Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poor Kitty Scheduled for Surgery

Cayenne went to the vet today.  Amazingly, she did not poop in the car on the way there or on the way back.  She did, however, pee on the way home.

The bad news is that the vet did not feel her wound improved as much as he would have liked and so he now recommends surgery.  I'm still glad I took her to the second vet, though, and that we tried other treatment first.  I also feel much better about the choice to schedule surgery because he took the time to answer all my questions, unlike the other vet.

So Monday Cayenne goes under the knife.  Hopefully she recovers more easily than last time.  Poor kitty.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cat Belly

Cayenne goes back to the vet tomorrow.  She's been on an antibiotic for a week now and been getting wound care twice a day.  I wasn't sure her belly was looking much better but the vet had told me to take pictures.  I took one last week and took another today and compared them.  I think it is looking better.  I'm not sure the hole is any smaller but there is way less gross green infected stuff in there.  And it looks less messy or raw or something.

So I'm gonna post pictures but if you are at all squeamish, you probably don't wanna look.  So be warned.

This is her belly last week.

And here it is this week.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Many, many years ago, I worked for an agency that helped public schools and other agencies integrate kids with disabilities into typical classrooms or other settings with typical children.  "Typical" meaning "non-disabled."

One thing I found was that other kids were really good at figuring out ways to include kids with disabilities.  The idea of inclusion seemed to make more sense to them intuitively than it often did to adults.  Adults were quick to say, "Oh, he won't be able to participate" or "There's no way she can do this activity."  Not only were kids really good at figuring out how to include their peers with special needs, they were often quick to change the rules of games or invent new games to allow their peers to participate.

At one point I was working with an after school program for kids, kind of like a day camp type thing, where kids could stay after school until their parents could pick them up.  The kids got a snack, help with homework, arts and crafts, games, etc.  I was working with a little girl with cerebral palsy, maybe nine years old.  I'll call her Nancy here.

One day a group of kids was outside playing kickball.  I pushed Nancy over to the group in her wheelchair and asked if she could join them.  The kids looked uncertain.  They didn't want to exclude her but they didn't know how she could participate.  They knew she would not be able to kick the ball.  They knew she could not run around the bases.

One little boy, also about nine or ten, said, "Well... how will she play?"

I had my own ideas but decided to ask the kids first.  "Do you think there is a way we could help her play?" I asked.

The little boy that had asked how she would play thought for a minute and then suggested, "Maybe I could kick the ball for her when it's her turn?  I'm good at kicking."

I told him I thought that was a super idea.

Another kid then suggested, "Maybe you could push her around the bases?"

I told her I thought that was a super idea, too.

Note that it took them only a couple of minutes to think of these ideas, even though this was a totally new situation for them.  It had never occurred to them before that Nancy could play kickball.  But not only were they open to the idea, they were excited about helping her.  They ended up asking to take turns kicking the ball for her when it was her turn.

Now, was it much fun for Nancy, not being able to kick the ball herself?  Well, it probably would have been more fun if there had been a way she could kick the ball, but I couldn't readily think of a way to do that.  But she was outside on a beautiful sunny afternoon, being pushed fast around the bases, surrounded by a group of laughing kids that were happy to be playing with her.  It was fun.  It was a lot more fun than sitting on the sidelines watching them play while being ignored by her peers, which is what used to happen.

What's the point of this story?  Well, partly I just felt like telling it.  I thought of Nancy today for some reason and I wanted to tell the story.

But also, do you see how easy it was to include her?  And the other kids didn't mind that the rules of the game had to be changed a little.  They didn't mind that they had to do a little more work and kick the ball for her - in fact, they enjoyed that.

If it's so simple for kids, why is it so hard for adults?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wound Care on the Cat

Cayenne's wound care is going about like you might expect.  Actually, it's been a bit easier than I anticipated, which is not to say it's easy.  But she's only drawn blood a few times and only poked holes through one tee shirt with her claws.  Although she might have poked more holes had she not managed to use her back feet to push up my shirt a few times she that she could poke holes directly into the flesh of my belly.

She clearly thinks she is being tortured for the whole two minutes it takes - three, if she squirms particularly much - to wipe down her belly with two wads of gauze soaked in surgical soap and then have a quart of clean water poured over the wounds.

The wounds don't look any smaller to me, but the largest one seems to have less disgusting green slimy stuff in it and there is no foul smell at all coming from the wounds.  So I guess that's good.

She goes back to the vet Wednesday so we'll see what he thinks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

So What Are Disabled People Supposed to Do, Then?

I was telling a friend about my problem with the mail yesterday and about the past problem with Fed Ex.  She knows how much my back hurts and she was angry on my behalf.  And she asked, "WTF are disabled people supposed to do, then?"

I said I didn't know, but a moment later, the answer came to me.  What we are supposed to do, I think, is not be disabled.  Some people that are fortunate enough not to have a disability find the disabilities of others terribly inconvenient and bothersome, it seems.  What they want is for us to simply stop being disabled, but if we can't do that, then they would like us to pretend we aren't disabled, to stop inconveniencing them with our disabilities.

Because how hard is it for the mail carrier to knock on my door and wait 30 seconds for me to open it so he can hand me my package instead of just leaving it on the ground?

And remember me writing before about how the property manager of my building delivers notices by wedging them into the doors so that when tenants open their doors, the papers fall to the floor?  I spoke to the property manager three months ago (three months and two days, to be exact, as I happen to know because I blogged about it that day) about it, about how I and several of my neighbors find it very difficult or impossible to pick up those papers from the floor and asked if he could please find another way to deliver notices.  Well, they are still being wedged into the doors.  Apparently that is what is most convenient for him and it doesn't matter how inconvenient it is for the tenants.

Disabled people are supposed to deal with it.  To find a way to deal with it, a way that doesn't involve the non-disabled people having to make any changes or go to any extra effort at all, no matter how small an effort it might take.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Accessibility and Mail Delivery

On Monday I emailed the post office through the USPS website with a complaint because the mail carrier had left a package on the ground outside my door. That is a problem for me because I have a very difficult time bending over to pick things up from the ground. Isaac could not pick it up for me because, although it was not at all heavy, the box was too large for even his big mouth. What really made me mad was that I was at home when it was delivered! The mail carrier just didn't bother to knock on the door.

So I emailed them. The website said I would get a response in one to two days. It's been three days and I've received no response. However, this afternoon I did get an email containing a survey in which the USPS wanted to know how satisfied I was with their customer service and with the response to my email. Um... that would be NOT AT ALL SATISFIED because there WAS NO RESPONSE.

If you recall, I had a similar situation in the past with Fed Ex.  When I spoke with a manager there, he basically told me he was sorry I was unhappy with my experience with them but that there policy is that drivers can leave packages on the ground and if I am unable to reach it, well, he is sorry but they will do it again in the future whether I like it or not.  Seriously.  So since then, I have made a real effort to avoid ordering anything that would be shipped by Fed Ex.

Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer decided he didn't want to receive any mail and bricked up his mailbox?  I'm wanting to do that!

Attacks on Service Dogs

Some of you probably remember me posting a while back about a woman I know whose service dog was attacked by some crazy woman in a Walmart. The woman kicked the dog for no reason at all.  And before that, about the woman whose service dog had bleach sprayed in its face, also for no reason, in a store.

