Monday, June 30, 2014

Isaac at the Welfare Office

Today I had to visit my county welfare office, which is not one of my favorite places.  Isaac, however, seems to really like the welfare office.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's a combination of the nice cool floors to lie on when it's hot outside and the excellent opportunity for people-watching.

I often have to remind myself that Isaac and I like different things when it comes to places.  For instance, Isaac likes the dumpster behind my apartment building, because it's smelly.  I do not like the dumpster behind my apartment building, because it's smelly.  I like Chipotle, because they have great food.  Isaac does not like Chipotle, because he does not get to eat any of the great food there and they have a hard, uncomfortable floor to lie on (I've started taking a towel with us for him to lie on, which he likes at least a little better).  Even when we both like a place, we often like it for different reasons.  For instance, we both like Lake Erie, but I like it because I like the sound of the waves lapping at the shore and Isaac likes it because there are plenty of dead fish lying around to roll in.

Anyway, I dislike visiting the welfare office because the waiting room has uncomfortable chairs and not enough of them, so I often end up standing for long periods of because I often have to wait a really long time even for something simple, like dropping off some paperwork.  At least the employees at my county office are reasonably nice and polite.  That is not the case at most welfare offices, at least not in my experience.

But Isaac seems to like it.  He sprawls out on the floor, then watches the people through half-closed eyes.  Today there was a little girl who had just turned two (said her mother) that was flirting with Isaac.  Her mom was watching her closely and not letting her get too close and reminding her that "That dog is not for petting," but she would get as close as her mom would let her, bend over so she could look Isaac in the eye (they were eye-to-eye when Isaac stood up, but most of the time he was lying down with his chin flat on the floor), and smile sweetly at him and flutter her eyelashes at him.  Isaac flirted back, watching her with his big eyes, drooling happily on the floor.

Isaac was really good, though, and stayed in a down position, even though I could tell he wanted to play with the little girl.  Before we left, I allowed the two of them to say hello.  She petted him gently and he kissed her gently, first on the hand, then on the cheek, which made her giggle and giggle.

I'm glad at least one of us had a nice time there.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How Much Isaac Loves Me

Isaac likes to follow me everywhere.  He is rarely more than a few inches from me at any given time, except when he's sleeping.  Even then, if he hears me get up and move around, he often gets up and comes to see what I'm doing.  If I get up to pee in the middle of the night, he often jumps out of bed and comes into the bathroom to see me.

The other day, I was in the bathroom and had the door closed.  I don't close the bathroom door very often.  I live alone, plus with my PTSD I kind of like being able to see and hear the rest of my apartment while I'm in the bathroom.  And Isaac prefers doors to be kept open.  As did my cats, in the past.  Cayenne doesn't care anymore, she's not going to follow me into the bathroom anyway.  But Isaac likes to follow me in.  When I shower, he likes to lie in the doorway.  I think it gets too warm in the bathroom for his liking, especially if I close the door with him in there, but he likes to be close by.

But the other day, I did have the door closed.  Unbeknownst to me, Isaac was standing right on the other side of it.  When I opened it, the door hit his toe.  He yelped a little and held up his foot, like it was terribly painful.  He acted like he didn't want to put any weight on it.  I felt terrible, of course.  I sat down on the floor, looked at his foot carefully, couldn't see any injury, and hugged him and kissed him and told him I was sorry.  He got over it.  Soon he was running through the apartment in search of Mr. Pickle.

Later, I had to use the bathroom.  I left the door open, as Isaac prefers.  He came into the bathroom after me, but he looked nervously at the door as he passed it.  Apparently he did not realize that I opened the door and hurt his foot.  He just thought the door bit him or something.

But even though he was nervous about the door, he wanted to be in the bathroom with me enough to walk past the big bad door.  That's love.

By the way, by the next time he followed me into the bathroom, apparently Isaac had forgotten all about the door hurting his toe.  He did not appear nervous at all then.

Ready for the Fourth of July

I made Isaac a special bandana to wear to the nursing home this week, since it is almost the Fourth of July.  Cute, isn't he?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Love it When People Notice How Well-Behaved Isaac Is

Today at the dollar store, the cashier commented on how well-behaved Isaac is when we stand by the counter to pay.  She mentioned that most animals would be sniffing all the candy that is displayed right at Isaac's nose level and probably trying to eat the candy, as well.  But Isaac just stands there, ignoring it.

Well, he does most of the time.  Occasionally he tries to sneak a sniff, if he thinks I'm not looking.  I tell him "That's not yours" and he leaves it alone.  I love the "that's not yours" command.  It basically means "leave it" but it sound nicer and people often think it's kind of funny, too.

The cashier pointed out that Isaac was standing there with his head turned, like he didn't even want to look at the candy to be tempted by it.  She said she's noticed he often does that.  I hadn't noticed that but sure enough, he was standing like that today.

I really love it when people notice how well-behaved Isaac is.  It's much nicer than being asked "Are you training him?"  He is trained, he's had a lot of training, and it's nice when people recognized that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Access Dispute at Walgreens

Have you heard about the access dispute at Walgreens?  In addition to the article, I saw a post on Facebook by the man's wife that included a brief video clip she shot with her cell phone.  The basic story, as far as I can make out, is this.

A man with a service dog that helps him with PTSD went to Walgreens.  The service dog was not wearing a service dog vest (which is not required by law but does help cut down on access disputes) because it was hot.  The manager approached and said something about the dog in a way the service dog handler felt was disrespectful.  He also felt the manager should have been more discrete in the way he approached him.

