Sunday, May 31, 2015

Going Camping!

First thing tomorrow morning, Isaac and I are heading off to Hocking Hills State Park to camp for a few days.  Our friend Mike is coming with us.  I'm glad to have someone along on my first camping trip, especially someone that can carry heavy things and help set up the tent.  And honestly, I'm a bit worried I would get scared at night, in a tent with just Isaac.

I mentioned that to a friend of mine who, before she became disabled, hiked several hundred miles of the Appalachian trail by herself.  I am so impressed and also a tiny bit jealous, because that is one of those things I'd love to be able to do but know I will never get to do, with my disability.  I can only carry a gallon jug of milk a very short distance.  I could never carry a backpack for hundreds of miles.  Anyway, my friend told me sure, I would get scared sometimes.  She said that's normal.  Do it anyway.  She said she liked to make herself a cup of tea and read a good book by flashlight when she couldn't sleep while backpacking or camping.  She recommended taking extra flashlight batteries.

She also advised not letting Isaac out of the tent unsupervised in the morning just because it was 5 am and the sun not even up yet but he wanted to pee but I was still sleepy.  She did that once and her dog (not a service dog, a pet) went out and tangled with a skunk, which I guess put a damper on the whole sleeping-in-a-tent-with-your-dog plan.  :)

I have realized that packing for a camping trip is way more involved than packing for a trip in which I plan to stay in a hotel.  Yes, Isaac has his own bag, as usual.  But in addition to my bag and Isaac's bag, there is the bag with the tent, there is my sleeping bag, there is a bag of non-perishable food items, there is a bag of dishes and cooking utensils, there are a couple of dishpans, and there is a cooler.  And I am probably forgetting something there.

I have been making lists of stuff to pack for weeks.  I am mostly packed now but have to fill the cooler and add some other items in the morning.

I'm sure I'll have lots of pics and stories when we get home.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Accessible Bathrooms

I've been doing a lot of mystery shopping jobs lately and it has resulted in my using a lot of public restrooms.  I think I have a bladder about the size of a pea.  Therefore, I have to pee frequently.

When using a public restroom, I use the accessible stall if there is one available when I have Isaac with me.  Which is almost always.  Isaac and I can squeeze into a very tiny toilet stall if we have to, but we both prefer more room.  With many stalls, the doors open inward and while Isaac and I are able to squeeze in, it then becomes very difficult to get the door open when I'm done in order for Isaac to get out.

Anyway, since I've had to use public restrooms more often lately, I've come to realize how often other people seem to prefer the larger stall, too, even if they don't really need the extra room.  Of course, it might not always be obvious to me that someone needs the extra room, but if they are an average-sized person and are not using any assistive devices like wheelchairs or walkers or canes or service dogs, it seems likely to me that they can use the regular-sized stall.

One two occasions, I actually had someone push past me, practically pushing me out of their way, in order to beat me to the larger, accessible stall.  In once case, this was actually a store employee (and since I was mystery shopping at that store, I made sure to describe what happened in detail in my report).

On several other occasions, I've gone into the restroom to discover the larger, accessible stall was in use, so Isaac and I went into a smaller, non-accessible stall.  We came out to discover the person that had been in the larger, accessible stall did not appear to need it.

If you are wondering, here is what is generally considered proper etiquette regarding use of an accessible bathroom stall.  There are no laws about it, as there are with regard to accessible parking spaces.  It's just respectful.  It's just polite.  It's good manners and the right thing to do.

1.  If you need the larger, accessible stall, then use it.  If you need it because you have an assistive device or are a larger-sized person or have poor balance and need the handrails (which are usually only found in that stall) or for any other reason, use the larger stall.  Even if you think you don't look like you need it, if you need it, use it.

2.  If you don't need the larger, accessible stall, use another, smaller stall if one is available.  Leave the larger stall for those that really need it.  Let's use the honor system here.  You know if you really need the extra room or not.

3.  If all the smaller stalls are taken, it is generally considered OK to use the larger one even if you don't really need it.  I suggest using your best judgment here.  Of course you cannot predict the future and you have no way of knowing if someone that really needs that bigger stall is going to come through the bathroom door in the  next 30 seconds.  You can decide if you think it's better to wait for a smaller stall to be available or to go ahead and use the bigger one.  But in general, don't use the bigger stall unless you need to.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Been a While Since I've Posted

I guess it's been a busy week!  I had some van trouble yesterday.  It turned out that the AC compressor seized up and that caused the serpentine belt to break but of course I didn't know that at the time.  I just knew it broke down while I was many miles from my mechanic and the tow cost me a small fortune.  Like, I literally wanted to cry when the driver told me how much it would be.