Well, today another person I know had her service dog kicked on a city bus. The dog was not bothering anyone and was completely under the woman's seat when another passenger, for no apparently reason, as she was passing the seat to get off the bus, reached out and kicked the dog. It was clearly not an accident, as the dog was completely under the seat and she had to really stretch out her leg to do it. 

The woman that kicked the service dog in Walmart did get arrested and I think is being charged with cruelty to animals. The woman that kicked the service dog on the bus today then continued to get off the bus before anyone thought to try and stop her, so I guess she isn't getting in trouble at all.

Personally, I think in addition to being charged with cruelty to animals, they should probably be charged with hate crimes. These are not only crimes against animals, but crimes against the people with disabilities that rely on these service dogs. If the dog is physically injured, or if he becomes psychologically damaged as a result of being attacked by a person for no reason, that would have a devastating effect on his handler's life.

These kinds of stories really scare me.  It's just unbelievably cruel, not only to the dogs, but also to the person with a disability. 

And I don't mean to downplay the cruelty to the dogs.  I am against cruelty to animals.  I don't eat meat, haven't since I was 14, because I think killing animals so we can eat them is cruel.  I rarely eat eggs but when I do, I buy free range eggs from a local farm where I can see how the chickens are treated, because most chickens raised for their eggs are treated in terribly cruel ways.  I watched a documentary about how Wegman's raises eggs and I cried.  (I encourage you to watch the video.  It's only about 30 minutes long and the ending is beautiful.  And I promise it will make you think).  I refuse to visit zoos or aquariums because the way animals are captured and then kept is cruel.  I am against using animals for medical research.

So I think people that attack dogs, whether they are service dogs or not, should be prosecuted.  I think it's terrible that they usually get no jail time, especially for a first offense.  Hurting animals is a terrible crime.  It's immoral.  It's unethical.  It's wrong.

But I think attacking a service dog is another crime, too.  It's also a crime against the person with a disability.  If a person used a wheelchair and another customer in a Walmart came up and did something to damage or destroy that wheelchair, how horrible would that be?  How would that person get home, without their wheelchair?  They'd be stranded in Walmart.

And you know, in many cases, the person that damaged the wheelchair would get in more trouble, legally, than the person that kicked a service dog.  Animals are viewed as property and usually not very valuable property, either.

But service dogs are incredibly valuable.  They cannot be easily replaced.  Hurting a service dog hurts the person that relies on that dog.  I really do think it should be considered a hate crime.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pickle Love

Isaac's ickle pickle has been lost for a while now.  I don't know how it is possible to lose a toy that size in  my tiny apartment but I have searched everywhere and cannot find it.  So I finally got him a new one.  I had to order it online because I went to Petco and apparently they no longer carry them. 

This evening, I opened the package with the ickle pickle in it.  Isaac was lying on the floor, gnawing on his hollow stick toy with a chunk of hotdog inside.  When he saw the pickle, he dropped the stick and came over to get the pickle.

I knew he loved his pickle but I certainly never thought he'd choose a pickle without any treats in it over a stick with a hotdog in it.  After chewing on it for a few minutes, just to get it nice and slobbery for me, I guess, he gave it to me to put some treats in it.

He spent the rest of the night hanging out with the pickle.  When I took him out for his last potty of the evening, he insisted on taking the pickle with him.  He carried it outside, held it while he peed, carried it back in.  He won't let it out of his sight.  He's in my bed with it right now.

I love how happy he is to have a pickle again.  I wish I'd gotten him a new one sooner, though.  If I'd known it would make him this happy, I would have.

Very Good Vet Visit

Cayenne might disagree, because she thinks there is no such thing as a good vet visit, but I am very satisfied with the visit to the vet today.

I took Cayenne to see Isaac's vet because I was uncomfortable with the visit I'd had with her vet of the past 10 years Monday.  I've always liked and trusted her vet but Monday I felt like I was being pressured to consent to immediate surgery and that they weren't really answering many of my questions.  So I decided to make an appointment with Isaac's vet for a second opinion.  I figured it would be worth the cost of an office visit.  I am so glad I did.  It was so worth it.

The reason Isaac and Cayenne have - or had, she may be seeing his vet from now on - different vets is because Cayenne had been seeing a vet for many years before I got Isaac.  I had planned to take Isaac to the same vet, but then another local vet offered me a discount on veterinary care because Isaac is a service dog.  I decided it was worth checking out a new vet for a good discount, though I would have taken him to Cayenne's vet even if it cost me more if I didn't like the new vet.  But it turned out I liked the new vet a lot.  You can read more about Isaac's vet here.

Anyway, Dr. Stuart, as we call Isaac's vet, feels surgery is one option but not the only option and not necessary the best option.  He felt we could try treating the wound on  Cayenne's belly topically, as well as with oral antibiotics (which the other vet did prescribe Monday), for at least a week or so and see if there is any improvement.  If there's not any improvement, or if the wound gets worse, then we may want to consider surgery again.

But he strongly felt that surgery would only be a temporary fix.  They would not be able to remove all of the cancer.  It would give the wound nice clean edges so they could stitch it up and it would heal, for a while.  Then the tumors would grow some more and the skin would break down again and we'd find ourselves back in the very same position.  He couldn't say how long that would take, maybe a couple months, maybe a year, but it would happen.  And then we'd be faced with the same decisions again.  He was very clear that surgery would not be a cure.

He also discussed the risks involved with surgery in a 15-year-old diabetic cat.  I was pretty much already aware of the risks, but I appreciated him pointing them out to me.  The other vet did not really do that Monday.  He focused on the potential benefits of surgery, but did not discuss the risks or any alternatives.

So the bottom line is that surgery might help temporarily but it might make matters worse or cause other problems.  Topical treatment, basically intensive wound care (it sounds like loads of fun, I'll explain it in a moment), won't cure her, either, she'll still have cancer and the tumors will eventually grow and kill her, if an infection doesn't kill her first, but topical treatment (along with oral antibiotics) can get rid of the infection in the wound at the moment and probably allow it to heal.

Well, with that information, why on earth would I choose to do surgery without even trying the wound care?

The vet pointed out that doing the wound care would be more work for me than scheduling surgery.  It will take time, it won't be fun (not for me or for Cayenne).  But it is safer than surgery and more affordable than surgery, and while it won't be enjoyable for Cayenne, well, neither would surgery and spending a few nights at the vet's on IV's and stuff.

So, wound care.  It basically involves gently washing Cayenne's wound with a surgical soap, then flushing the area with lots of water, twice a day.  Which, you know, sounds simple.  Except Cayenne is a cat.  What cat is going to sit still, or rather, lie still on her back with her belly exposed, while you gently wash a big gaping wound and then flush it with lots of water?  Come on.  Cayenne objects to having her butt washed when she has poop on it.

I'm thinking I should wear long sleeves so my arms aren't shredded to bits.  My sleeves will end up soaked with water, I'm sure.  But maybe I'll end up with less blood shed that way.  Whatever I'm wearing would end up soaked with water, anyway. 

This is a job for which it would sure help to have more than two hands.  I figure I need at least two hands to hold Cayenne still.  Maybe three.  Then one hand to wash the wound.  A hand to hold her long hair out of the way would help, too.  So four or five hands would be good.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Today I talked to a friend who is sick.  He told me that last night, he had a very hard time sleeping because he was sore and achy and hurt all over.  He said he just couldn't get comfortable and he finally got up out of bed and sat up most of the night, aching.  And then he said that during the long, uncomfortable night, he thought of me, of how that's how almost every night is for me.

