail is not sticking out where people could step on him or trip over him, and make sure there is still enough room for the people eating at that table to put their feet down.  Someone suggested having his lie down and curl up in a box, because the sides of the box would require him to curl up.  She recommended starting with a pretty big box and then moving to a smaller box once he got the hang of it.

Well, I tried that the other day.  Isaac did not understand what I wanted him to do.  When I point at the bathtub and say "Get in" he gets in, so that's what I did with the box.  He just looked confused.  Then he picked up the box and tried to give it to me.  I put the box between us and told him to come to me.  He did, but not by stepping into the box.  He walked around the box.  I put the box between the couch and the coffee table, so there was no room to walk about it, and tried again.  He walked around the coffee table to approach me from the other side.  I was finally able to get him to put his front feet in the box but that was it.  He just didn't understand what I wanted.

I talked to someone I know that has trained dogs professionally and she gave me some suggestions, so I think Isaac and I will try the box again tomorrow.  Hopefully I will communicate more clearly then so he can understand me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rainy Day Fun for Doggies

I came across an interesting idea today in an article about indoor games to play with your dog.  The idea is to play fetch with your dog on the stairs.  You sit at the bottom of the stairs and throw a toy up the steps.  You dog runs up and gets the toy and brings it back to you.  The reason you throw the toy up the steps instead of down is that dogs will usually run faster to get the toy than they do when bringing the toy back to you.  Running up steps is safer for dogs than running down steps.  If the dog goes racing down the steps after a toy, he might fall and hurt himself.

I love this idea.  Isaac and I do play fetch in my apartment but there is not much room to run, really.  But there are stairs in the building and Isaac actually likes stairs for some reason.  I think it's just because he likes to be physically active but I'm not sure.  I just know he enjoys going up and down steps.  Most of my neighbors use the elevator most of the time (I do, too).  So we wouldn't likely bother anyone by playing fetch on the stairs.

I think Isaac would like that a lot.  It would be a good way to burn off some energy on a day he can't get outside much.  I wonder how many times he'd have to run up the stairs before he got tired.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Doggie! Doggie! Doggie!

Last night, I went to the grocery store.  I usually shop during the day but I didn't feel like it all day but then I decided I really needed some food, so I went about 7:00 pm. 

There were about a million little kids at the store.  Shouldn't they be home getting ready for bed or something at 7:00 pm?  Well, they weren't.  They were all at Kroger.

That means toddlers were loudly squealing, "Doggie!  Doggie!  Doggie!" everywhere Isaac and I went.  That usually doesn't bother me much.  Little kids don't know better and they love animals and they just get excited when they see a doggie in the store.  But there was a lot of squealing going on.

Also, for the first time since I got Isaac more than a year ago, I had a kid come up and start to pet him without asking.  Adults do that fairly often but kids always ask.  Except last night.

This kid was probably five or six and he was with his mom (I'm assuming she was his mom, anyway) and two other little boys.  They kind of reminded me of my nephews when they were little.  They were hanging off the shopping cart and climbing on the shelves in the store and that sort of thing.  So one of them started to pet Isaac and his brother, who looked to be about seven or eight, yelled at him, "You're not supposed to pet that dog, you dummy!"

I'm not sure if the kid knew you weren't supposed to pet service dogs or if he was just reading the patch on Isaac's vest.  Either way, he was right and his brother did quickly withdraw his hand. 

Then he turned around and smacked his brother upside the head.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Today I read this blog post and it got me thinking.  Well, first it got me feeling really glad I'm not physically disabled, or not more physically disabled than I already am, I mean.  My back problems might be considered a physical disability but I can walk and I can get around in most situations.  Sometimes I have trouble reaching certain items, like things on the lower shelves in the grocery store, but I never have to worry about whether or not I can even get into the store.

The blogger of the post I read was talking about how he stayed at a hotel that claimed to be wheelchair accessible, but in fact was only partially accessible.  While there was room for a wheelchair to maneuver in the bedroom and bathroom, the towel rack and thermostat were too high for someone sitting in a wheelchair to reach them.  What is the point in having a wheelchair accessible bathroom if the person using that bathroom can't get a towel?

The hotel had a pool and a working lift to allow someone that uses a wheelchair to get into the pool, but one must walk up two steps in order to get to the pool and the lift.  Why bother putting in a lift if you're going to make it impossible for someone that uses a wheelchair to reach it?