The man responded by becoming verbally abusive, loud, rude, using lots of profanity.  As you might imagine, the manager did not respond well to this.

At some point, the manager said something about the dog not wearing a vest.  He might have said the dog was not allowed in the store without a vest or that he would not sell the dog's owner anything if the dog did not have on a vest.  The owner pointed out, correctly, that the dog is not required to wear any special vest.

Let me say again, legally, no special vest is required for service dogs.  However, without a special vest or something else to indicate a dog is a service dog, people will, quite reasonably, assume a dog is just a pet.  They will be more much likely to approach you and ask if the dog is a service dog or to tell you dogs aren't allowed in the store.  And they may not do so in a discreet fashion.  The law does not require them to be discrete about it.  If you choose not to put a vest on your service dog, you should expect and be prepared for this.

Since the Walgreens in question is in Texas, it probably was very hot outside.  But I really doubt it was too hot for the dog to wear a vest inside Walgreens.  I don't know why the guy didn't just put the vest on the dog right before they went in.  That's what I do.  Isaac doesn't wear his vest in the car.  I put it on him before he gets out of the car, in the parking lot of the store or whatever business we are going to visit.  I take it off as soon as we get back to the car, when we've finished our shopping.

I guess at some point the manager asked for proof that the dog was a service dog, which is illegal.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are not allowed to ask for that.  The service dog  handler informed the manager of that and then pulled out a fake identification card, purchased from one of those websites that will sell a service dog identification card to anyone with internet access and a credit card.

As far as I can tell, the manager did violate the ADA by refusing to allow the man with the service dog to purchase anything.  However, the guy handled the access dispute really poorly, yelling and cussing and showing a fake identification card and stuff.

Celebrating the Solstice at Lake Erie

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, or Litha to us pagans.  I don't write a lot about spirituality on this blog 'cause that's not really what I wanted the blog to be about, but I am trying to get more in touch with my spirituality, so maybe that will change some in the future.  Anyway, yesterday was a pagan holiday and I decided I wanted to do something to celebrate.

I planned to enjoy a peach and orange smoothie while watching the sunrise, but it was cloudy in the morning, so that didn't really happen.  There wasn't much to watch.  Just a gradually lightening of the gray.  And it was foggy.

Then Isaac and I, along with a friend, went up to Lake Erie.  I packed a picnic lunch with fresh fruit and yogurt and a couple of protein bars.  Our friend is not pagan so I just said we were going because it was the first day of summer.  Whatever.

We had a great time.  We found a fairly secluded strip of beach, which was lovely to walk on.  Isaac found a dead fish, which he thought was lovely to roll in.  He was rolling in it before I even saw the fish.  How gross.  He said it was better than rolling in goose poop.

After he rolled in the fish, I decided to let him off leash so he could swim in the lake and wash off the dead fish.  Because wet dog smell is infinitely better than dead fish smell, right?

I almost never let Isaac off leash except at an enclosed dog park.  I trust him to come back to me, but not to come when I call him.  He'll come back when he's ready to.  Which doesn't always work well for me.  Plus, I didn't want him to bother any other people on the beach, because dogs are not really supposed to be off leash there.  But there were no other people anywhere nearby and, well, dead fish smell.

Here is a picture of Isaac in the water.

He wasn't quite sure about the waves at first, but after a few seconds decided he loved them.  He had so much fun.

He run down the beach as fast as he could, ran back, jumped in the water, swam a little bit, got out and ran down the beach as fast as he could, repeat, repeat, repeat.  He loves the water but I think he enjoys swimming more at the dog beach with other dogs.  He didn't swim all that much all by himself.

Then some people appeared, way down the beach, and he ran all the way down there.  I went after him but of course he got there way before me.  As soon as I got there, I asked if they were afraid of dogs.  I was going to put him back on the leash right away if they were or if he was bothering them in any way.  They said no, of course they weren't afraid, he was a lovely dog and they wished they had that much energy.  No kidding.  Me too.

They had three kids, all preteen or teenagers, that were playing in the water and Isaac wanted to play with them.  They were throwing a ball and of course Isaac wanted to play with that.  So they played a little bit and then I made Isaac give the ball back (he didn't want to) and put him back on his leash and we went on.

We had a really good time.  I love seeing Isaac have so much fun.  He thinks everything is fun and just watching him have fun makes things fun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Lack of Logic Goes On

Since my medical expenses have suddenly increased by $105 per month, I contacted my landlord to ask about whether this might allow my rent to be reduced.  My rent is based in part on my income but also in part on my medical expenses.  He said yes, it should be cause for a reduction in rent, though he couldn't say offhand by how much.

So this morning I took the letter from Social Security over to the rental office.  And was informed that, in addition to a copy of that letter, I would need to provide about 15,483 other documents because they would have to totally recalculate my rent.  Even though they just did that a few months ago.  Apparently there is no way they can just add the $105 Medicare premium into their prior calculations.

So, in order to find out if my rent can be reduced and by how much, I need to provide a current bank statement (which is more trouble than it sounds since I do not get a paper bank statement, I have to print it out from the internet, but I have no printer because I am poor, so printing anything is a big hassle); a list of every doctor, hospital, pharmacist and other health care provider I've seen in the last year (complete with names, addresses and phone numbers); receipts documenting every medical expense I've had over the past year; a signed letter from Isaac's dog walker verifying how often he walks Isaac and what he charges (the one he signed in December not being recent enough, apparently); a written prescription from my doctor for all the non-prescription vitamins I take, verifying those are medically necessary (the one he wrote in December also not being recent enough); and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of at the moment.