And I was touched.  Really touched.

For the most part, I don't want people to feel sorry for me.  Once in a while, maybe I do.  Once in a while, I feel sorry for myself.  I admit it.

But empathy is a different thing.  I'm not sure how it helps me, really, to know that in the middle of the night, my sick friend thought of me.  But it does.  Maybe it's just that he got it.  I feel like most of the time, no one really gets it.  There's something nice about knowing someone understands.  I feel a little less alone.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bad News at the Vet Today

Cayenne had to go to the vet today.

She says it was the worst day ever, by the way.  She had to ride in the car, see the vet, and on the way home she pooped in her carrier, which meant she had to get a bath when she got home.  Car, vet, bath = worst day ever for her.

Well, it wasn't my worst day ever, but it wasn't so good for me, either.

The skin has broken down on her belly again, which was to be expected given the growth of the tumors there.  She now has a very large, very infected hole in her belly.  The vet feels very certain it will not heal up this time.  The only treatment he can suggest is surgery, to remove as much of the tumors as possible and close the hole.

When the tumors came back about a year ago, I elected against surgery because she was so very ill after her last surgery, because it seems extremely likely that the cancer will just keep coming back and I certainly don't want to have to put her through surgery on an annual basis for the rest of her life, and because, due to her age and medical history, it just seemed like it would be better to let nature take its course.  I expected last summer to be  Cayenne's last summer.

But here she is, nearing the start of another summer, in no worse shape than she was in a year ago, except for the big gaping hole on her belly.  Of course, a big gaping hole on the belly is no small thing, but honestly, she does not appear to feel ill.  She is as active as she was last summer, maybe actually a bit more active, because for the last few months she's been on a daily anti-inflammatory which seems to have increased her ability and/or willingness to jump up on furniture and stuff.  She eats well and in fact weighs about half a pound more than she did last summer.  She sleeps a lot, but she is an old lady cat, 15 years old.  She doesn't sleep anymore now than she has for the last several years.  She still gets excited about treats, excited about being brushed, excited when I open the living room window.  And I think her coat and whiskers look better now than they did last summer.  Healthier, less scraggly.

I think she's going to make it through this summer.  I don't know if she'll be around next summer, but she might be.  And her quality of life seems OK to me.  I don't think she's ready to go anywhere.

I don't want to put her through another surgery, though, if she's going to be as sick afterward as she was last time.  I just don't want to put her through another surgery unless it's absolutely necessary.

At the vet's today, I felt like I was being pressured to schedule the surgery.  I felt like I was having trouble getting straight answers out of them.  I asked what would happen if I decided not to do the surgery and the vet kind of beat around the bush and eventually said that then it would be time to talk about euthanasia.  But I don't think she is suffering right now.  I imagine if she doesn't have the surgery, she might begin to suffer soon.  But I don't want to euthanize her when she seems happy and does not seem to be in pain.  I know it seems like a huge hole in the belly like that would hurt, but I swear she doesn't appear to be in pain.

I really like Cayenne's vet, most of the time.  I believe he really does care about her.  But I felt uncomfortable after today's visit.  I just felt like I wasn't really getting the information I needed in order to make an informed decision.  I felt like I was getting the information that suggested the surgery was the best option, but not any other information.  It felt biased, not balanced.  Maybe the vet was having trouble being objective because he's cared for Cayenne for 10 years and really likes her.  I don't know.  But I left the appointment just not feeling right.

I decided to call Isaac's vet and see if he would see her, just for a second opinion.  If I decide to go ahead with the surgery, I will have her regular vet do it.  I don't want to switch vets, I just want a second opinion, an objective opinion.

So she sees the other vet Wednesday and then I will decide what to do.  Chances are, I will opt for the surgery.  But I'll feel better with a second opinion.  I'll feel better with more information. 

Poor Cayenne.  That means another long car ride.  Hopefully it does not mean another bath!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Service Dogs and Self-Esteem

I think Isaac has, on the whole, been good for my self-esteem.  But it's not a simple issue.  So little is with me, huh?  But really, it was not like, get service dog, get self-esteem.  I wish it was that easy, but no.

When I first got Isaac, I think in some ways it was hard on my self-esteem.  I felt guilty and bad about myself when he was not a perfect service dog and when I was not a perfect service dog handler.  Of course, neither of us were perfect.  We still aren't, though we are better at working together after nearly 18 months of practice.

And I still feel guilty if he does something I think I should have prevented.  I'm trying to think of an example.  The last thing that comes to mind at the moment is last Halloween at that Halloween party when his happy wagging tail knocked a dish of candy corn off a table.  I wasn't angry at Isaac for that.  I was upset with myself for not noticing the dish of candy and positioning him where his tail wouldn't knock it off.  And yeah, that was six months ago.  It seems like there should be something more recent than that but if so, it's not coming to mind right now.

The fact that I'm having trouble thinking of a more recent incident, I guess, shows those things don't happen much anymore.  When I first got Isaac, they happened a lot.  I'm not sure it's a matter of me dealing with those things any better now.  I wish it was that, because we are all imperfect beings and, you know, shit happens.  But I think maybe it's just that it happens less often these days.

I don't think this is unique to having a service dog.  It's more about just learning something new.  When we first learn something new, we make mistakes.  Often, a lot of mistakes, until we learn and get better at it.  Well, that's hard on my self-esteem.  I feel incredibly guilty about making mistakes, even little ones.

Now that Isaac and I work better together, though, and I don't make so many mistakes, I think he's good for my self-esteem.  Unconditional love always is, isn't it?  And not just that, but Isaac thinks I am super terrific.  After all, I give belly rubs, I have thumbs and therefore can serve up hotdogs and other treats, and I came up with great ideas like let's spend the afternoon at the doggie beach.  There's something nice about someone always thinking you're the smartest, funnest, most wonderful person ever.

Of course, I also have a cat.  Cayenne will make sure I don't get a swelled head.

Now, sometimes I feel guilty about not being able to take better care of Isaac.  Rationally, I know he is a very well cared for doggie.  But, like, if I have a day or two when I am in a lot of pain and very fatigued and have to spend most of the day on the couch, I feel bad because I know Isaac would rather be going for a walk or doing something fun. 

At times like those, I think cats would be better for my self-esteem.  Years ago, when I lived alone with Cayenne and my other cat, Eileen, I loved the fact that neither of them minded in the least if I wasn't able to get out of bed.  In fact, Eileen was delighted if I spent the day in bed.  She loved bed.  She would just curl up with me and snuggle all day.

Isaac doesn't do that and I think he may be disappointed if we don't get to have a long walk or play much for a day.  But even then, it doesn't feel like a judgement.  It's more like being disappointed if it rains all day and we can't play outside.  He doesn't think I'm a bad person if I am in pain and exhausted and spend most of the day sleeping, just like he doesn't think I'm a bad person if it rains all day.  And that is good for the self-esteem, never to be judged that way.

I think the fact that Isaac allows me to be more independent is also great for my self-esteem.  I hate asking people for help but I don't mind asking Isaac.  The other day at Mike's, when I knocked a book on the floor and Isaac was able to pick it up for me, I felt really good about that.  I felt really good that I didn't have to get Mike to help me.