Finally, he wanted to visit the hotel bar for a drink but the bar was not wheelchair accessible.  He then asked to buy a beer to take back to his room but was told he was not allowed to take beer out of the bar.  Of course, he was not even in the bar to begin with, since it was not wheelchair accessible.  I think it was probably illegal for them to refuse to sell him a beer to drink in his room since the bar was not accessible, but refuse him they did.

Now, accessibility varies depending on the needs of the individual.  It can be almost impossible to create a space that is accessible to absolutely everyone.  For instance, in the laundry room at my apartment building, there are two washing machines.  One is a top loading machine and one is a front loading machine.  The front loading machine is not accessible to me because you have to bend over to put clothes in and get clothes out and I can't bend that much.  However, the top loading machine is not accessible to my neighbors that use wheelchairs.  They can't reach into the top loading machine to get clothes out while sitting in a wheelchair.  That's why the property manager installed one of each, trying to accommodate the different needs of different tenants.

I realize that it's not reasonable to expect every hotel room everywhere to be accessible to every single person on the planet.  But let's use a little common sense.  Let's not install stairs leading to the wheelchair lift.

I can hardly imagine how frustrated I would be if I was traveling and had so many accessibility issues at hotels.  You know how I hate to ask for help.  WTF would I do if I couldn't even reach the towels in the bathroom?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Isaac is Growing Up

He's really maturing.  As a service dog, especially.

This evening he was busy gnawing on a chicken-flavored rawhide chew (and yes, I know rawhide isn't the best thing for dogs, but he gets it once in a while) and dropped something on the floor and needed him to pick it up for me.  In the past, I would often not ask Isaac to pick up something if he was really involved with a chew or toy.  And if I did ask him to interrupt his chewing to do a task for me, he didn't always do it.  Or I had to take away the chew or toy in order to get him to do the task.

This evening, I called him, he picked up the chew and brought it with him, but came right to me.  And when I told him what I needed him to pick up for me, he put down the chew, picked up the item, gave it to me, and went back to his chew.  I gave him a treat, which he gulped down, and then he continued gnawing on the rawhide.

There have been a lot of little things like this lately.  Little things, but I notice them, and I'm so proud of Isaac.

Isaac and His Toys

One of the cutest things about Isaac (well, OK, I think almost everything about him is cute, but this is super cute, really) is how he likes to show people his toys when they come over. A total stranger can come to my door and Isaac is delighted to see him, whoever he is, and will invite the stranger to pet him. Then he will run back into the house, pick out a toy and present it to the stranger. 

When we lived with Mike, it was really, really cute because Isaac would bring him a toy each day when he came home from work. If Isaac had gotten a new toy or bone or chew that day, he would always take Mike the new toy to admire. If he hadn't gotten a new toy, he would just pick one of his favorites and show that to Mike. He usually won't actually give the toy to the person, though, although he sometimes gives one to me. Most of the time he just wants them to admire his toy but he doesn't want to let them hold it.

If Isaac presents a toy to a visitor and the visitor doesn't show much interest in it, Isaac will put that toy down and pick up another and present it. He wants the visitor to comment on what a nice toy it is and maybe reach for it, even though he has no intention of actually allowing the visitor to take it from him.

Tired Dog with a Bone

He's about to fall asleep but really wants to hang on to that bone.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Isaac loves to retrieve.  He is a Labrador retriever, after all.  But he really does love it.

For the first few months I had him, he would retrieve random objects and bring them to me, hoping for a treat.  He knew he got treats for bringing me my medication, and sometimes I asked him to bring me other things, so he would just go around the house picking up random items and depositing them in my lap.  I would be sitting on the couch with my laptop and here would come Isaac, with Mike's wallet or sunglasses, with the television remote control, with some mail he got off Mike's desk, with a cat toy, with one of my shoes.  I guess he hadn't quite figured out why sometimes he would get a treat for retrieving my keys (like when I dropped them and therefore told him to pick them up) and sometimes he didn't.  He would also bring me my meds at random times, hoping to get a treat.