But the van is fixed now and as an added bonus, the air conditioning is working really really well, so I'm pleased with that.  And I dealt with the stress of the break down OK.  Well, I was pretty stressed at the time.  I felt frazzled. 

And I was also feeling guilty, because I had to call a friend to come pick me up and I felt like I was bothering people and I had to cancel my tutoring session because I had no way to get there and I felt guilty about that, too.  It's been a little while since I felt so much overwhelming, mostly irrational guilt.  I'm not sure what that was about.

But I got my footing back pretty quickly.  Today I was feeling OK.

Isaac has gotten plenty of experience doing long down stays while waiting for the tow truck and sitting at the car repair place and stuff recently.  I think he's nailed them.  He can usually do two hours pretty easily, longer if we take a short walk for a break.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How Many Kids and Counting?

All this news about the Duggars has been very triggering to me.  A lot of what's bothering me is that Jim Bob and Michelle did nothing to protect their children.  They continued to allow Josh in the home, around the other children.  And then Anna married him, knowing he sexually abused children, and bore him more children, which he will most likely abuse as well.  Because sex offenders rarely stop.  How many kids has he victimized already?  And how many more will he hurt?

I think the way a family responds when a child is sexually abused has a lot to do with the degree of trauma that child experiences.

Here's what I mean.  I know a guy that was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child.  He told his parents.  He felt safe telling his parents and trusted them to help him, regardless of what the neighbor might have told him about keeping it a secret.  And his parents responded as perfectly as any parents could have.  They told him what the neighbor did was wrong.  They told him it wasn't his fault.  They told him they were sorry the neighbor hurt him.  They told him how glad they were he'd told them what happened.

His  parents called the police.  They wanted charges to be pressed.  In the course of the investigation, it was discovered there were a number of other victims.  The neighbor, upon being confronted with the evidence against him, confessed.  He plead guilty.  There was no trial, because he plead guilty, and he went to prison.

His parents found a counselor that was experienced in treating male children that had been sexually abused.  He went to counseling for a while. Said the counselor helped, not only with things related to the abuse, but with other things, too.  He went to counseling for as long as he needed to go, then stopped going, but knew if he needed to go back, he could just tell his parents and they would take him back.

As an adult, he does not seem to me to be particularly traumatized by what happened to him as a child.  He does not have PTSD.  He doesn't have nightmares about it.  He does not suffer from clinical depression or anxiety.  He isn't ashamed about what happened to him.  He doesn't feel guilty about it. 

Compare that to what happens to many children that are sexually abused.  Compare it to what happened to me.  I didn't tell what it happened.  I didn't trust my  mother to help me.  When I told her as an adult, she accused me of lying or being crazy.  I expect her response would have been the same if I'd told her when I was a child.  I doubt she would have called the police or found me a good counselor.

How much of the trauma comes, not from the actual abuse, but from not being able to tell, from not being believed, from being blamed, from not getting the help you need to deal with what happened?  Sure, the abuse is traumatic.  But the rest of it just compounds that trauma so much.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A few days ago, Isaac and I went to Cuyahoga  Valley National Park for the day.  We hiked a lot.  I bet I walked six or seven miles.  Isaac would have traveled more miles than I did, of course, because I let him off the leash a couple times and he literally ran laps around me, he was so excited and so full of energy.  He also did some rock climbing, some spelunking and some swimming.  Seriously, though, we hiked for about 90 minutes on along the old canal path, then returned to the car for a drink, a little snack and a brief rest, then hiked for about an hour more, then returned to the car for another short break, then hiked about another 90 minutes.

One the middle leg or our hike, we went to Blue Hen Falls.

I thought Isaac would love the falls but he was more interested in the boulders and rocky ledges than in the water.  He did go behind the falls for a minute, though.
He really enjoyed crawling under the rocks, though.  He is quite the spelunker.
See his butt sticking out, there?