And you know, although the learning curve was steep for me, though it was stressful learning how to handle a service dog, I do feel a sense of accomplishment and pride about it all now.  I love teaching Isaac something new.  I love the feeling I get from being able to accomplish that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

More on Staring and Pointing

With my previous blog post on the subject still fresh in my mind, Isaac and I went off the do our grocery shopping.  There, we encountered a young father who seemed determined to teach his toddler to stare and point at disabled people with service dogs.

The toddler was looking at something on a shelf when Isaac and I walked past the family.  The father spotted Isaac, picked up his daughter and turned her around so she would see Isaac, pointed and said excitedly, "Doggie!  Doggie!  Doggie!"

The father was saying "doggie," not the toddler.

Two more times Isaac and I happened to pass this family in the store, and each time, the father pointed and squealed, "Doggie!  Doggie!"  Then the toddler began to point and squeal, "Doggie!  Doggie!" as well, which seemed to please her father very much.

Good grief.  Why on earth would you want to teach your child to point and stare at disabled people in the store?


How old were you when your mama told you not to stare at people that were "different?"  She did tell you that, didn't she?  It seems to be something most kids are told when they are young.

There is a difference between "not staring" and looking away, avoiding making eye contact, pretending not to see.  There is a difference between teaching a child not to stare (and certainly not to point at someone that is different in some way) and pulling the child away, covering their eyes, acting as if the sight of someone different might hurt them somehow.

People with physical disabilities, those in wheelchairs and those with significantly noticeable physical differences, have told me stories of parents grabbing their children, literally covering children's eyes, yelling at their kids not to look, things like that.  Which I think is as bad as staring.  It's bad for the person with the disability and it's bad for the child, because it teaches the child that difference is something to fear, to avoid.

There are better ways for parents to handle a child's interest in someone or something that is different.  One person who uses a wheelchair, a bright blue chair, told me how one mother, upon noticing her daughter looking, said, "Isn't that a beautiful blue chair?"  How awesome is that?  She acknowledged her daughter's interest in seeing something different and instead of acting like being different was scary or shameful, called it beautiful.

Another person who uses a wheelchair told me how a mother, noticing her son looking, said, "That looks a lot like your aunt's chair, doesn't it?"  Which is also awesome.  She drew a connection between someone different-looking and a person the child knew and loved.  Suddenly the wheelchair wasn't so strange anymore, and neither, I imagine, was the person in it.

But it's understandable, to me, that kids would look at something that was different and unusual, something they aren't used to seeing.  I think adults should know better.

People stare at you when you go places with a service dog.  Well, they stare at the dog more than they stare at the person, I think.  But when the dog is right next to the person, they are pretty much staring at both.  And sometimes, they do stare at the person, too.  Maybe they are trying to figure out why you have a service dog.  I'm not sure.

Now, I don't mind if something notices my dog, looks at him briefly, maybe smiles at him.  I think that's kind of nice.  I mean, you're going to notice a dog in a place you don't normally see a dog, like a restaurant or grocery store.  And I like it that people generally seem to like seeing Isaac.  They usually smile when they notice him.  He's cute, he looks friendly, people like seeing him.  That's good.

But staring is different.  Especially staring that comes with pointing.

Mostly I ignore it.  Some days it bothers me more than others.  Yesterday at the thrift store it was really bothering me for some reason.

There was a kid, maybe 11 or 12, shopping with an older woman, maybe his grandma.  They were at one end of a long aisle, Isaac and I were at the other end.  The kid saw Isaac and wanted to point him out to his grandma.  And he literally pointed.  And stared.  And both turned their heads to keep looking as Isaac and I walked by them.  I thought it was rude.  I thought the grandma should have told him not to point at people.

Then when we were waiting in line to pay, there was a woman in line in front of us.  She was so busy staring at us that she didn't notice when the line moved.  The person in front of her finished paying and she was still just standing there, staring, until the cashier called out to her to get her attention.  I thought she was being rude, too.

I realize that going out in public with a service dog is going to attract some attention.  I just don't like being stared and pointed at.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Isaac the Good Picker-Upper

Isaac has been so good at retrieving items for me lately.  Which is good, since I seem to be getting clumsier.  Or maybe I just notice more now when I drop something, because it's so hard for me to pick it up myself.

Today Isaac and I went shopping at the thrift store (he got two stuffed animals and two beach towels for when we go to the doggie beach, I got a pair of pajama pants and a couple tank tops for summer).  When I was putting my items on the counter to pay for them, I dropped a shirt on the floor.  Isaac picked it up very nicely for me. 

I remember shopping at the thrift store with him once, probably a little more than a year ago, and dropping something and asking him to pick it up.  He looked at me like he had no clue what I was talking about.  I ended up having to pick it up myself.  I don't remember what the item was, but I remember being frustrated and having to hold on to the counter in order to bend over to pick it up.

Later, Isaac and I were at Mike's house helping him pack stuff up.  He is getting ready to move.  I pulled several books off a shelf and another book fell to the floor.  It was a paperback, not very heavy.  Isaac was in another room, but I called him and he came running in.  I showed him the book and asked him to get it for me.  It was kind of in a corner, not very easy to reach.  Isaac considered it for a few seconds, figured out how to get to it, and picked it up and gave it to me.

When we got home, I had my hands full and ended up dropping my keys when I tried to unlock the door.  Isaac picked them right up.

I rely on him so much now.  It's really good to know I can count on him to pick things up for me.  If I hadn't had Isaac with me today, I would have struggled to pick up the shirt and my keys myself, and I would have had to ask Mike to come help me pick up the book.  It was really nice to be able to do it myself - well, myself, with Isaac's help.  It's nice to not need to ask other people for help so much.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Wish I Had a Dog That Could Do That

When I tell people that Isaac helps me do laundry, the most common comment I hear is, "I wish I had a dog that could do that."  I think they misunderstand. 

Now, sure, it is great for me to have a dog that helps me do laundry.  If I did not have Isaac to help me take the clothes out of the dryer, I would experience a lot of pain each time I had to do it.  Doing laundry would wear me out a lot more than it does now and I would be unable to do many other activities later that day or even the next day.  Some days, I would be unable to do my laundry at all.

Even with my service dog, doing laundry is difficult for me.  What Isaac does to help is take the clothes out of the dryer and pick up any items I happen to drop on the floor.  I have to carry a basket full of dirty laundry to the laundry room, put the clothes into the washing machine, transfer the wet laundry to the dryer, carry the basket of dry laundry back to my apartment, and fold and put away the clothes.  Carrying a basket full of laundry is hard on my back and some days, I simply cannot do it.  Reaching into the washing machine again and again is also hard on my back and my arms.

But I think what most people must imagine, when I tell them my dog helps me do laundry, is that somehow I point at a basket of dirty clothes and say, "Isaac, do the laundry!"  And somehow he carries it to the laundry room, puts it in the washer, adds detergent and turns on the machine, the transfers the wet clothes to the dryer, turns on that machine, then gets the clothes out, folds them, and brings me back a basket of clean, folded laundry 90 minutes later. 

I wish it worked that way, but it sure doesn't.

Like I said, I do all the work except getting the clothes out of the dryer and picking up any items I happen to drop on the floor.  And honestly, I wish I could get the clothes out of the dryer myself, because if I could, it would be a lot quicker than having Isaac do it.