And then, after several weeks, I'll find out by how much my rent will be reduced.  The change might go into effect in August.  Maybe.  Because the people in charge of calculating everything do not rush.  The fact that I am panicking over how I'm going to survive on $105 less per month does not constitute an emergency for them.  And I get that.  Kind of.

That does not change the fact that I wanted to smack the lady in the rental office when she kept rattling off item after item that they would need from me.

It's not reasonable.  It's not logical.  It's probably doable, but it's not easy and it's not simple and it's not fair.  Like anything ever is, right?

I spent a lot of the day sleeping.  Because I'm not panicking when I'm asleep.  My stomach doesn't hurt then and I don't feel like I'm going to throw up.

Panic and Depression. And a Lack of Logic.

Lately, I feel like I've been coping pretty well.

Yesterday, I found out why.  Because nothing stressful has been going on, really.  Duh.

And then, something stressful happened, and I am back to being a mess.

I got a letter from Social Security yesterday informing me that the state of Ohio will no longer be paying my Medicare premiums.  Instead, $105 will be deducted from my monthly SSDI payment.

Of course, the letter did not explain why.  It's possible it is an error, logically one might assume it has to be, since my income has not changed.  But one would only assume that if one was naive enough to think the system was logical.  Like if one had never been on any type of public assistance.  In reality, the reason is most likely either that the formula the state uses to determine whether they will pay one's Medicare premiums has changed and I no longer qualify according to the new formula or my recent increase in food stamps (I used to get $15 a month and now get a whopping $32) and decrease in my Medicaid spend down (which is like a monthly deductible I must meet in order to receive my Medicaid card) means I am now too wealthy to qualify.  Of course it is ridiculous that getting an additional $17 in food stamps would mean I can afford to pay $105 for Medicare.  But I learned long ago that you'll make yourself crazy if you expect the system to make sense.

I decided to call Social Security to ask why the change.  If you've never had the pleasure of calling  Social Security, well, consider yourself lucky.  After finding my way through an extremely long and convoluted phone tree and holding for a long time while enjoying some elevator music, I finally got to speak to a real live person.  Who informed me I needed to call the state Medicaid department to ask why the change.  Silly  me, I figured since the letter was sent by Social Security and the telephone number printed on the letter was that of Social Security, that was who I should call.

I did not have the energy to call the Medicaid people yesterday.  In fact, I have not summoned the energy yet.

If you have had the pleasure of calling Social Security, well, let me tell you that trying to call the Department of Job and Family Services (the welfare people in my state, where you apply for things like Medicaid and food stamps) is like that experience multiplied by at least five.  Maybe seven.

Last week I had a dentist appointment and I had a question about whether or not I could get a gas voucher from JFS for that appointment.  Seems like a simple question, yes?  So I looked up the number for the JFS office in my county and called to ask my question.  After listening to a very long message which informed me, amount other things, of the hours of my local JFS office, what number to call if I wanted to report child abuse or neglect, what number to call if I wanted to talk to someone about child support, and various other bits of info I did not care about, I was given an 800 number I could call if I had questions about benefits.  And that was it.  No way to reach an actual person.

So I called the 800 number.  Which is a state-wide number, not my local county office.  After holding a while, I was able to speak to an actual person, who informed me that she couldn't answer any questions about gas vouchers because those are administered by the county office, not the state office.  I would need to call my county office.

I told her I had done that first and was unable to speak to a real person but the recorded message said to call the 800 number.  I asked if she had a number for the county office that would reach an actual person.

She didn't.

I asked how I could get an answer to my question.

She offered to give me a fax number.

I have no idea if they would respond to a question via fax (I somehow doubt it) but it doesn't matter because, surprise, I do not own a fax machine.  I pointed out that probably most people that are poor enough to be on Medicaid and need gas vouches probably can't afford fax machines.


I asked how I could get an answer to my question.

She suggested I go into my local JFS office to ask.  Yes, that's right.  Drive to the JFS office, using gas, to ask if I can get a gas voucher, which I might or might not actually be able to get.

There's logic for you.

So anyway.  I have not called yet to ask them why they will no longer be paying my Medicare premiums.  I simply have not had the energy.  And... I keep crying.  I'd prefer to call when I am able to complete the call without bursting into tears.

Plus, who knows if they will be able to give me an answer on the phone?  Maybe I'll need to fax them my question, on my non-existent fax machine.  Or maybe I'll have to drive there and sit in an uncomfortable lobby for a long time to ask my question.  I guess the benefit to that, if you want to call it that, is that occasionally if you burst into tears and look like a crazy person in a place like that, they actually try to help you, either out of pity or fear or just to get you out there as quickly as possible.  Of course, they might also respond by calling security, so that's the change you take, I guess.  It's a situation I prefer to avoid, if I can.

I will call.  When I feel in control of my emotions enough.

Right now, I feel panicky and depressed.  I've cried a lot.  I know $105 probably does not sound like much to most people.  But it is almost half my rent.  It is a lot to me.  Plus apparently I don't cope well with unexpected news like this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another Therapy Dog Story

There is a woman, we'll call her Dorothy, at the nursing home that loves Isaac.  She's the one he kissed on the nose the first day we visited and got all excited and kept touching her nose, saying, "He kissed me right here!  Here is where he kissed me!"