Then on the final leg of our journey, we went to Indigo Lake and he went for a swim.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

He Looks Like He Needs a Treat

Yesterday Isaac and I took a little day trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  One the way home, we stopped at McDonald's so I could use the restroom and get something to drink.  The manager was asking me some questions about service dogs and then she looked at Isaac and said, "He looks like he needs a treat."

I said, "Oh, I'm sure he thinks he does," because you know, he always thinks he does.

And then she asked, "Can he have ice cream?"

Now, I never let Isaac eat in restaurants.  I never have, not in the two and a half years I've had him.  Occasionally restaurant employees really want to give him food.  Once at Chipotle, employees decided he really needed something to eat and asked me which he would prefer, chicken or steak.  I told them he would love either, but that he wasn't allowed to eat in the restaurant, but that if they would put it in a to go container for me, he could have it as soon as we got out to the car.

But I could tell the manager really wanted to give him ice cream and she really wanted to get to see him eat it.  I could just tell it was really important to her.

So I made an executive decision.  I let Isaac have the ice cream there in McDonald's.

She gave him a child's size ice cream cone.  I held it for him and he licked the ice cream up in about six licks.  He hesitated for about a second, considering the cone.  I think he wasn't sure if it was just an ice cream holder or if it was something to eat, too.  He decided he could eat it, and did, in two bites.

Then he looked at the manager, as if to say, "More?"

I told her he said thank you.  And told him not to think he was going to get ice cream every time we go to McDonald's now.

Monday, May 18, 2015

He's Trained

Someone asked me today if Isaac was in training.  I get asked that all the time.  I mean, almost every time I go someplace new with him, someone asks.

I'm not entirely sure why that bugs me so much but it does.  I think it feels kind of insulting to me.  I know people don't mean it that way.  I know why they ask.  I know why, because for a while, every time someone asked me that, I asked them why they were asking.  Mostly it was because I don't look blind.  Therefore they assume I must be training him for someone that is blind.

So it seems like it shouldn't feel insulting to me, but it kind of does.  Isaac is highly trained.  He's had a ton of training.  He was trained for about 18  months before I even got him, but I do ongoing training with him all the time, too.  He's had tons of training.  So I think it feels like they are minimizing that or downplaying it or something, even though I realize that's not very logical because they have no way of knowing what kind of training he's had.

He behaves like he's well-trained, though.  Some people notice that.  Sometimes people comment on how well-behaved he is.  Well, dogs just don't naturally behave like that.  They behave like that when they've had a lot of training.

I try to understand why people ask if he's in training, and I do understand, but it still bugs me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Prettiest Eyes

Isaac had his eye exam today and the ophthalmologist declared he has the prettiest eyes ever.  She also declared he has perfectly healthy eyes.  The dilation of his pupils did not seem to bother him at all the the vet said usually it doesn't, that dogs might squint a little if they are out in very bright sunlight but otherwise they usually seem fine.  It was a gray cloudy day today and Isaac didn't seem bothered by the light or any vision problems at all.

He was also examined by an orthopedic vet, who proclaimed his joints very healthy.

Isaac loved everyone and had a great time except when his temperature was taken.  He seemed rather offended by that, but he forgave the vet as soon as she was done and decided he loved her anyway.

We were given a goodie bag with a yummy dental chew and he enjoyed that in the van before we were even out of the parking lot.

I think it's great that they do these exams free for service dogs and we plan to go again next year.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Isaac Gets His Eye Exam Tomorrow

Isaac is scheduled for his free eye exam tomorrow.  It only occurred to me today that they mentioned dilating his pupils for the exam and that that generally makes one particularly sensitive to light and that that might affect his ability to work for the rest of the day.  I don't know why I didn't think of that until now.  I also don't know why the receptionist at the veterinary opthamologist didn't tell me he wouldn't be able to work the rest of the day, because the exams are for service dogs, so you'd think that would be important to mention.  But they sure didn't.

I am scheduled to do a couple mystery shopping gigs after the eye exam but now I'm not sure if Isaac will be up to that or not.  I guess I'm just going to see how he seems afterward, plus I will ask the vet what he or she recommends.

You don't really expect me to get out of the car in all this rain, do you?

It was raining like crazy when Isaac and I arrived at the store. This is his "You don't really expect me to get out of the car in all this rain, do you?" face.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Snack Time

Yesterday was a very long day for me and Isaac.  After spending all afternoon at the car repair place (at least we now have A/C in the van), I had to go mystery shopping at three different grocery stores.  At the first store, I bought Isaac a Busy Bone treat because I had a coupon for it and I decided to give it to him in the van because we were not going to be getting home until after his usual dinner time.

