Saturday, February 28, 2015

Update on the Juice Dog

Isaac and I have been working on fetching juice for seven days now. 

At this point, I can stand slightly inside my living room and give Isaac the command "juice" and point in the direction of the fridge and he runs to the fridge and opens it.  I don't have to give the command to open the fridge first, although I still give him that command at other times, because I want him to remember it, too.  Sometimes he immediately goes for the juice box after opening the fridge, other times he starts to come back to me and I have to remind him by giving the command "juice" again. 

I tried standing further inside the living room, out of direct sight of the fridge, but then Isaac seemed confused about what I was asking for.  He headed for the kitchen but instead of opening the fridge, started to turn on the kitchen light.  Like I've said previously, I don't know why he has trouble with a task the further away I am from where he needs to go to complete the task, but he had similar issues with turning on the lights and retrieving my meds.  I dealt with that by gradually moving further and further away and now he can get my  meds no matter what room I am in when I give the command.

I think I said, when I started teaching Isaac the task of fetching juice, that I thought it would take about two weeks to get it down well.  I think we are on track to accomplish that.

Friday, February 27, 2015


This was Isaac yesterday evening, just hanging out and relaxing in the living room.

Just in Case...

Me (sitting on the toilet): Isaac, I love you but I don't really need your help right now.

Isaac (resting his head on my knee and gazing at me adoringly while wagging his tail with great enthusiasm): I'll just stay right here just in case.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snowy Day at the State Park

Here's Isaac on the ridge above the lake at the state park near our home yesterday.

It was good for both of us to have a chance to get out and hike a little.  Unfortunately, today it is 11 degrees out and we are trapped inside.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Online Auction to Raise Money for a Service Dog

I posted recently about Sheena, who is fundraising for a service dog.

There is also going to be an online auction to raise money. It will be on Facebook and I will post a link to it when it's available. In the meantime, if anyone would like to donate anything - it could be anything, many people I know are donated something they've made, like jewelry or a scarf they knitted or something - please PM me and I'll connect you with the person in charge of setting it all up.

On Opening the Fridge

I've mentioned before that Isaac opens the fridge on command.  And, hopefully, will soon be opening it in order to bring me juice as well.

I do not normally need Isaac to open the fridge for me.  His trainer taught him to do it, apparently that is something she teaches most of the dogs she trains, and it's something I have him do a lot because he likes doing it and because he is just happier when he gets to work.  If I am in the kitchen putting away groceries or cooking, Isaac likes to be in there with me.  And he gets underfoot.  He is happier if I give him jobs to do, like opening the fridge.

He opens it by tugging on this braided fleece rope that is looped around the door handle.  When I first got Isaac, I wondered if he would open it on his own, without being told, when I was not around to supervise him, and help himself to hotdogs or something.  He knows there are hotdogs in there.  He knows there is cheese in there.  He is a smart dog.

But he has never, ever, ever attempted to open the fridge without being told to do so.  I don't think it occurs to him that he could.  I think in his mind, that is just something he only does, only can do, when I tell him to.  Which is just fine with me.

It's funny, though.  He could go in there as soon as I fall asleep and help himself to  a whole pack of hotdogs.  He just doesn't realize he could do that.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fundraising for a Service Dog - Can You Help?

I know, you don't have a lot of extra cash.  Me neither.  But I am getting ready to make a small donation and I hope you will, too.

I wrote about Sheena and the difficult decision she had to make about a year ago to return her service dog to his program.  He'd developed very severe allergies and was unable to work anymore, plus required expensive medication that she simply could not afford.  It was a heartbreaking decision for her.

Now, she is about to get a service dog from another program.  Finally.  And she so needs it.

But she also needs money.  Because service dogs are expensive because it takes a lot of time and work the train them.  And insurance won't help cover the cost.

If you can help, please, please do.  If everyone that reads this donates just $5, it could make a world of difference in the life of someone that has been struggling for a long time.  Here's where you can go to learn more about Sheena and how a service dog will help her.  Please join me in making a real difference.

Juice Dog

Isaac and I are continuing to work on fetching a juice box from the fridge, as I wrote about the other day.