Dorothy is always relaxing in a recliner in a common area when we get there.  Yesterday, she was napping.  I gently touched her shoulder and woke her up because I felt certain she would not want to miss a visit from Isaac.  When she saw it was me, and that Isaac was with me, she immediately sat up straight, looking wide awake and happy.

On our first visit, she told me that when her husband proposed to her, she told him she would only marry him if he would allow her to have a dog.  She loves dogs.

Yesterday she told me that she'd always had dogs and also cats.  I asked her which she liked better, dogs or cats.  She seemed a little... I don't know, maybe just groggy from sleeping, but it seemed like more than that.  Not exactly confused or disoriented.  She seemed to understand what I was saying but seemed to be having trouble expressing herself, trouble finding the right words for what she wanted to say.  When I asked her which she liked better, dogs or cats, she stuttered a bit, then pointed to Isaac and said, "This one."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Third Therapy Dog Visit

Isaac and I just finished our third therapy dog visit at the nursing home.  I really love seeing how much the residents enjoy seeing Isaac.  Actually, I enjoy seeing how much the staff enjoys seeing him, too.  There are a few staff members that always come over to visit with him and just seem delighted at his presence.

For some reason, a lot of the residents seemed concerned about whether I am feeding Isaac enough today.  People kept asking, "When do you feed him?  Are you going to feed him here?  What does he eat?  Does he eat a lot?  Does he eat ice cream?" and so on.  I kept assuring them that he eats plenty, that I gave him breakfast just a little while ago and that he is not starving.  Then I would ask, "Does he look too skinny?  Does he look like he doesn't get enough to eat?"  And they would say no, he wasn't too skinny and no, he didn't look like he doesn't get enough to eat.  But my goodness, he must have been really working the poor hungry puppy eyes today!

There is one woman, we'll call her Millie, who is always excited to see Isaac.  She was in bed today because she wasn't feeling well, but when we knocked on her door and she saw Isaac, her face lit up and she threw back the covers and sat up right away.  She hugged him and said, repeatedly, that he made her day.

There was another woman who was in bed but said she wanted to pet Isaac.  I asked her if it was OK for him to put his paws up on her bed, because it was going to be hard for her to reach him to pet him otherwise.  She said it was OK, so I told Isaac to do paws up, and instead he jumped up onto the bed with her!  It surprised me and it sure surprised the woman in the bed, too.  I asked her right away if it was OK or if she would prefer he get down, but she wanted him to stay.  He just lay right down beside her, like he was ready for a nap. 

I thought it was neat that he wanted to lie down with her, but I definitely don't want him to do that without me asking if it's OK first.  Over the next week, Isaac and I will be working on "paws up" on the bed.  I am also going to give him a command that means to get up on the bed.

Cayenne's Quality of Life

I found this tool for assessing the quality of life for a pet.  A score of 35 or better is an acceptable quality of life.  Lower than that and it's time to consider euthanasia.

Each item is scaled 0 – 10, where best quality of life for that item is 10:
  • HURT: Adequate pain control (including breathing ability). 
  • HUNGER: Are you eating enough? Do you require hand-feeding or a feeding tube? 
  • HYDRATION: Are you hydrated? Do you need to be forced to drink? 
  • HYGIENE: Do you need someone to clean you, especially after elimination? 
  • HAPPINESS: Do you express joy/interest? Respond to the environment? Show signs of boredom / loneliness / anxiety / fear?
  • MOBILITY: Can you get up without assistance? Do you have seizures / stumbling? 
I tried to be really honest and calculated Cayenne's score.  She got a 40.  I am pretty sure her number would change from day to day.  Some days it would be higher.  This evening I gave her a lower-than-usual score on hunger, for instance, because today I've had to coax her to eat and twice she threw up.  In fact, I just finished hand-feeding her six (I counted them out) pieces of kibble.  If she keeps those down, she can have six more in a little bit.  But this is not typical for her and hopefully does not continue.

But still.  She got a 40.  Which does not seem great to me but is acceptable according to this scale.

I'm glad to have some sort of tool to help me judge things.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Don't Look Like I'm Blind

Today I was at Subway with a friend and a guy in line ahead of us asked if Isaac was in training.  I said no, and then said, "Can I ask what made you think he was in training?"  I've been wondering exactly what it is that makes people ask that all the time so I had decided the next time someone asked, I was doing to ask them why.  People used to ask me that all the time and for some odd reason, since I decided I would ask them why, no one's asked me in a while.

So he said, "Well, you don't look like you're blind."

I said, "Oh.  Well, I'm not blind, but service dogs help people all sorts of things, not just visual impairments."

His wife, or girlfriend, whoever she was, nudged him and said, "You know that.  They even have dogs for kids with autism."

He said yes, he did know that, but he still associates service dogs with blind people.  Then he said, "Is that the right word?  Or should I say visually impaired?"

I told him either term was fine with me.

So there it is.  I don't look blind.  Therefore, I must be training Isaac for a blind person.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I'm Sad to See Some People with Disabilities are OK with being Excluded

I saw this article the other day about how a restaurant was sued for not being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Essentially, the restaurant was not accessible for people with disabilities when, legally, it was required to be.  Keep in mind that some small businesses are exempt and that many very old buildings are exempt and that the law generally requires only "reasonable" accommodations.  For instance, the law might require a business to install a ramp so customers that use wheelchairs could get up two steps to the entrance but it would not require a small business in a building that was built 100 years ago to install an elevator at great expense so that customers that use wheelchairs could access the second floor. 