Imagine if you had to remove clothes from your dryer like this.  Pull out one item at a time.  One sock, on pair of underwear, one shirt, etc.  Occasionally pause to give an item a good shake before depositing it in the laundry basket.  Take a little break to enjoy a cookie or cracker three or four times during the process.  See how long that takes?  I bet with Isaac's help, it takes me two to five times longer to empty the dryer than it would take a "normal" person to do it. 

Now, it's worth it to me to spend two to five times longer to have Isaac help me because otherwise I might not be able to do my laundry at all or it might cause me a lot more pain, but I wish I could just do it quickly and easily myself.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Really Good Day with My Service Dog

The weather is absolutely beautiful today.  Never mind that it's supposed to snow tomorrow night.  It's 76 degrees today, and sunny, with a pleasant breeze.  I decided to take Isaac to the doggie beach.

First, we met Mike and his mom for lunch.  Isaac and I got to the restaurant first, and I decided to sit on a bench outside to wait, since the weather was so nice. 

While we were waiting, a mom and her little girl, about two or three years old, I think, came outside.  The little girl was rather fussy, but she was excited to see Isaac.  Her mom told her she could look at the doggie but not pet him because he was a working dog, not a petting dog.  She was really interested in the doggie, though, and I asked her if she'd like to pet him.  Her mom asked if it was OK and I said yes.  The mom told me that the little girl was very good with dogs and would be gentle.  I told her Isaac loves kids. 

The little girl came over and petted Isaac on the face, very gently, and he kissed her very gently on the ear, which made her crack up laughing.  Mom told me the restaurant was very busy and they'd been waiting a long time and that the little girl was having a hard time being patient.  After a few minutes of visiting with Isaac, though, she was ready to go back in.

A few minutes later, Mike and his mom arrived.  I was a little worried that we'd have to wait a long time and that Isaac might get restless.  He's good in restaurants for about an hour, but sometimes he has a hard time doing a down-stay longer than that.  I also usually try to avoid restaurants that are busy, where we have to wait to be seated, so I wasn't sure how he'd do with that.

Well, he did just wonderfully.  We did have to wait to be seated, but it wasn't that long a wait.  Isaac lay down by my feet and looked around and wagged his tail happily while we waited.  None of the other customers tried to pet him or talk to him or anything, so I'm sure that helped.  I heard a few of them reading the patches on his vest out loud, "Please don't pet me, I'm working," so that was nice.

Most of the time when I've been out to eat with Isaac, it's been me and one other person.  The more people at the table, the less room there is under the table for Isaac to sprawl out under there.  But he did really well.  I made sure he was giving everyone enough room for their feet and he just lay down and had a nice nap.

After our meal, I decided to stop at the restroom before heading for the dog park.  It occurred to me then how difficult it was the first time I ever used a public restroom with my service dog.  That's the kind of thing I never thought about before I got a service dog, but the first time I used a public restroom with him was in a Cracker Barrel and the bathroom stalls were really small.  He didn't want to go in the stall and I had to lure him in with a treat.  When I finally got him in there (it took a while to convince him, even with a treat), there was no room for either of us to move.  I discovered it was quite a challenge to pull up my pants and button my jeans and stuff while also holding a leash, especially in such a small space.

The stall was bigger today, which was nice, but Isaac was also happy to go in with me.  He did want to peak under the stall to see who was in the stall next to us, but I managed to dissuade him from doing so.  We finished up and were on our way.

This was the first time Isaac and I went to the dog park since last fall but he remembered the way.  When we got close, he sat up on the backseat and started looking intently out the window.  Just before we turned into the parking lot, he started pacing back and forth on the backseat and whining.  By the time I was parking the car, he was yelping with excitement. 

He remembers the way to the doggie beach, but is surprised every time when we get home from the lake and he learns he has to get a bath. You'd think he'd remember the bath part, too, but apparently not.

He had a fantastic time running around, playing with some other dogs and swimming.  Then we came home and he was surprised and disappointed to find out he had to get a bath.  And now he's taking a nap.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Doggie Dining Outdoors

Today I went out for frozen yogurt with a friend and we decided to eat outside on the patio because it was such a beautiful day.  Isaac thought that was the coolest thing ever.  The tables where very small, round tables, and there wasn't really room for a doggie to lie under them.  That was OK, though, because the patio wasn't crowded and he was able to just lie between my chair and the fence that surrounded the patio.  He liked that a lot.  He lay down and dozed, occasionally picking his head up to sniff the air and look around.  There were a lot of people walking by and things to look at and, apparently, stuff to sniff.  He thinks we should dine outdoors all the time.  He found it much nicer than lying under a table inside a restaurant, where he can't really see what's going on.

It's kind of funny, because Isaac seems to enjoy going to restaurants with me.  I would think it would be sort of frustrating, being around all that good-smelling food and not being able to have any of it, but he doesn't seem frustrated by it. 

When I first got him, he didn't really like going under the table.  I'm pretty sure it was because he doesn't like not being able to see what's going on all around.  He would do it, with a fair amount of encouragement, but would try to creep back out multiple times during the meal and after 30 minutes or so, would become too restless and we'd need to leave.  I started practicing with him at home, putting him on his leash and having him go under the dining room table while I sat at the table and worked on my laptop or chopping veggies for dinner or something, and I would give him a bite of hotdog every couple of minutes as long as he lay quietly.  We started with about 10 minutes under the table and then slowly increased the time until he could do it for an hour.  I also slowly increased the amount of time between bites of hotdog.  It took us quite a while, but now he handles an hour in a restaurant easily.

I still don't think he really likes being under the table, though.  He doesn't seem unhappy when we go to restaurants, but then, he likes to go anywhere.  He loves going to the vet.  He likes riding along to the gas station, when he doesn't even get to get out of the car while I fill up the gas tank.  He goes under the table when I tell him to, usually, although occasionally I have to tell him a couple times.  Occasionally he tried to lie down next to the table instead.  Occasionally he goes under but then wants to lie down with his head sticking out.  I know he just wants to see what's going on around him.  It's just usually not possible for him to lie like that.  He'd be in the way of people walking past our table.

But he loved lying on the patio at the frozen yogurt place today.  He just thought that was the best thing ever.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Doggie Dreaming at the Diner

Today Isaac and I joined a friend for lunch at a local diner.  Isaac went under the table and lay down for a nap, just like he is supposed to.  In fact, he was sleeping so well, he did not notice when my friend accidentally dropped part of a french fry under the table.  He was stretched out on his side, snoozing away, when all of a sudden he let out a kind of loud "woof." 

I think he was dreaming.  Occasionally he barks in his sleep.  Usually it's at night, when he's sleeping really soundly, and usually his feet are also twitching when he does it, like he is running in his sleep.  It's a weird sort of bark, not quite like how he barks when he is awake.  Of course, when he is awake and barks, he never does it while he's lying on his side.  He generally sits up or stands up to bark.

Anyway, he let out this "woof," and normally when he barks in his sleep it doesn't wake him up, but today it seemed he startled himself.  He jumped to his feet, banging his head on the bottom of the table in the process.  I rubbed his head, and then he put his head in my lap and seemed to want to snuggle.  Well, putting his head in my lap is fine, but then he wanted to climb up in my lap, which is not fine in a restaurant, of course.  I don't think he banged his head that hard, he seems to have a really hard head, but he seemed to want to be comforted for some reason.