I love how focused he is on his snack.  He was a happy, happy doggie.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Woman at Panera to her husband: Look, it's a guide dog.

Husband to Isaac: Hi there, fella! Look at those beautiful eyes!

Woman to her husband: I don't think you're supposed to bother them.

Husband: You're not supposed to touch them but you can talk to them.
Me: Actually you're not supposed to talk to them, either.

Man (looking confused): You're not?

Me: No. It distracts them when they are working.

Man: It does?

Me: Yes. Just like if you were at work and someone started talking to you and petting you.

Man: Petting I understand. But talking?

Me: Yes. It distracts them.

Man (looking doubtful): Really?


The food stamp people need me to provide proof that the junk yard paid me $159 for my old car AND receipts that show how I spent that money. Because apparently if I have all that extra cash on hand, it affects the amount of food stamps I receive. Can't have people with that much money just collecting $16 a month in unneeded food stamps, you know.

You see, once a year I basically have to reapply to proof I am still eligible. That's what I did this morning. In my county, that means turning in a ton of paperwork (copy of my lease, bank statement, last year's tax return, receipts from all medical bills including my service dog's expenses, a prescription for my service dog, etc). That has to be done at least a week before the reapplication interview. The interview is done over the phone and took a full hour this morning. During which I was informed I have 10 days to provide them with a copy of the $159 check and receipts to show what I spent the money on.

No, it doesn't make sense.  I have mostly stopped asking for the government benefit system to make sense.  I just said OK.  Because it's not like that $159 is going to stick around long.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The King of Down Stays

Isaac is now the king of long down stays.

Today I had an appointment at the car place to get my A/C in my new van charged and to get new rear tires.  Of course, because the Universe sometimes hates me or else just has a perverse sense of humor, the A/C turned out to need more than just charged.  It needs a part, a part which apparently is difficult to locate.  It's all going to turn out OK, I can afford the part and I am actually hoping to get a small refund back from the guy I bought the van from because the A/C was supposed to be working but none of that is the point of this post and anyway it is all going to be OK.

But.  It meant Isaac and I ended up spending a loooonnnngggg time at the car place waiting while the  manager tracked down the hard-to-find part and arranged to have it delivered tomorrow.  This dude rocks, by the way.  It literally took him 90 minutes of making phone calls to arrange this.  So all in all, Isaac and I were in the car place for about two and a half hours and Isaac did great.  He sprawled out (but out of the way) on the cool tile floor and just rested and dozed and did fantastic.

I have now dubbed him the king of down stays.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Does She Have a Seeing Eye Dog?

Today a friend was giving me a ride somewhere (since I don't get my van until tomorrow morning and my car is dead) and he wanted to stop at a fast food place to get some dinner. I hadn't expected to be going into any businesses, so I hadn't brought Isaac's vest with me.

Service dogs do not have to have a vest on but I feel much better with the vest. That way people don't think I am taking my pet dog into a restaurant.

Anyway, we were waiting in line and when we got up to the registered, the employee asked my friend "Does she have a Seeing Eye dog?" I guess she thought if I was blind, that meant I couldn't hear, too, so she should ask my friend instead of asking me directly.

This is the first time that has happened to me. Not the "Seeing Eye dog" comment but someone talking to my companion about me instead of talking to me.

Doing a Lovely Down Stay at Subway

He really likes the tile floors at this Subway for some reason.  Here he is under the table, as far back as he can get, against the wall.  With his head under the seat.

Lots Going On

There has been lots going on lately and not much time to blog about it, plus my brain just feels fried half the time. 

My old car died yesterday as I was driving to my tutoring session.  Luckily, I was able to get off the interstate and into a parking lot before it blew up (well, OK, it didn't really blow up, but it did overheat, big time) and luckily, that parking lot was right next to a Starbucks, so I could sit in the air conditioning and have a skinny vanilla latte and an oatmeal cookie while I waited for a friend to come rescue me.  I didn't really feel like tutoring anyone yesterday.