After fetching juice boxes over and over again, he managed to poke holes in two boxes, once causing juice to dribble all over the kitchen floor and once causing it to squirt everywhere.  I decided to put three of the remaining boxes out of his reach and to wrap the remaining three in clear plastic packaging tape.  My hope was that it would be a lot harder for him to poke holes in the boxes that way, and it does seem to be working. 

Of course, I'm not sure how I'd actually open the box to drink the juice.  I'd need him to also fetch a big knife to saw off the top or something, since the entire box is now sealed in tape.  And no, I would not really have him fetch a knife.  I never have Isaac pick up anything sharp like that.

These boxes are just for practice.  Hopefully when he has fully learned the task and is no longer picking up the boxes over and over and over again, he will be less likely to poke a hole in one.  Or perhaps I will look for a brand that makes sturdier juice boxes.  I don't know.  I'm not worried about how I will open the box at the moment.  Right now I am focused on training him to fetch it for me and that's all.

I have been giving Isaac the command to open the fridge, then giving him the command "juice".  He is accustomed to opening the fridge for me already.  And he has now, after three days, learned the command "juice."  He is also good at picking up the box.  He knows how to pick it up, the right angle to turn his head, that sort of thing.

I am now working on standing further away from the fridge when I give the "juice" command.  If I am too far away, Isaac looks like he's not sure what I want.  I don't know exactly why it works this way, but he did it with the lights, too.  For a long time, he would only turn on the light switch if I was standing near it.  Now I can be lying on the couch all the way across the room and say "lights" and he turns them on, but it took many days of practicing with me slowly moving further and further away from the switch before he would do that.  So that's where we are right now with the juice.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Feeling Depressed

I have been feeling pretty depressed the last few days.  I dunno why.

I feel lonely.  Last night I was thinking, Isaac is such a good companion, he's a really good friend, but... well, sometimes I wish I had someone to talk to.  Because talking to myself in my head, or here on my blog, I mean.  I was thinking about it, and in the last time I had a conversation with someone, beyond the hello/how are you/it sure is cold out/thank you/goodbye kind of conversation with the checkout person at the grocery store was over a week ago, I think.  I had lunch at Subway with a friend.  Today I saw my massage therapist and we talked about the weather and that was the longest conversation since the lunch at Subway over a week ago.

I was supposed to get together with a friend yesterday.  We'd planned it two weeks ago.  Then she backed out of the plans.  So I called another friend and asked if he wanted to go for a walk with me and Isaac.  He said yes but he was busy, he would call me back in half an hour.  He didn't.  Well, he did call, but not in half an hour.  After 50 minutes, I decided Isaac and I were going to the park by ourselves.  He called a little while after we'd gotten there and were already hiking.

So I spent the day along.  Well, with Isaac.  I love Isaac.  He's a good listener.  But sometimes I would like to have a conversation with someone that talks back.  Just sometimes.

So I feel lonely.  And depressed.  I am doing all the things I know to do to deal with it.  I went to the park with Isaac yesterday even though no one was available to go with me.  We walked for almost an hour.  Later that night, we took another walk down the road, about 20 minutes.  I came home, took a long hot bath.  Lit some incense.  Today I had an appointment with my massage therapist, so I had a massage.  Nice nurturing stuff that is supposed to make me feel better.

But I don't, not much.  I feel lonely and depressed.

I cleaned my kitchen.  Worked on some training with Isaac.  Doing something, anything, sometimes helps.  It's better than sitting on the couch thinking about how lonely and depressed I am.

But I still don't feel much better.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fetching Juice

A few days ago, I woke up and my legs hurt something awful.  I think it was the day before I got to go back to my acupuncturist, and I hadn't been in a week, plus I'd had the flu, so I was having a lot more pain than I'd had since I started going to acupuncture.  And for a few days, my legs were aching something awful.  It was keeping me up at night, waking me during the night, which hadn't happened since I'd started seeing the acupuncturist.  I mean, I've had trouble sleeping for other reasons, but not due to pain.