So the restaurant that got sued said they could not afford to comply with the ADA and that they could not afford to fight the lawsuit (which I guess they would lose, anyway), so instead the owners decided they had to just close their business.  The owners also made a bunch of excuses, like they didn't know they were out of compliance, no one told them (well, it's no one's job to tell them, business owners are responsible for finding out what laws apply to them and following those laws; try telling the IRS you didn't pay your taxes because you didn't know you had to and no one told you, and see how well that goes over), the building was out of compliance when they bought it so it wasn't really their responsibility (huh?), they weren't given enough time to comply, etc.

What has surprised and saddened me is the number of people with disabilities who have made comments along the lines of thinking it was unfair for someone to sue the restaurant, that someone should have just nicely let them know they were out of compliance (as if they would have said oh, thanks for letting us know, and fixed it, instead of making all the same excuses for not complying if only they'd been told nicely), and that the person who sued was in the wrong, not the restaurant owners who were actually violating the law.  Well, I guess it's not very nice to sue someone, but you know, it's not very nice to violate the law in order to keep people with disabilities out of your business, either.  And when you violate the law, people are not required to be nice to you.  And why on earth would people blame those who were excluded unfairly from the restaurant instead of the restaurant owners that violated the law?

Apparently some people with disabilities are OK with being excluded.  They'd rather be "nice" than be included.  They think it's more important to be nice than to insist that business owners comply with laws that give them access to businesses.  They are more concerned with the rights of business owners than with their own civil rights.  Not just the rights of business owners, but the privileges of business owners.  Even though these business owners were violating the law, they are concerned that they lost their business and lost money.  They feel that's more important than their right to access a business. 

And that's sad to me.  Really sad.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Watching Cayenne Sleep

I'm sitting here watching Cayenne sleep.  She's been sleeping more lately.  If that's possible.  She's always slept a lot.  But over the last week, she's really, really been sleeping a lot. 

Right now she is curled up sleeping on the couch.  She spent a little time in the window earlier.  But she is spending more time sleeping on the couch and less time in the window lately.  She used to really, really enjoy sitting in the open window. 

And over the last week, she's spent a fair amount of time hiding under the couch and under the bed.  I assume that means she is not feeling well.  But she'll spend a day or half a day hiding, then come out and yowl until I serve her some canned cat food, then gobble it up like she's starving.  And I assume that means she's feeling better.

We might be getting close to the end.  I know I've said that before.  I've thought it before.  Always there has been a reprieve.  Maybe there will be another.  Maybe there won't.

I brushed her earlier, very gently.  She used to have this wonderfully full, fluffy tail.  It's not anymore.  I guess at some point, she lost some tail hair.  For some reason, that makes me really sad.

Today she ate her canned cat food, some dry cat food, a little shredded cheese, a little minced hotdog and a couple cat treats.  She is still interested in food. 

I think she is less interested in other things, though, like being brushed and looking out the window.

She's still beautiful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Am I Disturbing You?

I walked into the bedroom last night to get a blanket.  When I turned on the light, this is what I saw.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Can a Diabetic Alert Dog Help Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes?

More and more parents these days are choosing to buy diabetic alert dogs for their children with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a serious illness and can be life-threatening, especially in small children. Diabetic alert dogs are specially trained service dogs, meant to help people with diabetes.
The premise behind diabetic alert dogs is that dogs, with their super-sensitive noses, can detect when a person’s blood sugar drops too low or climbs too high. Service dogs can be trained to alert the person, usually by nudging them or pawing at them, and provide assistance in some way, such as by fetching a juice box from the fridge to raise low blood sugar. While on the surface this may sound like a great idea, there are some concerns about it in practice.

While there are now a number of organizations that sell diabetic alert dogs, their claims about their dogs’ abilities are as yet unproven. Simply put, scientific research has not yet proven dogs can be trained to accurately detect and alert people to changes in blood sugar levels. It should be noted that research has not disproven it, either. Owners of diabetic alert dogs generally claim their dogs are adept at alerting them. There simply hasn’t been much objective research done on the subject, though.  
It should also be noted that at least one organization that sells diabetic alert dogs has been sued, the plaintiff claiming the dog did not perform as promised. If you look at some of the claims some of these organizations make, you’ll see that it’s unlikely any dog could perform some of the feats promised. For instance, one organization has stated their dogs can detect changes in blood sugar from a mile away, which veterinary professionals and dog trainers say is simply impossible.

The truth is that, while the idea of a dog gently nudging you to let you know your blood sugar is low seems a lot more appealing than pricking your finger to test your blood sugar multiple times a day, especially for a child, a glucometer is probably more reliable.  

A glucometer is also a lot cheaper than a diabetic alert dog. Organizations that sell diabetic alert dogs often charge around $20,000, and that’s not counting the cost of feeding and caring for a service dog throughout its lifetime, which maybe be $1,200 or more each year. A glucometer, on the other hand, generally costs no more than $100 and test strips, even if you must test yourself several times a day, would cost less than $1,200 each year. Health insurance might cover part of that cost, too, but insurance almost never pays for service dogs, including diabetic alert dogs.

Of course, it’s hard to put a price on a child’s life, so many parents are willing to pay for a diabetic alert dog, no matter how high the cost, if they believe it will help their children. Relying on an expensive but unproven method of monitoring your child’s blood sugar levels could put your child at risk, though.