I petted him for a few minutes, and talked to him, and then he lay down and went back to sleep.  The funny thing is, even though he barked under the table, most of the people eating around us still didn't realize there was a dog under there.  I'm not sure what they thought that "woof" was, but when we got up to leave, they were surprised to see a doggie come out from under the table.  That's always kind of fun, when people are surprised to see there's been a dog at the table next to them all along.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shopping with a Service Dog

For a long time after I got my service dog, I did not like to take him shopping.  Oh, a quick trip to the grocery store was OK, as long as I had a list and knew where to find the items I wanted to buy.  But pushing the cart and holding the leash was a bit of a challenge, and holding a shopping list, too, well, that was even harder. 

I did OK picking up items from the shelves and tossing them in my cart, but I didn't like taking him shopping if I was going to an unfamiliar store where I would have to wonder around for a while to find what I was looking for or if I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for or if I needed to be able to take my time looking at things and reading labels and comparing items and stuff. 

It was hard to keep an eye on Isaac and look at, say, coffee makers, comparing features and prices and everything.  And I felt I had to keep a really close eye on him so he didn't decide to try to sniff the butt of some other customer also considering coffee makers, or try to jump up and kiss another customer walking by (who probably made kissy noises at him first), or closely examine (and sniff) the chocolate covered coffee beans that happened to be on a shelf right at nose level by the coffee makers, or decide to plop down and rest right in the middle of the aisle (all sprawled out so as to take up as much room as possible, thereby preventing any other shoppers from getting by), etc.  Oh, he didn't do those things all the time, just often enough that I didn't really trust him not to.  I felt he required very close supervision.

And I felt I needed at least three hands, because it took both of my hands to pick up a box large enough to hold a coffee maker in order to read all the fine print on it, but I also needed a hand to hold the leash.  I asked some other people with service dogs on an online forum, back when I first got Isaac, how they managed to hold everything, and they said in situations like that they would just kind of drape the leash over their arm or something because their dog knew to heel whether they were tightly holding the leash or not.  Well, my dog didn't.  Or maybe he did, but I didn't trust him to do it.  When I tried that, he was as likely as not to take the opportunity to drift away from me to sniff someone's butt or the chocolate covered coffee beans.  Or to make a sudden move, jerking my arm and causing me to drop the coffee maker I was holding.

It was frustrating to me, it was stressful, it made me wonder if my dog wasn't trained like he should be, and it made me wonder if I was somehow not doing a good job as a service dog handler.  It made shopping more difficult, which is the opposite of what a service dog is supposed to do.

Lately, I've realized that this has changed.

Oh, I still have to keep an eye on Isaac, but I can trust him a lot more.  Occasionally he does try to sniff the butt of another customer or to sniff some candy that is conveniently located right at nose level.  But not often.  It's been a long time since he tried to jump up on someone in a store and kiss them on the lips, and that's even when they talk to him and make kissy noises and practically beg to be kissed.  But mostly he stays right beside me.  If he decides to lie down, he usually does it close to me, not in anyone's way.

Last fall, about 10 months after Isaac came to live with me, I went shopping for new gym shoes and winter boots.  I did not take Isaac shoe shopping with me.  I thought it would be too difficult, sitting down, taking off my shoes, trying on shoes and boots, standing up, walking around to see how they felt, then sitting back down and taking them off, etc., all while holding onto the leash and managing Isaac. 

But about a week ago, I went to Meijer to buy vitamins.  They are the only place near here that carries the brand of iron that I like.  While I was there, I decided to look at sandals.  I saw a pair I liked and decided to try them on.  Isaac was with me and I didn't give it a second thought.  He sat down and sniffed my feet while I put on the sandals, then walked around in a circle with me while I tried them out.

Today I went to JoAnn Fabrics to get some material to make throw pillows for my new couch.  Um, I bought a new couch.  It's not here yet.  They didn't have the color I wanted in stock so they had to order it and it will take two to four weeks to get here.  But I decided I needed throw pillows.  I had no idea where the pillow forms were, so I had to wander through the store a while.  Then I had to look at fabric and that took me a while.  Isaac apparently got tired of standing, because he lay down to wait while I held bolts of calico up to one another to see what looked good together.  He followed me over to where they cut the fabric for you and lay down again.  You'd think the poor doggie was exhausted.

But my point is, he was good.  Really good.   And shopping with him was easy.  We've turned this corner.  It sure took a while, but it's good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Red Light Update

I wrote a week or so ago about using a string of red Christmas lights as a nightlight of sorts, because red lights are supposed to have less impact on the production of melatonin than other colors of light.  And so far, I think it is helping. 

I had a kind of hard time the first night because it wasn't quite as much light as I like and it made me feel a little anxious.  But after that first night, it seems like enough light.  And since I seem to be sleeping better, I'm liking them better. 

There was one night this past week that I feel like I woke up a lot, but I think at least part of that had to do with Cayenne.  She had a kind of restless night and was acting sort of strange and I was worried about her and she woke me up some climbing around on my legs.

Other than that, though, I think I am sleeping better.

Right now I have the string of lights draped over my bookshelf.  I think I want to do something a bit more, I don't know, decorative and less haphazard-looking with them, but I haven't decided quite what yet.  And I'm sort of getting used to the way they look on the bookshelf.

This isn't the best picture, but here they are.

Can a Therapist Write a Letter, Making Your Pet a Service Dog?

I have a friend, not a close friend but a friend, who is a therapist.  A couple days ago she asked me a question.  She said she sometimes has clients that ask her to please write them a letter saying they need their pet to be a service dog so they can take their dog into public places.  They say their dog  helps their depression or anxiety, so they want their dog to be a service dog.  She was wondering if a dog is really a service dog if it just makes someone feel better or feel less anxious or less depressed.

It's a great question.  The answer is no, if all the dog does is provide comfort or emotional support, it's not a service dog.  It might be an emotional support animal, but it's not a service dog.

A service dog must be trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate a person's disability.  And the person must be disabled in order to have a service dog.  Not everyone that suffers from anxiety, depression or other psychological problems is disabled by their condition.

An emotional support animal is a pet (doesn't have to be a dog) belonging to a person with a psychiatric disability (like anxiety or depression) that is recommended by their doctor, therapist or other healthcare provider as part of their treatment plan.  Again, the person must be disabled, and not everyone with anxiety or depression is disabled by their condition.

Service dogs have to be trained to perform specific tasks to mitigate a person's disability but emotional support animals don't need any special training.

Service dogs are allowed to go most places with their handlers, including restaurants and stores.  Emotional support animals are not.  In most cases, landlords must allow people to have emotional support animals, even if they do not normally allow pets (some landlords are exempt from this law, however), and people are allowed to fly within the U.S. with an emotional support animal in the cabin of the plane.  Same goes with service dogs.  You cannot take an emotional support animal to a restaurant, grocery store, hotel that does not allow pets, doctor's office, movie theater, etc. though, unless you get permission from the manager (and in some cases, the manager cannot legally give permission; health codes prevent them from allowing an emotional support animal in a restaurant, for instance).

You don't need a letter from your therapist to take your service dog into public places.  In fact, it is illegal for business owners to ask to see such a letter.  If you are disabled and your dog is trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability, then you are allowed to take your service dog with you.

If you are not disabled, though, or if your dog is not trained to perform actual tasks that mitigate your disability, even if you have a letter from your therapist, you are not legally allowed to take your dog into public places where pets are not permitted.  A letter from your therapist does not override the law.