The morning, though, I woke up and my legs hurt so much it was hard to move.  So I called Isaac and asked him to get my meds.  My meds are in this little vinyl pouch and I have both anxiety meds and meds for pain in there.  I don't have many pain meds in there because I simply do not possess many pain meds these days, but I have a few Tramadol left from last year when my doctor was still prescribing them for me. 

Normally when I need Isaac to bring my meds, it's for my anxiety meds.  Those are a small capsule, easy to swallow even without anything to drink if I don't happen to have a drink handy.  Usually when I need my anxiety meds, though, I can get a drink if I want one.

I don't think I've ever taken a Tramadol without a drink before.  They aren't big tablets so I would have thought it would be easy to swallow.  And honestly, my thought had always been that if I really needed a pain pill, I'd take it without a drink if I had to, even if I had to chew the darn thing.  I mean, when you are in too much pain to move, you don't really care about stuff like a bad-tasting pain pill.  You just want relief.

Well, I had no idea Tramadol tasted so bad!  That's how I know I must not have ever taken one without something to drink before.  I'd remember that icky taste.  I got it down because I needed it, but ugh.

So I decided Isaac really needed to learn to fetch me something to drink.  I started to teach him that once before but it wasn't something I really needed and I was having trouble with training him to do it for several reasons and I just gave up.  That was about a year ago, though, and Isaac and I have both learned a lot since then and I think I know what the problems were last time and I decided I needed him to learn it now.

I decided to buy some juice boxes and teach him to fetch one of those.  I decided on juice boxes for a few reasons.  If I am taking a bad-tasting pill, might as well have something flavored to get it down with.  Water doesn't always cover up a nasty pill taste so well, I have discovered.  Also, sometimes my blood sugar drops really low and it might be helpful at some point to have him bring a juice box because the naturally-occurring sugar in the juice would help get my blood sugar back up.  Finally, Isaac loves to play with plastic bottles, like water bottles.  He thinks they make great toys.  Teaching him to fetch a bottle of water might therefore be difficult (I think that was part of my problem last time I tried to teach him to get me a drink) because he thinks of them as playthings instead of something to bring me.

Oh.  And water bottles fall over easily in the fridge.  Juice boxes don't.  And that makes them easier to pick up.  When I tried putting a bottle of water in the door of the fridge, it was likely to fall over when Isaac opened the fridge.  Juice boxes sit nicely in the door of the fridge.

So.  Juice boxes it is.  I know, it's a terribly choice from an environmental perspective.  But it's not like I'm going to drink a lot of them.  I bought a pack of eight and I expect those will last me a year or so.  I seldom drink juice at all, and if I can go into the kitchen myself and get a drink, it won't be a juice box.  Those are just for when I need Isaac to fetch a drink for me.

Today I started with having Isaac pick up a juice box out of the fridge.  I used the command "get it" to start with, while pointing at the juice box.  He found them pretty easy to pick up.  Then I started adding the word "juice," like saying "get it, get juice," while still pointing.  We did that multiple times today, just about each time I went into the kitchen for anything.

Tomorrow I will start with "get it, get juice," to remind him of the word, then I will point to it but just say "get juice."  Then I will drop the word "get" and just say "juice," while still pointing to it.

That's all I plan to work on tomorrow.  Supposing that goes well, which I expect it will, the following day I will start with "get juice" while pointing to it (kind of a refresher each morning, going back one step), then move on to just saying "juice" while pointing to it, then seeing if he will get it if I am standing right there but not pointing at it.  Or maybe I will stand a few steps away but still point, while saying "juice."  Gradually I will move further away from the fridge, so he has to bring the juice to me when he picks it up.

I will also have him open the refrigerator door, which is something he already does on command, before getting the juice (as opposed to me opening it instead of him doing it).  At some point, I will say "juice" and point to the refrigerator door as a reminder that he needs to open the door in order to get the juice and see if he can figure that out.  I think he will be able to.  And then later on, I will say "juice" without pointing to the refrigerator door and see if he thinks to open it on his own.  If he doesn't, I'll point as a way of giving him a hint.

At some point, I will open the door and then go into the living room and sit on the couch and tell him "juice" and let him go into the kitchen and get the juice box and bring it to me.  Later, I will progress to having him open the door himself in order to get the juice.