Another concern is that some organizations that sell diabetes alert dogs sell dogs that are very young, some still puppies. One organization sells puppies as young as eight weeks old. An eight-week-old puppy is not a trained service dog. He’s not even reliably housebroken. Families are told that, when the dog gets older, he can be trained to do things like fetch a glucometer, fetch a juice box or use a special hone to call 911. Experienced service dog trainers say there is no way to know for sure if a puppy will be able to successfully complete all the training needed to become a service dog, though. You may just end up with a $20,000 pet. In the meantime, the puppy won’t be able to go to school with your child or accompany your child to other places where pets or not allowed. Only fully trained service dogs are allowed by law to do that.

If you’re considering a diabetic alert dog for your child, do your research carefully. Make sure you’ll be getting a fully trained service dog, not a puppy that you’ll need to train as he gets older. Remember that a diabetic alert dog is not a substitute for medical care.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coping with Fatigue

Lately, I've seemed to have a bit more energy than usual.  And I've been enjoying it.  A lot.  I figure it must be a combination of sleeping better with my red lights, the increase in both my Cymbalta and gabapentin, and maybe getting more exercise since Isaac and I have been going for long walks every day.  My energy level has still been lower than what most other people seem to experience, but it's been an improvement for me, and I've been enjoying it.

Today, I crashed.

I guess that's not surprising.  It's just disappointing.  And frustrating.

Isaac woke me at 7:00 am and I took him out.  I fed him.  And I went back to bed.  I was exhausted still.

I woke up again at 10:30.  Took Isaac out again.  Summoned up all my strength and made myself a protein shake.  Sat on the couch for a little while.  Summoned up all my strength and coaxed Cayenne out from under the couch, where she's been spending most of her time the last two days (I think she is feeling unwell and I am worried about her), and gave her some stinky turkey baby food and her medication.  And went back to bed.

Got up again about 1:30.  Took Isaac out, ate a protein bar, called the pharmacy to refill a prescription.  Thought about doing some laundry.  Decided against it.  Went back to bed.

And that's how the day went.  Sleep a couple hours, wake up, take the dog out, eat something if I could find the energy.  Sit on the couch, struggling to stay awake for a bit.  Give up and go back to sleep.  Repeat.

All I've accomplished today, besides taking Isaac out to pee and feeding myself occasionally, is coaxing Cayenne out to feed and medicate her, calling in a script, and proofreading and submitting an article I finished writing yesterday.  That's it.  And now it's 9:30 pm and I'm exhausted.

I'm trying not to be too frustrated.  I'm so tired, it's hard to have strong emotions about anything.  Everything feels blunted, dull. 

I feel a bit guilty about paying so little attention to Isaac.  Oh, in addition to taking him out, I did play one round of Find the Hotdogs with him.  But still.  It was rainy this morning but nice this afternoon and evening, and he would have loved a walk.  Every time I woke up, he jumped to her feet, looking at me with hopeful eyes.  But I did not have the energy.  Yesterday morning, he went for a 60-minute run and yesterday afternoon, I took him to the lake to swim.  So he got lots of activity yesterday.  And he gets to go for a run tomorrow morning.  One boring, sleepy day won't hurt him.  But I still feel a bit bad.

I have a lot to do tomorrow.  Isaac and I are volunteering at the nursing home.  I have to get my neighbor and his son to carry my old couch out to the dumpster, because my new couch is coming Tuesday.  That means I'll need to move some stuff around, like my coffee table and end table, and I'll need to vacuum where the couch was.  I need to go pick up the prescription I called in today.  Those are all things that really need to be done and I really want to do, so if I need to rest today so I can do those things tomorrow, then that's what needs to happen.  It's what's best.

But I hate it.  I feel disappointed in myself and frustrated and... and exhausted.  Time to go back to bed, I guess.

I Wish I Could Bring My Dog in Here, Too

A few days ago, I had dinner at Chipotle with a couple friends.  My experience there is what inspired me to write yesterday about how having a service dog isn't always fun.

I'm told, by other service dog handlers, that it's not at all uncommon to hear people say things like "I wish I could take my dog everywhere" or "You're so lucky to get to take your dog everywhere with you."  But it had never been said to me, personally, until a few days ago.

It was raining hard.  After standing in the rain to put on Isaac's service dog vest, I was soaked.  And shivering.  It was a cold rain.

As I went through the line to get my food, Isaac at my side, an employee behind the counter said, "I wish I could bring my dog in here."

The remark surprised and upset me.  I don't know why it surprised me, really, because I've heard so many stories from other service dog handlers of people saying things like that.  But I'd never heard it myself and it did surprise me.

I said, coolly, "If you become disabled, then you can have a service dog, too."  Which I thought would be enough to set him straight. 

And he said, "My dog's a really good dog.  That's good enough for me."

Which surprised me further.  And pissed me off.

I said, "Well, that's not good enough for the law."

Do you get why it pissed me off so much?  Most dogs, no matter how "good" they are, would not be able to behave appropriately in a restaurant.  Isaac had a ton of training to learn to behave in a restaurant.  And not just the 18 months of training he had before I got him, either.  I worked with him extensively to get him to the point that he just goes right under a table and lies down and lies there quietly for an hour.  He had a hard time with that when I first got him.

When I first got Isaac, he simply could not handle a restaurant for more than 30 minutes.  And during that 30 minutes, I would have to tell him several times to go back under the table and to lie down.  So I started practicing with him at home.  I would put on his service dog gear and sit at the dining room table for 10 minutes.  I would watch the clock.  Every two minutes, I would reward him with a bit of hotdog, as long as he was lying quietly under the table.  We did it three times a day.  After a couple days he was doing that easily so I increased it to 15 minutes, with a bit of hotdog every three minutes.  After a couple more days, I increased it to 20 minutes, with a bit of hotdog every four minutes.  Every day.  Three times a day.