If you have an emotional support animal, you may be required to provide a letter from your therapist or other healthcare provider in order to fly with your emotional support animal or in order to live in no pets housing with your emotional support animal.

Here are links to some articles with more information about emotional support animals:

Where Can You Take Your Emotional Support Animal?

Keeping an Emotional Support Animal in an Apartment that Doesn't Allow Pets

Flying with an Emotional Support Animal

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finally Fixed My Coffee Table

When I moved here, almost a year ago, the glass tabletop of my coffee table got a crack in one corner.  A few days later, Isaac dropped his Kong on it and a large shard of glass broke off.  I ended up taping a piece of cardboard over it, which was supposed to be a temporary fix, until I could do something more attractive with it. 

I ended up buying a piece of plywood and having it cut to fit, only when I got home, I discovered the guy at Lowe's didn't quite cut it right.  It still didn't totally fit.  Only, like an idiot, I didn't discover that right away.  I just assumed it was right and would fit, so I went ahead and decorated it.

What I did was cut out leaf shapes from scrapbook paper in nice nature prints and then arrange those on the plywood.  I decoupaged it and it looked pretty neat.

Until, that is, I moved the glass panel and tried to put my nice new decoupaged panel in and discovered it was still too big.  Bummer.

So I had to get it cut a little bit more.  But of course I don't have a saw or anything like that.  So I asked a friend to do it for me and said there was no rush.  Well, it's a good thing there was no rush, because that was months and months ago.

But I got it back today.  And it fits. 

Isaac inspected it carefully for me and finally gave his approval.

Of course, by the time I put all my junk on it, you can't see as much of the design on it anyway.  But it's better than cracked glass with a piece of cardboard taped over one corner of it.

Paying Off Debt

I came by some extra cash recently.  It's kind of an interesting story, maybe I'll tell it later, but for now, how I came by it isn't really important.  I have some extra money, which is a real rarity for me, and had to decide what to do with it.

Funny how you can think your basic needs are pretty much met, and then you get some extra cash, and suddenly you come up with a really long list of things you want/need to buy.  Way more than you can possible purchase with whatever amount of money you have.  And it wouldn't matter how much you have, either.  If it was $1,000, suddenly you'd have a list of far more than that.  If it was $5,000, you'd have a list of more than that.  People are greedy, I think.  We always want more.  I try really hard not to, but still...

Anyway.  After I'd discarded the ideas of going on a shopping spree and taking a vacation (well, it's fun to dream, isn't it?), I decided to purchase a few items I really do need and to pay off some debt.  I was nearly debt-free until last fall when I had to have extensive dental work done.  I now have a Mastercard and a Care Credit account to pay off.  Last month I paid a little more than the minimum payment due on my Mastercard and realized that about half of what I paid was just going to interest.  Oy.

But I also owe my mother some money.   A couple years ago, when she was still speaking to me, she loaned me and Mike some money to put a new transmission in my car.  She put it on a credit card (because my credit sucked then, at least it's a little better now; back then I would not have been able to charge my dental work myself) and Mike and I agreed to make the monthly payment.  Which was just $30 a month.  Well, you know how many months it takes to pay off a transmission at $30 a month?  Yeah.

So as of this month, I still owed a little over $400.

I decide to use some of my  new-found cash to pay off that debt.  It might have made more sense, financially, to pay off the credit card with the ridiculously high interest rate.  But emotionally, even spiritually, it made more sense to pay off the loan from my mother.  Because it keeps me tied to her.  It keeps me connected to her every month when I write that check and address that envelope.

And I knew it was the right decision because I felt such a lightness when I came to it.

I thought about writing her a letter to include with that check.  But I didn't know what to say and I felt like writing that letter would take a lot of time and energy and I wanted to do it now.  I wanted to send the check and sever that tie.

But there was a song that came to mind while I was writing out the check, so I wrote down some of the lyrics and sent that with the check.

" You cannot measure what it takes to mend a withered heart.
They'll tell you at the onset everybody does their part.
I did my best to follow the calling of my soul.
But it's like that first guitar I played,
at the center is a hole,
at the center is a longing
that I cannot understand...

But if music be a boulder, let me carry it a long while.
Let it turn into a feather, let it brush against my smile.
Let the life be somewhat settled with the life that song has made.
Let there be nothing I am longing for in some plan I may have made,
in some story quickly written during a long forgotten time..."

I don't know if the lyrics will mean anything to my mother.  But it doesn't really matter.  I've let go of something.  That's what's important.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Service Dogs in Schools

I read an article today about a family that is upset because they got a service dog for their six-year-old little boy and they want the school to provide someone to care for the service dog while their child is at school and the school has refused to do that because, they say, it's not their responsibility to care for a child's service dog.

This is becoming more and more of an issue these days, as there are now a number of organizations that place service dogs (or untrained puppies, in the case of one organization that sells "diabetic alert dogs" to families of diabetic children for $20,000) with young children that are not able to steward a service dog themselves.  In the past, when service dogs were primarily used to help blind people, this wasn't an issue because the programs that train and place guide dogs for the blind won't place dogs with children under the age of 16.  They require that all recipients be old enough and mature enough to care for their own dogs and also require that they complete orientation and mobility training first, which means they have to learn coping skills to allow them to cope with their disability before receiving a service dog. 

That makes good sense.  But there are some organizations now that provide service dogs (or untrained puppies, as mentioned above) with small children, some of whom are also severely disabled, that cannot possible care for a dog themselves.  The children also have not yet learned to manage their disabilities as well as they can without a dog.  I don't think it's a good idea to place service dogs with children in these cases, but there is big money in it.  As I said, one organization sells puppies for $20,000, telling parents the puppies will alert to changes in their children's blood sugar and that the parents can later have the dogs trained to actually do tasks, like bring the child a juice box if their blood sugar drops.  Parents, desperate for any help for a seriously ill child, shell out the $20,000.  Some of them are now suing said organization for selling them untrained puppies instead of service dogs, but what did they really expect when they were told they were getting an eight-week-old puppy?

Anyway.  I think that's why these organizations do it, because they make a lot of money, not because they care about the kids or the dogs.

But then the parents want these dogs to go to school with their kids and they want the school to provide a handler for the dog.  Which is not required under state or federal law and which, in my opinion, is not reasonable.

In this particular article, it seems the parents did not bother to work all that out with the school before getting the service dog.  The dog, according to the article, was not very well trained and the school actually paid for additional training for the dog, which I think is remarkable and which I also think was not the school's responsibility. 

The parents seem to lack understand of what it means to care for a service dog.  The article mentioned a younger sibling pulling the dog's tail and trying to ride her like a horse, and apparently the six-year-old is unable to protect his dog from that sort of behavior, and apparently the parents don't correct the toddler in a timely manner.  I feel sorry for the dog. 

The parents are also quoted as saying the only assistance with the dog that the six-year-old needs is someone to hold the dog's leash in the hallways between classes.  Um, handling a service dog involves more than that.  The dog would need at least one potty break during the school day, and if the six-year-old is unable to hold the dog's leash, then he must also be unable to take the dog outside and pick up its poop.  So which school employee is supposed to be responsible for that?  The dog would need access to water at some point during the school day, probably more than once.  And no matter how well the dog is trained, there will be times it will not want to lie under the kid's desk, times it will get distracted, times it will need to be given commands and corrected and stuff.