At some point I will teach him to go back into the kitchen and close the fridge, but I am not really worried about that right now.

Isaac learns really fast.  While this sounds like a long, slow process, it will go fast.  We will practice several times a day, only for a few minutes at a time.  We did a similar thing with learning to carry things for me, and he learned that in a weekend.  This is a bit more complex, but I bet he is doing it in no more than two weeks.  Probably less.  I will keep you updated.  And at some point, I will try to get a video to post.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Doggie in Deep Snow

We have had a lot of snow today.  It's not as cold as it has been, though, so Isaac and I went out for a walk.  My parking lot had not been cleared yet and I didn't think I could get my car out, so we just headed down our street to this big empty field at the end of  the road.

I bet the snow in that field was a foot deep.  It came up over the tops of my boots, much to my dismay.

Isaac had a blast, though.  Now he is sleeping it off.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hello Doggie!

Isaac and I were at Joann Fabrics today and these three-year-old twin girls (who were adorable, by the way) came running up to him, squealing "hello doggie! hello doggie!", grabbing him around the neck and patting him on the face. I bent down so I could make eye contact with them both and told them it's not safe to run up to a doggie they don't know and touch him because they don't know if the doggie might bite.

Their mom arrived 30 seconds behind them and said to me, "They are three." 

I said, "OK, well, it's not safe for three-year-olds to run up to a strange dog and start touching him. My dog doesn't bite. But the next dog they run up to might." 

This whole time, the kids are patting Isaac on the head, neck, face, nose, mouth, everywhere. Isaac, of course, is delighted because he loves kids. He is happily wagging his tail. But the mom just looked kind of confused, like she didn't understand why she shouldn't let her kids run up to a strange dog. 

What is wrong with some parents?

It Always Makes Me Smile

A couple days ago, Isaac and I braved the awful cold to go to the dollar store to pick up a few things.  I was nearly recovered from the flu or whatever it was I had and we were both tired of being stuck in the house.  Isaac was more tired of being stuck in the house than I was.  I had an acupuncture appointment early the next morning, though, and needed to get some gas and wanted to do it the day before because it sucks to stand outside when it is zero degrees early in the morning pumping gas.  So we headed to the dollar store.

We shop there fairly often.  Two or three times a month.  There are certain items that I always buy there, like dish soap and kitchen sponges and shampoo and these patches you stick on your back to relieve pain (they are like Bengay but in a patch instead of a messy cream).  And dog treats.  Can't forget the dog treats.

I was at the counter, paying.  Isaac was standing quietly beside me, being the perfectly behaved service dog he is sometimes.

The woman behind the counter said, "It always makes me smile when you two come in here."

That's all.  She didn't ask to pet Isaac, didn't make kissy noises at him, didn't ask if I was training him for a blind person or if I was blind or what was wrong with me.

Just "It always makes me smile when you two come in here."

How nice is that?  Made me smile.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What Law Applies? Part II

 While the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to may situations and places you may go with your service dog, it doesn't apply everywhere.  Go here to read about where the ADA does apply.  But here are some other laws you should know about.

The Fair Housing Act Amendment (FHA)

This is the law that says landlords must make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. That means service dogs, emotional support animals (which don't have to be dogs) and service dogs in training must be allowed in no pets housing and that landlords can't charge any additional fees or deposit for these animals.  Some landlords are exempt from the FHA, though.  For instance, they have to have more than four rental units in order for the FHA to apply.  They can require  you to provide documentation verifying you need a reasonable accommodation but it doesn't have to say what your disability is.  If you feel you've been denied access or discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)

This is the law that says airlines flying within the US must make reasonable accommodations for customers with disabilities.  This means they must allow service dogs and emotional support animals (which don't have to be dogs) to fly in the cabin of the plane and they cannot charge an additional fee for the animals.  Airlines can require you to provide documentation if you want to fly with a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal, though.   If you feel you've been denied access or discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

 And for more information, please visit this Guide to Disability Rights Laws provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Illegally Parked Driver Backs Up and Crushes Legally Parked Driver's Wheelchair

Check out this video.  Prepare to be horrified.