Once we were doing it for 30 minutes, I only did it twice a day.  But every single day.  Increasing the amount of time by five minutes until we were doing it for an hour.  And then I started cutting back on the number of times I rewarded him.  Do you get how tedious and time-consuming that was?  Trust me, it was not fun.

So I was pissed.  I stayed mad while I ate my dinner.  And I thought about how I wanted to handle it.

I decided to speak to the manager before I left.  I went up to the register and asked to speak to the manager.  Guess who came out to speak to me.  Go on, guess.  It was him!  The insensitive doofus! 

That really caught me off guard.  But I asked him his name and then told him I'd be calling to talk to his supervisor.  He just looked confused.

I came  home and got online and went to the Chipotle website and could not find any kind of phone number.  I ended up calling the restaurant I'd eaten at.  A woman answered the phone, so I knew I wasn't speaking to the manager I wanted to complain about.  I asked who his supervisor was and how I could reach her.

I called the supervisor first thing the next morning and she seemed very receptive.  She told me they'd had some other problems with that manager, though she didn't say what those other problems where.  She said she'd speak to him and take corrective action.  I hope she does.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's Not All Fun and Games

A lot of people seem to think having a service dog is fun.  It's really not.  Not so much.

Now, there are a lot of things about Isaac that are fun.  But those are mostly "pet dog" things.  Today I took Isaac to the lake and he went swimming and it was a lot of fun to watch him having fun.  But he was not being a service dog when he chased sticks into the water.  It's fun to buy him new toys and fun to play games with him at home.  But he's not being a service dog then.  He doesn't play with toys when he's working.  Those are "pet dog" things.  It's fun volunteering with him at the nursing home, but he's not being a service dog then.  He's being a therapy dog and pet dogs can be therapy dogs just as well as service dogs can.

I do enjoy having Isaac's assistance when he's being a service dog.  I really appreciate it when I am in line at Subway and drop a quarter on the floor and Isaac picks it up for me.  In the past, there have been times I've dropped change and decided just to leave it there because it was too difficult for me to pick it up.  I really appreciate it when I drop my keys in a parking lot and Isaac picks them up for me, because I can't just leave those there, I'd have to do it myself, and I don't like getting down on my knees in a parking lot and then struggling to get back up.  I enjoy all the time I have to do things now that I'm not in as much pain since I have Isaac to unload the dryer for me and now that my anxiety attacks are of much shorter duration since I have Isaac to bring me my medication at the beginning of an attack.

But I would call it fun to have Isaac pick up my dropped keys or unload the dryer or bring me medication when I'm having an anxiety attack.  Those are tasks that make my life easier and better and more pleasant, but they aren't fun.

I imagine someone that is unable to walk appreciates having a wheelchair so they can get around and they probably enjoy many of the places they can go and things they can do with their wheelchair.  But I don't know that they would call using a wheelchair "fun."  In fact, I imagine sometimes it's really not fun, like when they want to go someplace that is not wheelchair accessible.

Taking Isaac places where pets aren't normally allowed is not really fun.  It takes work.  I have to make sure he's well-groomed, I have to make sure I have his service dog vest and poop bags, I have to stand out in the cold or rain (depending on the weather) while I put on his vest (he stands on the back seat of the car but I have to be outside the car, I cannot reach him to do it from the front seat), I have to struggle with pushing a cart or carrying my tray of food while also holding a leash, I have to put up with people staring and pointing and talking about me and asking invasive personal questions, and so on.

I am grateful I have Isaac's help.  There are times I really like having him with me, like when I went to a doctor's appointment recently and was really anxious, and being able to pet him in the waiting room helped me feel less anxious.  I wouldn't call that fun, though.  It's just not that much fun.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Slowing Down Dinner

I bought Isaac this dish called a slow feeder.  It has grooves in it, kind of like a maze.  If he pushes the food around to one spot, it gets a little wider and is easier to get his mouth in there.  Otherwise, he has to kind of lick the kibble out of the groves with his tongue.

Here is what the dish looks like.

It took Isaac 16 minutes to eat his dinner.  I timed him.  Normally, he finishes in less than three minutes.

It was really interesting to watch him problem-solve and figure out the best way to get the food out of the grooves.

Isaac is very smart and he is also very, very motivated by food.  About 10 minutes into his meal, it occurred to him to just flip the dish over and dump out the food.  However, the dish is designed to be hard to flip.  The bottom is weighted and the sides are kind of rounded, to make it difficult to pick up the dish with his mouth.  He tried nudging the side of the dish with his nose, but that only pushed it around on the floor.  Then he tried pawing at the edge of the dish, but that didn't do anything.  Then he tried picking it up with his mouth, and he did manage to pick it up a few inches one time, but he couldn't lift it enough to turn it over so he ended up just putting it back down.

He hasn't quite figured out that if he pushes the food to the one spot where the grooves widen, it's easier to eat it.  I'm sure he will figure it out soon, though.

I think this dish is a great idea to help dogs eat slower and also to work on problem-solving skills at the same time.

Follow Up About the Rheumatologist Who Is Afraid of Dogs

After talking with some other service dog handlers, I decided the best way to deal with the rheumatologist who is afraid of dogs was to leave Isaac at home for appointments when I can and take a friend with me instead.  However, that probably will not always be possible. 