I really don't think six-year-old kids should have service dogs at all, but if they do, then it's not the school's job to care for the dog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Updates on This and That

Just little bits and pieces of stuff here:
  • I've decided I like my hair cut.  It is easier to wash and brush this way, which is mostly why I like it.  Oddly enough, only one person has mentioned the hair cut to me.  I've seen Mike a couple times since I got it cut and he apparently didn't even notice.  Only one of my  neighbors mentioned it.  I was expecting people to ask me about it, why I cut it, etc.  I got a lot cut off.  I don't see how they haven't noticed.  But apparently people just don't pay much attention.  Which is OK.  I didn't really want to to explain why I got it cut, anyway.
  • One of Cayenne's tumors is bleeding again.  Her belly was looking so nice.  Then today, I was out for a while, and when I came home I noticed a large spot of dried blood on her blankie on the couch.  There was also some blood smeared on the windowsill by her food and water dishes.  That's not unexpected, but still, I hated to see it.
  • I think the red lights are actually helping at night.  I feel like I've slept better the last two nights.  The first night, I was kind of anxious because they didn't provide quite as much light as I would have liked.  I also really don't like the color red that much so I wasn't thrilled with them at first.  But I think they are helping some, which makes me like them a little more.
  • I also think the warmer weather is helping.  I knew the cold makes my joints ache.  I just didn't realize how much.  But now that it's warming up some, I feel a lot better.  I still have pain, but it's better.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Red Lights and Melatonin and Sleep and Stuff

I recently was reading a book about fibromyalgia and in it, the author was talking about sleep and melatonin and how light affects the production of melatonin.  You've probably heard of melatonin.  It's a hormone naturally produced by the body, though you can also buy it as a dietary supplement.  The supplement is supposed to help you sleep and to help with jet lag or to help people that work odd shifts by helping to re-adjust your body clock.

Well, apparently during the daytime, during daylight hours, your body produces almost no melatonin.  Once the sun starts going down and it begins to get dark out, your body starts making a lot more melatonin and this makes you get sleepy.  However, indoor lighting can affect the production of melatonin, so if you keep the lights bright inside even after dark, you won't get tired.  Or maybe you will get tired, but you'll have trouble sleeping. 

According to the book I was reading, even a small amount of light can interfere with the production of melatonin, so it's important to sleep in a dark room.  Even the light from a computer or television set can interfere with a good night's sleep, because it interferes with melatonin production.

Well, I have heard that you're not supposed to watch television or use your laptop in bed.   That's all part of what's called "sleep hygiene," along with stuff like going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, sleeping in a dark, cool, quiet, comfortable room, not doing anything other than sleeping or having sex in your bed (I'm not sure why they always make an exception for sex, maybe just because some people are so... conservative that the idea of having sex anywhere but the bed might shock them?), etc.  But I'd never heard that it had anything to do with melatonin production.

And I pretty much ignore the whole "sleep hygiene" thing because when I try getting up at the same time every day, even if I haven't slept at night, all that does is cause me to be exhausted.  It doesn't help me sleep the next night.  I know from experience.  I don't sleep in a dark room because I can't, because I'm scared to go to sleep in a dark room due to my PTSD.  For the same reason, I have trouble sleeping in a quiet room.  I like listening to music or a movie or something.  And while I think my bed is a fine place for having sex, I see no reason to confine those activities to the bed... oh, I guess I'm going a bit astray there.  Sorry.  Anyway, I very rarely even sleep in my bed.  I usually sleep on the couch.  I feel much safer there.

Anyway.  I'd never heard all that about melatonin production and light at night, so I did some research.  I found an article published by Harvard Medical School that said the amount of light produced by just two average nightlights was enough to significantly impact melatonin production and interfere with sleep.  According to the Harvard article, if you need to have a light on at night, it's best to use a red-tinted light bulb.  For some reason, that has the least impact on melatonin production.  Blue light, on the other hand, is the worst.

So I decided to experiment.  Back at Christmas time, I really enjoyed the lights on the Christmas tree.  They were bright enough that I was able to turn out all the other lights in the house, but I think they were dim enough that I was able to sleep better.  I had actually considered buying a string of lights of some kind and putting them up somewhere in my house after Christmas was over.

So I decided to do that now, but with a string of red lights.  Red, I have to say, is not my favorite color.  I'd rather have white lights.  Or yellow.  Or blue.  Or green.  But Harvard says it should be red.  So red is what I got.  They were only $7 from Amazon.  They arrived today.  I think they look a little more pinkish than red, which I'm not that fond of, either, but if they actually work, I think I'll decide I love them.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them.  Right now, I have them draped over a bookcase.  If I decide they work and I like them, I'll do something a bit more decorative with them.  I thought maybe I'd buy a grapevine wreath and wrap the string of lights around it and hang it on the wall.  Something like that.  If I do, I'll post a picture.

Service Dogs as Companions and Friends

Yesterday I went into my bedroom to put away some laundry and Isaac followed me, as he usually does.  He jumped up on the bed and I lay down on the bed beside him.  He snuggled right up to me, with his head resting in the crook on my arm, and fell right to sleep.

As I lay there with him for a while, I thought about my relationship with Isaac.

When I read newspaper articles or news accounts or just stories online about service dogs, they often talk about how a service dog will be a beloved companion or a constant friend for someone with a disability, especially when talking about service dogs for children, like those with autism.  Of course, being a friend or companion is not a trained task, and if that's all a dog does for something, then it is not a service dog.  The media often seems to forget that, or at least, fails to report it.

When I decided I wanted to get a service dog, I assumed I'd love the dog.  I love animals.  It's hard to imagine living with an animal that I didn't love.  It's hard to imagine not growing to love any animal that I live with. 

But Isaac and I were not best friends instantly.  Maybe that happens for some people, but it wasn't the case for us.  He liked me a lot right away, but he likes everyone right away.  He loves the UPS guy.  He loves the pharmacist, the cashier at Kroger and the lady that works at the post office.  And I liked Isaac right away, because he's so friendly and loving and loveable and funny and it would be hard not to like him.  But I didn't fall in love with him right away and I didn't feel like we were best friends right away.

I think it took about a year for us to bond really solidly.  I don't know if that's typical of people with service dogs or not.  But the type of bond we have now, that didn't happen instantly.  It didn't happen quickly.

As I was lying on the bed with Isaac, stroking his head, listening to his doggie snores, I thought about how odd it is, really, that this dog gets trained to perform certain tasks and then is matched up with a person and expected to become that person's best friend as well as being some sort of living durable medical equipment that will serve this person day and night.  And yet, it works.  That's the really amazing thing.

I'm so aware that Isaac didn't really get a choice.  No one asked him, "Hey, would you like to be a service dog when you grow up?"  But they did identify that he had character traits that would make a good service dog and that he enjoyed learning tasks and performing them.  He does enjoy the work that he does.  But he didn't get to pick where he lives, or who he lives with, or what tasks he would be asked to do.

Maybe that's part of why I am so, so careful to make sure Isaac is happy, that his needs are being met.

But also, he is my friend.  Part of why he likes working for me - and I really believe he does - is because he just likes hanging out with me.  He wants to go where I go.  He wants to be with me.  Good grief, he scarcely lets me go to the bathroom by myself.

I don't know if I'm making sense here.  It's just incredible to me, this friendship that has developed between me and this dog.  And I'm not even a dog person.  I tell people that.  I say I'm an Isaac person, not a dog person.