If anyone has any clue who the asshole that crushed her wheelchair might be, please please please, turn him in to the cops.

What Law Applies? Part I

I often find people to be confused about this, and while the law can be a complicated matter, I thought I'd try to break it down a bit.  Let's start with the ADA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

There are actually four parts to the ADA.

Title I of the ADA - This says employers with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against applicants or employees with disabilities, including those with service dogs, and must make reasonable accommodations, including allowing employees to bring service dogs to work (provided that it's reasonable to do so, which means there may be some jobs where you couldn't bring a service dog, like if you work in a kitchen or in a hospital operating room).  Note that this law does not apply to service dogs in training, only fully trained service dogs.  If you feel you've been discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Title II of the ADA - This says state and local governments have to make reasonable accommodations for people disabilities, including those with service dogs.  It's the law that allows you to take your service dog to places like state or city recreational facilities or parks, state social service offices (like the food stamp or Medicaid office), state and local courts, public libraries, and town meetings.  It also applies to public schools and state colleges and universities, although you can be required to provide some documentation to verify you need a reasonable accommodation in those settings.  Note that this law does not apply to service dogs in training, only fully trained service dogs.  Also note that this law does not apply to the federal government, so places like the post office, federal courts, Social Security offices, VA hospitals and clinics, and national parks do not have to comply with the ADA but get to have their own rules.  If you feel you've been denied access or discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Title II of the ADA is also the law that says you can take your service dog on public trains, subways, buses and other forms of transportation (except for airplanes, which are covered by the Air Carriers Access Act).  If you feel you've  been denied access or discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Title III of the ADA - This says business and non-profits that serve the general public must make reasonable accommodations for people disabilities, including those with service dogs.  It's the law that allows you to take your service dog to places like restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools (you can be required to provide some documentation to verify you need a reasonable accommodation in a private school, just like in a public school), convention centers, doctors' offices, hospitals, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos (though some areas may be off limits), funeral homes, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by this law.  Note that this law does not apply to service dogs in training, only fully trained service dogs.  Note that some public places, like churches, are exempt.  If you feel you've been denied access or discriminated against under this law, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Title IV of the ADA -  This is about telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities.  It says telephone companies have to have a telephone relay service and federally funded public service announcements on TV must be closed captioned.  It has nothing to do with service dogs.  If you feel your rights have been violated under this law, you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

And for more information, please visit this Guide to Disability Rights Laws provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Can you tell it was snowing?

It was snowing very hard when Isaac and I headed out to the store. This is how he looked when he got to the car.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Think I Have the Flu

Which totally sucks, especially since I got vaccinated.  And it's February.  I figured flu season was almost over but apparently in my state it is still in full swing, according to the CDC.  And according to the CDC, the flu vaccine was not particularly effective this year.  All of which sucks.

I think I started getting sick Tuesday.  I was exceptionally tired all day Tuesday.  But I thought it was because I'd had a really busy day Monday.  I did a lot of housecleaning, including scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen floors.  I was a little frustrated that cleaning my tiny apartment would leave me so exhausted the next day, but I thought that was why I was so tired.

Wednesday and Thursday I had a little more energy, though I still felt tired, and I felt kind of achy, but I have fibromyalgia, I always feel achy.  I thought maybe I was achier than usual, but it's hard to tell.

Then I woke up about 4 am this morning, feeling chilled and feverish and aching all over.  I didn't have a fever.  Well, my temp was slightly higher than what's normal for me, especially at 4 am, but it was only 98.1.  My temp usually runs about 97.7 or so, though.  I dunno why.  My blood pressure runs low, too.

My throat kind of hurts and feels scratchy.  I have a little cough but not too bad.  And my head hurts.  My eyes feel dry and irritated.

And I am exhausted.  I slept most of the day.

Oh, and my stomach feels a little icky and I have no appetite (which is super unusual for me) and nothing tastes good.  Maybe I will lose a couple pounds.

I thought about calling my primary care doctor to see if I could get in to see him today to ask for some Tamiflu, if indeed what I have is the flu.  I thought it unlikely I'd be able to get in today, though.  And then I did a little reading on Tamiflu and decided I didn't want it anyway. 