I was talking to a friend about how Isaac got out of bed the other morning to pick up my mouse for me, and it occurred to me then that he hasn't done the thing where he wanders around the house collecting random objects in a long time.  I don't remember when the last time he did it was.  It was kind of cute but sometimes it got annoying.  But he's figured out now when I want him to pick up things and does it at the right time instead of just doing it randomly.

Today I checked the mail and came back inside and sat on the couch and put the mail on the arm of the couch.  Then I got busy doing something with my laptop and wasn't paying attention to the mail and knocked it off the arm of the couch onto the floor.  I didn't need it right that minute and kept doing whatever I was doing, and then I saw Isaac.  He had picked up one of the envelopes from the floor and was offering it to me.  He got two treats and a "good boy!" for that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Day in the Life

Today Isaac and I walked over to the rental office to drop something off.  It's a very short walk, and I was bundled up like a mummy, and I was still freezing.  I think the high today was two degrees, but the windchill was much colder.  I thought Isaac needed to get out of the house for at least a few minutes, though.  He hasn't been able to go for a run since sometime last week.

Isaac loves our property manager so he likes going to the office.  He is doing so well with his prong collar, though.  Usually he gets excited and wants to jump up on the property manager, but today he just sat on his feet and leaned against his legs, something he does when he really loves someone and wants to be super close.

Another tenant stopped by and was telling us how much he likes labs because they are just the smartest dogs ever.  I was bundling myself back up in preparation for the walk back home and I realized I'd dropped my hat on the floor and so I told Isaac to get it for me.  He acted like he was absolutely thrilled at the prospect and pounced on it and picked it up, but instead of giving it to me, he tossed it up in the air.  It was funny and everyone laughed and then I told him to pick it up again and he did and that time he shook it furiously before he gave it to me.  He is just so full of energy.

We were almost back to our building when Isaac suddenly started limping.  He didn't want to put any weight at all on one of his front paws.  I was worried and hoped he wasn't injured.  I started to look at the foot but decided since we were almost home, we should wait until we got inside so I could get a good look at it without sitting on the ground in the snow and freezing. 

As soon as we got in the lobby, I sat on the floor and examined his foot.  I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but there were some bits of salt from the sidewalk stuck to his foot pad and between his toes, so I thought maybe that was hurting when he stepped on it and I cleaned all four feet off.

It was so sweet because Isaac put his head on my shoulder and leaned on me and it was just like he knew I was fixing his foot and he totally trusted me to do that.  And it must have been a bit of salt that was bothering him, because he's been fine since I cleaned his feet.

I Read This Article and I Cried

I read this today and it made me cry.

First, I cried when she wrote about how her parents immediately flew to be with her, and I thought about how last time I was admitted to the hospital, my mother stopped talking to me and un-friended me on Facebook.  And I thought about how I practically had to beg for someone to please please please come with  me to hospital when I had a breast biopsy because if there was no one to drive me home, I would have to be awake for the procedure.  And I thought about how, when I had to have oral surgery a couple months ago, I was unable to opt for sedation during the procedure because I couldn't afford it and because there was no one to drive me home.  And I thought about how, after the oral surgery, at home alone, I lay on the couch and cried and rocked myself through the anxiety and panic and terror and flashbacks.

I cried when she wrote about how every single person at the hospital treated her with compassion and respect, and I thought about how I was treated the last time I went to the ER, and I thought about how they might have treated me with compassion and respect if I'd had cancer, but since what I have is a mental illness, so many people, including those in the emergency room that night, think that means I am just weak and stupid and lazy and selfish and undeserving of kindness or respect.

And then I thought about how, when I was in that awful psych ward, held against my will for five days, a friend drove three hours (and another three hours home, afterward) just to visit me for an hour. 

I thought about how another friend, who lives in another state, said she was sorry she wasn't close enough to go to the hospital with me for my biopsy and offered to pay for a cab there and back for me so I could be sedated for the procedure.  The hospital was an hour away from my home, so a cab would have cost a lot. 

I thought about the time, 11 years ago, when I was hospitalized in a place that specializes in treating PTSD and then was discharged from the inpatient program and admitted to the partial hospitalization program, and I was saying in hotel in a city I was not at all familiar with, and was totally overwhelmed and alone.  I called a friend of mine who lives in New Jersey.  It was 9:00 at night and she said, "I'll come and be with you.  Let me go talk to my family and pack a bag.  I can be on the road in less than an hour."  She drove all night from New Jersey to Michigan and stayed there with me for a week.