So, also on the advice of other service dog handlers, I decided to call her and ask what I could do to help her feel more comfortable with him present.  For instance, I could sit on the far side of the room from her, as long as she was not physically examining me.  At my first appointment with her, she did examine me, but last time, she just sat at a desk and talked to me.  The medical assistant took my vital signs before the doctor came into the room.  I could also bring a portable crate with me and crate Isaac while the doctor was in the room.  They make soft-sided crates that are lightweight and fold up to about the size of a diaper bag.  Or, if the doctor had any other ideas, I was open to hearing those.

Some people suggested I just fine a new rheumatologist who is comfortable with my service dog, but I live in a very rural area and this happens to be the only rheumatologist within a 45 minute drive.  There is another about an hour away but he does not take my insurance.  So I'd end up having to drive more than an hour to see someone else.  Which I could do, it's not like I see the rheumatologist very often.  But I'd prefer to keep seeing her if possible.

So I called and spoke to the medical assistant, who then talked to the doctor and called me back.  The doctor said she would "try to work around my service dog" and let me know if she decided she was just too uncomfortable.  The medical assistant said she thought crated Isaac during the appointment would help, so I will do that.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about all this.  I understand some people are just scared of dogs.  I don't know why she is scared of dogs, but I don't really need to know.  Maybe she had a bad experience in the past.  I want to respect her feelings.  I'm glad she is being honest with me about it.  And she didn't say I couldn't bring him, she's not violating the law.  It troubles me, though.  Hopefully I can get a friend to go with me to my next appointment.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sleeping with All His Friends

Look at him. He is sleeping on his favorite blankie, with his paw on his pork chomp bone, one Kong in front of his face, and another Kong and Mr. Pickle right behind his head. I think it's so cute when he sleeps with his toys.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Therapy Dog's First Day

Yesterday was Isaac's first day as a therapy dog at a local nursing home.

Doesn't he look cute?

I didn't want him to wear his service dog vest because that means he's on duty.  It means, to him, that he's not supposed to socialize and stuff.  But I wanted something to mark him as a special dog.  So I went with a purple bandana.  I bought him a blue one, too.  For several days before his first day as a therapy dog, I let him wear the bandana for short periods of time around the house, to get used to it.  I had him perform various tasks and we played with toys and he got lots of treats.

Isaac did great and I think he had a really nice time.  He was really calm and just enjoyed meeting all the people.

I was surprised at the number of people that didn't want to pet him.  I expected a few wouldn't, for whatever reason, which of course is OK.  But there were more than I expected that didn't want to.

Of course, many people did want to pet him. A couple people ended up following us down the hall because after they'd had a turn petting him, they still wanted more time with him.

The activity director took us around to see everyone and she was moving kind of fast.  Hopefully in the future, either we will be able to go around ourselves or if she wants to take us around every time, I can get her to slow down a little.  I think several of the residents would have really liked to spend more time with Isaac.

It was a really interesting experience.  I viewed my job as just taking Isaac around, putting him in the right place, and then allowing him to do his thing.  I wasn't doing any type of "therapy" with people.  I was like Isaac's chauffeur or something.  And Isaac's job, the "therapy" he was doing, was just being himself.  It was a really beautiful thing to watch.

Several residents told me something about dogs they used to have.  One elderly woman told me that when he late husband proposed to her, she had told him she would only marry him if he would allow her to have a dog after they got married.  One man in the Alzheimer's unit seemed to think he recognized Isaac, that Isaac was a dog he'd known before.  He looked quite surprised to see him and said, "Why, you've gotten a lot bigger, haven't you?"  Another man in the Alzheimer's unit told the activity director, as he was petting Isaac's head, "This is the dog I've been telling you about!"

One woman in the Alzheimer's unit seemed unaware of anything that was going on around her.  When I asked her if she wanted to pet the dog, she didn't respond at first.  But then she moved her hand toward him, just a little.  I gently placed her hand on Isaac's head.  After a minute, she began to pet him.  Then she said, "He's furry."  I said, "Yes, he sure is furry."  Several times, she repeated that he was furry.  I told her his name and she repeated that.  I asked her what her name was and she answered me.  Then she said, "Do you think they would let me keep him?"  I promised her we would come back again to visit.

One woman was lying back in a recliner.  She really wanted to pet Isaac and he rested his head on the arm of the recliner so she could stroke his head.  Then I had him put his paws up on the arm of the chair and she said, "Oh!" and seemed surprised that he could do that.  Then she leaned over close to him and he gave her a little kiss on the nose.  She was delighted.  She kept touching her nose and saying, over and over again, "He kissed me!  He kissed me right here!  Right here, this is where he kissed me."  I told her, "That means he really likes you."

Another woman was sitting in a wheelchair.  Isaac sat right in front of her and she petted him for a few minutes, then he lay down across her feet.  She was delighted.  She told him it would be lunchtime soon and that the were having fried chicken and that if he stuck around, she would give him some of her chicken.  Several times, she said things like, "He could just stay here with me all day.  I'd be happy to keep him.  He could stay here with me in my room."  She was one of the residents that ended up following us down the hall so she could spend a little more time in his presence.

Another woman was so excited to see him heading across the room toward her that she jumped out of her chair and practically knocked some other chairs over in her hurry to get to him.  I told her she could sit down and I would bring him over to her but she couldn't wait.  She was just so thrilled to get to see him.

We are going to volunteer every Monday.  I can't wait to see what happens next time.