If I was started to get sick on Tuesday, then it's too late for the Tamiflu to work anyway.  If I didn't start getting sick until this morning, then the Tamiflu could work, but apparently studies have shown mixed results about if it even works.  If it does work, it is supposed to shorten the duration of the flu by one to two days.  Well, the flu typically lasts six to seven days, so that would mean if you take Tamiflu and if it works, you'd only be sick for four to six days instead.  That's not a huge difference to me.

But my biggest concern is about potential side effects, which apparently include psychiatric symptoms like hallucination and self-harming behaviors. 

I try to avoid medications with those kinds of symptoms.  I once took an allergy medication, by prescription, that made my depression much worse.  I once took a drug to prevent migraines that causes horrible nightmares and hallucinations.  Those kinds of side effects aren't real common but they are known side effects of some drugs, and doctors seem to overlook them a lot since they aren't real common. 

But why would you give a drug that can cause depression to a patient that has been suicidally depressed before?  Why would you give a drug that can cause nightmares and hallucination to a patient with PTSD and a history of severe nightmares and night terrors?  Shouldn't you at least warn the patient and ask if they wanted to take that risk and try the drug anyway?  And let them know what to do if they experience any of those side effects?

Well, in those two instances, two different doctors gave me those drugs and didn't warn me about the possible side effects at all.  Now, I look up any medication before I take it.  I realize most people that take Tamiflu are not going to hallucinate and harm themselves, but that's just not a chance I want to take.  Especially not if the only benefit is possibly knocking one to two days off my flu, and it might not even due that.

But being sick sucks.  I mean, living with fibro sucks but the flu really sucks.  Poor Isaac is bored and wants to go for a walk or play or something.  I just want to sleep.  I did spend a little time with Isaac today working on retrievals.  I was teaching him to take books off my bookshelf and give them to me.  Which he has apparently now mastered.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Dog's Working?

Conversation overheard while standing in line today at Subway.

Guy #1 to his dining companion: That dog's working.

Guy #2: Huh?

Guy #1: It says on his thing right there, please don't pet me, I'm working.

Guy #2: The dog's working?

Guy #1: That's what it says.
Guy #2: What's that mean?

Guy #1: I think it's one of those Seeing Eye Dogs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Picking Up Lemons, Take One

Here you can see Isaac, picking up lemons.  You can see how much encouragement he needed to do it.  Normally he picks things up right away.  I ended up kneeling on the floor right by him and the lemon in order to get him to pick it up.  Normally I just stand there and point and he picks an item up.  We will continue to work on it.  The lemon, by the way, was quite slobbery by the time I got it in my hand.

When Life Gives You Lemons

I found something Isaac does not like to pick up.

He will pick up almost anything. I think at first he wasn't too fond of metal, like my keys, but he does not mind those now. And he really loves retrieving things.

But yesterday I dropped a couple lemons in the kitchen and he was not thrilled to pick those up. He sniffed them and thought about it, then looked at me like, "Um, that's fruit. I don't like fruit."

He did eventually pick up two lemons, though, and got a lot of praise and a toss of his favorite toy. I guess we will practice some retrieves with fruit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Today at the Grocery Store

Woman at the grocery store: Ooh, Can I say hello to your doggie?

Me: No. He is working and that would distract him.
Woman: I know, that's why I asked.

Me: ??????

Monday, February 9, 2015

On the Trail of... Something

Running in the Snow

Yesterday Isaac and I went up to East Harbor State Park.  We hadn't been there since fall, since it got cold.  It's a long drive and it's really more of a summer place, with the lake and beach and everything.  But I wanted to do something different, something sort of special.  I definitely like it better there when it's warm, but Isaac had a good time.

The snow was deeper than he is used to, especially in places where it had drifted.  He had a blast leaping through it.

Parents, Please Supervise Your Kids

The other day at Kroger this little kid, about five or so, came running up to Isaac, squealing "puppy puppy puppy!" and started to pet him.