I thought about how for the past month, I've really withdrawn from friends because I've been so consumed with pain there just doesn't seem to be room for anything else, but one friend has continued to call, to send email and text messages, even if I don't pick up the phone, even if I don't respond to the messages.

I thought about the friend that had asked for my address so she could send me a package for Christmas, and how she sent so much more than I'd been expecting, including treats and toys for both Isaac and Cayenne.  She also sent a gift card, and that money allowed me to go grocery shopping and buy the ingredients for the French toast I made on Christmas morning and the hot dog and cheese omelet I made for Isaac and Cayenne for Christmas.

I thought about how, a couple months ago, I posted something online in a forum for gastric bypass patients about it being hard to eat healthfully when you have to rely on food from food pantries.  Someone from that forum, someone I barely know, sent me a private message and offered to help me buy some groceries.  Someone else from that forum sent me a package with some vitamins, oatmeal, coffee and other stuff.  Someone else asked if I would like some protein powder that she wasn't going to use and I said sure, expecting to get a half-full tub of protein powder.  Instead, I got two full tubs of vanilla protein powder and one half-full tub of vanilla and one half-full tub of chocolate.  I haven't had to buy protein powder in a couple months and shouldn't need to for at least a couple more months.

Then I cried some more.

I read somewhere that adults that grow up in highly dysfunctional families often feel like no one loves them enough.  They didn't experience the unconditional love they needed as infants and small children, and no matter how much they are loved as adults, it never makes up for what they didn't get as children.  Because of that, it never seems like enough. 

I think that is true for me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Right Elbow

I've been having widespread pain for a while now, but my right elbow is really killing me.  I am definitely right-handed but I need to start learning to do certain things with my left hand because my right elbow just hurts too much.  It's hard to brush my hair with my right hand.  I normally sit at the right end of my couch and keep my mouse on the arm of the couch beside me.  And beside the couch is an end table where I keep a drink.  But using the mouse hurts my elbow.  They probably  make a mouse shaped for a left hand, don't they?  And often now it is very difficult to lift a glass from the end table with my right arm.  I might have to rearrange my living room so I can sit on the other end of the couch and easily pick up  my drink with my left arm.

Other things that are painful or difficult to do with my right arm include opening my car door, carrying things, pouring a glass of milk, getting wet clothes out of the washing machine, and scrubbing my carpet where the cat peed.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pooping in Alignment with the Earth's Magnetic Field?

Yes, according to this article, researchers have discovered dogs tend to align themselves with the earth's magnetic field when they go potty.  After watching 70 dogs poop a grand total of 1,893 times, they determined that dogs prefer to align themselves in a north-south position for eliminating.

So after I read that article, I paid attention to Isaac when he went potty for the rest of the day.  He peed three times, all aligned in an east-west position.  However, he pooped once and did position himself north-south for that.

I told him he was peeing incorrectly but he did not seem concerned.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Prong Collars

When I got Isaac from his trainer, I also got three collars - two regular collars and one prong collar.

If you're not familiar with prong collars, they are metal collars that have little prongs, sort of pointy metal pieces, that go against the dog's neck.  They are sometimes used when training dogs because you can easily correct a dog that is wearing one by tugging on the leash.  That's because if you tug kind of hard, it causes pain to the dog.  If a prong collar is too tight or if it's not used correctly, it can really hurt a dog.  It can make sores on the dog's neck.  It can really hurt.

That's not how they are supposed to be used, though.  And that is certainly not how it has been used on Isaac.

Before I decided to apply for a dog from Isaac's program, I talked to the trainer.  One of the questions I asked her was what kind of collar she used with the dogs she trained.  She told me she occasionally used a prong collar and went on to explain when and why she would use one. 

She said occasionally she used one with a dog that pulled a lot when walking on a leash because it's fairly self-correcting.  If it's uncomfortable to pull on the leash, the dog won't do it.  And as long as the collar fits properly, the dog won't be injured by a prong collar used in this way.  The dog controls how much pull is put on the collar. 

She said she also sometimes uses one when working with a handler that has little arm strength.  The prong collar allows the handler to control the dog with much softer movements and it's much easier to deal with pulling and to keep the dog from taking off after a cat or squirrel.