As you might imagine, this was still pretty stressful, even if I did get a trip to Starbucks out of it.  I really think I have been coping with stress well lately, especially for me.  I had a brief moment of panic, but by the time my friend arrived to help me and give me a ride home, I had pretty much figured things out.  I was planning on selling my old car anyway, and not expecting to get much for it because wonky transmission and leaving me stranded by Starbucks and all, so I decided to junk it.  By the time my friend arrived, I had already located a junk yard that would buy it and come tow it away.  Because I had no intention of paying for a tow truck or putting a penny into it.  It did take 25 mg of Vistaril and a cookie and a latte to calm myself down, but that's still a pretty easy fix, for me.

The timing was not bad, though it would have been nice if the old car had lived another couple days, because I am buying a new-to-me-but-gently-used van tomorrow!  I cannot wait.  A van might sound like an odd choice but I have a plan.  I'll tell you later, but there is a reason it's a van. 

It's a 2004 minivan, to be more precise, but only has about 100,000 miles and my mechanic (Bob at B and B Auto in Mansfield, OH, who has kept my old car on the road up 'til now) looked at it two days ago and said it was in great shape.  It needs new rear tires and a couple minor things but is still in very good condition and I am thrilled.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New Doggie Bed

I made Isaac a new doggie bed. It's a piece of an old comforter, covered with soft cozy fleece. It's about 24 inches by 30 inches.

Isaac was enjoying it but apparently I woke him up and really disturbed him by taking his picture. That is his "Why oh why are bothering me when I am sleepy?" face.

I made the bed to take when we go camping.  I wanted him to have a comfy place to sleep in the tent.  And it folds up small enough to be easy to pack and it's washable.  The fleece cover comes off if I just need to wash that or I can wash the whole thing if necessary.

I decided to get it out and let him lie on it some around the house, though, so it will smell like home and be familiar to him when we go camping.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Seeing Eye Dog

Two people referred to Isaac as a Seeing Eye dog today.

They meant guide dog, like for a blind person, by the way.  Seeing Eye is a specific program that trains guide dogs, but it's not the only one.  It's a brand name.  But people use the term like it's a generic term, the same way people say Kleenex to refer to any brand of tissue.

But anyway.  The first person that referred to him as a Seeing Eye dog was an employee at a fast food place where I was doing a mystery shopping gig.  I had just driven my car through the drive thru and purchased food.  Then I was to go inside and speak to the manager.  I took Isaac in with me.  All the employees came over to see the dog, I think, and the employee that gave me my order at the drive thru window informed the other employees he was a Seeing Eye dog.

The second person that referred to him as a Seeing Eye dog was a woman explaining to her little boy why there was a dog in the library.  This exchange occurred as I was looking at books.  Printed books, mind you.

Home Sweet Home

Today was a very long day for both me and Isaac. Although he got to nap in the car and stuff, so I should be more tired than he is. But anyway, by the time we got home, we were both just dragging. However, as we got off the elevator and started down the hall toward our apartment, his tail started to wag. And got waggier and waggier (that's a word, right?) as we got closer and closer to our door. He was clearly very happy to be home at last.

I'm sure he was also starving because it was much later than his usual dinner time. So maybe he was just happy about the fact that he would be eating in a minute. But whatever. He was happy and I love that he gets so happy to be home. I love that he loves his home.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Yesterday Was the Perfect Day for a Swim

Is That What Your Dog Does?

Today at the grocery store an employee told me he has friends that live in Virginia Beach that have a daughter that has something wrong with her, he thinks it's diabetes but he's not sure, but she has a medical dog that alerts her when something is going on. Then he asked if that's what my dog does.

I just said no, he helps me with other things.

Friday, May 1, 2015

My Friend Sheena's Service Dog

For those of you that saw my post about the fundraiser for my friend Sheena's service dog, and especially to those that donated, I am so happy to announce Sheena raised the required funds and will be getting her new service dog later this month. She is thrilled, of course, and I am really excited for her. Thanks to all who donated and shared her story.

Stress is Not Good for Me

This is not news, of course.  But I am reminded of how much an effect stress has on my fibromyalgia.  I have been in more pain yesterday and now this morning than I have been in a long time.  And I know it's stress.  And it's a reminder that trying to work a lot more and cut back on acupuncture and stuff would not work for me.  Except if I end up without a car, I won't be going to acupuncture anyway, because I won't have a way to get there.

I see my acupuncturist later today and I hope to take a nice long walk with Isaac, and hopefully those things will help.