I stopped him, got down to his eye level, and told him "It is never OK to run up and pet a dog without asking. You don't know if it's a nice dog or if it might bite you." He looked surprised at being corrected.

I didn't see an adult anywhere nearby, so I asked him where his mom was. And then felt kind of bad because he said "I don't have a mom." Oops.

But I asked who was at the store with him and he said his grandpa. So I asked where his grandpa was, and surprise surprise, he wasn't quite sure. So we went off together to find grandpa, who was all the way on the other side of the store. I suggested to grandpa that he might want to watch his kid better because he was on the other side of the store unsupervised and ran up to my dog and started petting him without asking, which is not safe.

I normally let kids pet Isaac when they ask to.  This is only the second time ever I've had a kid pet without asking.  Adults do it all the time, but kids almost always ask me.

The other time, the kid's brother smacked him upside the head and said "You're not supposed to pet that dog, dummy!"

In this instance, I felt like it was more important to tell the kid that his behavior was unsafe than to let him pet Isaac.  Of course, Isaac does not mind a kid running up to him and petting him, but some dogs sure would mind.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Have No Idea What You're Talking About

When you go out in public with a service dog, you get all sorts of comments.  Funny ones, rude ones, strange ones.  Sometimes I have no clue whatsoever a person is talking about.  I usually don't ask.  I just smile and nod.

Today Isaac and I stopped at a dollar store, not the one we usually shop at.  When I was paying for my purchases, the cashier remarked that Isaac was "just standing there at attention."  I said, "yes, he is."

Then she said, "We watch Wrangler every morning."  I don't know who "we" was and I have no clue who or what Wrangler is.  I kind of had the idea she was talking about something on TV but I don't know.  I'm guessing it has something to do with a dog.

I just smiled, nodded, and said "Oh."

Friday, February 6, 2015


Here's the paw print tattoo.
The writing above the paw print says "because you showed me the light" and the writing below it says "and the light was beautiful."  It's hard to read in this pic because my phone doesn't take good pics.  I will get better pics when I can.

And here is the kitty cat tattoo.
The tail wraps around my arm, like this.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tattoos Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, I am getting two tattoos.

I feel like I need to explain why I am choosing to spend money on getting tattoos when I am on such a limited budget, and I hate that I feel that way, because why shouldn't I be able to spend my money on whatever I want to spend it on?  Well, I can.  And I will.  And I don't owe anyone an explanation.

And yet... I think this is a common feeling, when you are poor.  People question what you have in your grocery cart when you are paying for your groceries with food stamps.  There is a feeling of needing to justify one's decisions, one's choices.  And I don't think people with plenty of money have that.  At least not this much.

So I am trying to resist the urge to justify my choice.

I want to talk about the tattoos, though, and why I want them.  I just don't want to justify the expense.

I have chosen to get two tattoos.  I have thought about them for a long time, wanting to make absolutely sure of my decision.  And I have settled on these.

The first will be a cat on my left forearm.  This tattoo will represent my cat Eileen, who died about eight-and-a-half years ago.  Eileen, I have said, is my soul mate.  I started to change the "is" in that sentence to "was," but even though she's gone, I still feel that way about her.  Eileen loved me unconditionally.  I think that was the first time in my life I ever experienced unconditional love.  So this tattoo will not only represent Eileen, it will represent that unconditional love.  It will remind me of that unconditional love every time I see it.

It is going on my left forearm because in the past, I have cut myself often on my forearms, especially the left one (just because I am right-handed).  I really want to be reminded of that unconditional love in that spot on my body.  And I will not cut in that spot anymore, because I will not cut that tattoo (not that I am planning on cutting anyway, haven't done that in a long time, but I guess you never know).

The second tattoo will be Isaac's paw print over my heart.  Above the paw print will be the words "because you showed me the light" and below the paw print will be the words "and the light was beautiful."  If it's not obvious, this will represent what Isaac has meant to me, to my life.  And it will be a reminder of that, even when Isaac is not with me.  I hope to carry his love, his joy, his enthusiasm, his energy, his love of life, with me always.

These are important things for me.  Meaningful things.  Things I hope to be healing.

I will be posting pics in a day or two, of course.