I used Isaac's prong collar very briefly after I got him, then put it away.  I didn't think I needed it.

Over the past year, my back has gotten much worse.  When I first got Isaac, I would try to hold onto the leash when he tried to take off after a cat or deer.  A few times he got away from me anyway, but many times, I was able to keep hold of the leash.  These days, I can't.  And Isaac has figured that out.  I've been having more trouble lately with him taking off when he sees something or someone he wants to chase or greet.  He doesn't do it when he's working but he does it when we go for walks or just in the lobby of my building.  It's becoming a big problem.  I think he's doing it because he gets away with it but if I try to hold onto the leash when he tried to bolt, it triggers such incredibly painful spasms in my back that it makes me cry.  I've tried to just hold on anyway and ignore the pain, but it's the kind of pain you cannot just ignore.

Today I decided to dig out Isaac's prong collar.  I only put it on him when we were going outside.  I took it off as soon as we came back in.

I watched him very carefully while using it to make sure it wasn't causing him discomfort.  What I  noticed is that he was much, much less likely to try to jump up on neighbors in the hallway or in the elevator.  A couple of my neighbors commented on the change in his behavior, too.  I'm glad they noticed it, but on the other hand, that shows you what a problem it had become, that they would notice this and see it as a big change.

He never looked uncomfortable.  His tail was wagging away the whole time.  He just wasn't jumping on people or pulling on the leash.

It actually allowed me to be very gentle with him.  Instead of holding the leash really tight and pulling on it myself when a neighbor walked by, I was able to hold the leash normally and Isaac decided not to pull.  It meant taking Isaac out did not involve a wrestling match, which is what it sometimes feels like.

My plan is to keep using the prong collar for a while.  I hope that at some point I can stop using it and he'll still behave like he's been behaving with it on, but for now I'm going to keep using it.  I may decide not to use it when he's working, since I usually don't have trouble with him pulling or trying to change critters when he's working.  I might just use it when we go out for a recreational walk.  I was really happy with how well he did with it on today, though.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Taking Down the Tree

Last night I started taking the ornaments off my Christmas tree and today I packed them all away.  I realized, though, that I didn't really want to take down the tree.

I have found that the lights on the tree provide just the right amount of light at night so I can sleep without having the overhead light on.  Due to my PTSD, I often have trouble turning off all the lights at night.  Even if I am feeling all right and am able to go to sleep with the lights off, if I have a nightmare and wake up in the dark, it's really scary for me.  Isaac can get up and turn on a light for me if that happens, which helps.  But most nights, I have to sleep with a light on.

The light makes it hard for me to fall asleep, though.  I end up with my arm over my eyes or my pillow halfway over my face, because the light is too bright and it bothers me.

The lights on the tree have been perfect, though.  I can turn off the overhead light and it's dim enough to sleep but there is enough light that my PTSD doesn't get triggered and I feel safe and there's no panic if I wake up in the middle of the night. 

I think I need to get some sort of a small lamp that will provide about the same amount of light as my tree.  I'll have to look for one.  In the meantime, I decided to leave my tree up for a couple more days.

Financial Assistance for People with Disabilities

I wanted to provide links to a couple of articles about sources of financial assistance for people on disability.

Financial Assistance for People with Disabilities

Help for People Waiting for Social Security Disability Benefits

Finding some source of assistance while waiting for Social Security disability benefits is crucial because the process of getting disability from Social Security can take a long time.  It generally takes three or four months from when you apply to get a decision, but only about 30% of people get approved the first time around.  Most people have to appeal.  It can take a year or more before you start receiving benefits.

I was really lucky when I had to stop working and applied for disability.  It took only four months for me to get approved and I did not have to appeal.  I was approved on the first try. 

I also had a retirement fund that I was able to cash out.  Because I was not at retirement age, I had to pay a penalty.  I don't remember how much it was, maybe 10%?  Also I had to pay taxes on it, so I did lose a good bit of it by taking the money out early, but if I hadn't had that, I would have been in serious trouble.  I was able to live on that retirement fund money for the four months until I got my disability.

I talked to a lawyer that specialized in disability claims when I was applying and I asked him what people live on while they wait.  He told me  many of his clients ended up homeless, living in shelters or on the street, while they appealed denied claims for disability.  That was really scary to me.