And yes, Isaac will be going with me when I go to get the tattoo.  If you are wondering, service dogs are allowed in tattoo shops.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Money-Saving Service Dog Tips

Service dogs are expensive.  And many people, though certainly not all, that need service dogs are on limited incomes.  If you are receiving SSI or SSDI, you probably aren't getting much money.  And people with disabilities often have many other medical expenses in addition to service dog-related expenses, not all of which are covered by insurance.  For instance, last year I spent $2,055.43 out of pocket on medical expenses, and that is not counting the $2,334.53 I spent on service dog stuff.  This is a significant percent of my annual income and it's hard to afford.

So how do you save money on service dog stuff?  Here are some tips.

  • Service dog-related expenses can be tax deductible, just like any other medical expense.  See this article by accountant Traci McGowan for more information.
  • If you receive food stamps (SNAP), turn in copies of receipts or other documentation for all medical expenses, including service dog-related expenses.  It can increase your benefits.
  • If you are on Medicaid and have a spend down, turn in copies of receipts or other documentation for all medical expenses, including service dog-related expenses.  It can decrease your spend down and also be used to meet your monthly spend down.
  • If you live in subsidized housing, like HUD housing, Metropolitan Housing or Section 8 housing, turn in copies of receipts or other documentation for all medical expenses, including service dog-related expenses.  It can lower your rent.
  • Note that you will need receipts or other documentation for all these things.  Save your receipts for all service dog-related things.  See this list for examples.
  • Keep track of your mileage when you take your dog to the vet.  This counts as medical mileage, which can be tax deductible and can be used to lower your rent or increase benefits like SNAP.  I use a simple spreadsheet in which I record the date, where I am going, and how  many miles round trip I drive.  I multiply the number of miles by the amount allowed by the IRS (which seems to change every year - I think it is 23.5 cents this year).
  • Ask your vet, groomer, and any other dog-related professionals if they will offer a service dog discount.  They don't have to and not all do, but some will.  My vet does not charge me for office visits, although I pay for medication, vaccinations, etc.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Call Your Mother or Pay for Your Coffee

So I saw this commercial online for McDonald's, who I guess has some sort of promotion going on where they ask you to do something nice instead of paying for your food. In the commercial, the employee asked the customer if he had his cell phone with him and when the guy said yes, the employee told him to call up his mom and tell her he loved her.

I have a problem with this. If, instead of asking for $1.99 to pay for my iced coffee this morning they had told me to call my mother, I would have been really upset. I guess I would have had to say "I can't do that since my mother isn't speaking to me because I told people my father sexually abused me when I was a child. Can I just give you two bucks instead?" But what about other customers that cannot call their mothers for whatever reason?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Poor Isaac

One of the things Isaac often does for me in the morning is turn on the lights.  Since it is winter and doesn't get light out very early right now, it is often still dark when Isaac wakes me up.  He generally gets up a little after six.  He wakes me up, I take him out to pee and give him his breakfast, and we both go back to bed for a little while.

Sometimes I sleep with the lights on but when I sleep with them off, when Isaac wakes me up, I will tell him to turn on the lights while I sit up and try to wake up a bit.  He is always enthusiastic about turning on the lights, but sometimes in his enthusiasm, he kind of brushes the light switch with his nose but doesn't actually flip it up and turn it on.  When that happens, I tell him again to get the lights, and he does.

Well, the other morning, I told Isaac to get the lights and he did his thing but the light did not come on.  I figured he just didn't flip the switch and told him to do it again.  And again, the poked at the switch with his nose but the light did not come on.  So I told him to do it again.

After a few times of this, Isaac appeared confused.  He seemed to think maybe it wasn't the lights that I wanted.  So he brought me my meds instead.  This is pretty typical of Isaac - if he isn't sure what I want, he just starts guessing.

Of course, I didn't want the meds, so I told him again to get the lights.  And he tried again.  But the lights still didn't come on.

I got up and walked over the the light switch and realized the switch was flipped up.  It seemed that the bulb had burnt out.  Poor Isaac, he had probably turned it on the first time I told him to.  And then I kept telling him to do it over and over again, after it was already done.