Sunday, August 30, 2015

No, Whiskers...

As a matter of fact I did not put that clean folded laundry there for you to sleep on.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Don't Look Disabled

Someone recently remarked in a Facebook group for people with service dogs that she likes it when people tell her she doesn't look disabled.  They will ask her if she is training her service dog, and when she says no, he is her service dog, they seem surprised and say that she doesn't look disabled.  I have the same experience of people asking if I am training Isaac and sometimes they tell me I don't look disabled, but I don't like it.

She said it makes her feel good because she doesn't want to look disabled.

It's not that I want to look disabled, exactly.  What does "disabled" look like, anyway?  But I am disabled.  I want to look like me.  I want to look like myself.  I want to look like who I am.

But beyond that.  What's wrong with looking disabled?  I think people don't want to "look disabled," whatever that means, because they think looking disabled as well as being disabled are "bad" things.  People sometimes say "you don't look disabled" like it's a compliment, not only because they think "looking disabled" would be a bad thing and therefore an insult, they think being disabled is a bad thing.

But I don't think it's a bad thing to be disabled.  Sometimes it's a hard thing.  A challenging thing.  A frustrating thing.  But none of that means it's a bad thing to be.  And it's not hard or challenging or frustrating all the time, and a lot of the challenges and frustrations come not from the actual disability but from the society in which we live, which is not very accessible or welcoming.

I don't mind if people know I am disabled.  And maybe that's what "looking disabled" is all about.  If you "look disabled," people will know.  

Anyway.  Maybe I don't look disabled.  But I am.  And it's not a compliment to tell me I don't look like it.

They're Buddies

Just hanging out.  Notice how Whiskers has the cushion (the one I made for Isaac) and Isaac has the floor.

This is What I Found in My Bed a Few Nights Ago

New Med

Monday I saw my psychiatrist and he was concerned about how poorly I sleep.  I also mentioned feeling increasingly anxious and somewhat distracted lately.  I've been more forgetful and confused and stuff.  He wanted to prescribe a new med and I agreed to try it.

I don't agree to try new meds easily.  Even when I left his office and went home with the prescription, I was not certain I was going to take it.  I went home and researched it more.

But I decided to give it a try.

I am sleeping better.  Despite the fact that it is almost 2:00 am and I am awake, overall I am sleeping better.

I've been tired a lot during the day, but less tired  yesterday than the day before.  I think I am adjusting.

The main side effect I am experiencing is low blood pressure.  My BP tends to run low anyway.  90/60 is about normal for me.  If you don't know, 120/80 is considered the norm.  My psychiatrist checked my blood pressure when I was in his office and he was concerned then because it was only 105/89.  I was like, um, that's high for me.  It was only that high because I was at his office, which makes me anxious.

So he opted not to prescribe one med he was considering, because it causes low blood pressure and he was concerned it would make mine drop too low.  I am on the one that is less likely to cause seriously low blood pressure.

Thursday my BP was 79/45.  Yesterday it was 86/56.

No wonder I am dizzy and tired.  Half the time, I feel like I can barely stand up.  Like I might just fall over.  Or sink to the ground.

I'm hoping I'll adjust to it over a couple of weeks.  If not, I may end up not being able to take it.  Wouldn't be the first time.

Isaac is a big  help.  Bending over is not good when I'm already dizzy.  Yesterday I was cleaning up the living room and he picked up his toys for me.  I dropped some mail outside and he picked that up for me.  He's picked up lots of things.  I need to do laundry this weekend and he will be a big help with that, too.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Emotional Support Cat

Today I saw my psychiatrist and needed him to sign a form designating Whiskers as an emotional support cat for my housing. There is a box on the form to check if the assistance animal is individually trained to assist a person with a disability, and I checked no and explained that she is for emotional support and no training is required (because an emotional support animal is different than a service dog).

The office manager was looking at the form and asked, "So a cat doesn't have to be trained?"

I was like, "Um, it's a cat. Have you ever tried to train a cat?"

She looked kind of confused so I asked, "Have you ever had a cat?"

Whiskers says she is pretty well on the way to having me trained but I have not yet trained her to do a thing.

If you want to read more about  emotional support animals and housing, check out this post.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

He's a Service Dog, Not a Petting Zoo

Today at Panera, as Isaac and I were making our way through the dining room, a man reached out to pet Isaac and started baby talking to him. Isaac turned his head to look at the man touching him and almost made me spill my plate of food, because I had my food in the same hand I had the leash in, because my drink was in my other hand. Normally that works out OK because Isaac heels pretty nicely. But he turned his head when someone started touching him as we walked by.

So I said "Please don't distract him, he's working." Which is my typical line when someone does that.

The first man's dining companion said, rather rudely, "Then you shouldn't bring him in here." Like my service dog is there for their enjoyment. Um, he's a service dog, not a petting zoo.

So I said, "He's a service dog so he's allowed in here."

The first man said "Who does he service?" Which was a weird way of asking the question, but I knew what he meant.

So I said, "He's my service dog."

And then the guy said, "Why? Do you have a problem?"

Um, yes. I have a big problem with rude strangers that distract my service dog. I didn't say that but I think maybe I should have.

Instead I just said "The Americans with Disabilities Act says he is allowed in here" and walked away.

I think this is the rudest interaction I've had with a member of the public regarding my service dog.

The Difference

In a few months, Isaac will have been with me for three years.  I was thinking today about the difference he's made in my life.

I was hospitalized for five days about a week after Isaac came to live with me.  I haven't been hospitalized since, despite some pretty stressful stuff that's happened over the past three years.  The last few weeks, I've been feeling more anxious than I had been for several months, but I'm still handling the anxiety better than I used to.  It's been quite a while since I've had a full blown anxiety attack.

Recently I've also been having a bit more pain from the fibro, but that is also much better managed than it was 18 months ago.  Eighteen months ago I could not lift a gallon jug of milk.  Eighteen months ago I could not sleep through the night because pain woke me up every time I turned over or changed my position.  Oh, I still have trouble sleeping, but at least it's usually not due to pain.

I'm  more active now than I've ever been in my life, I think.  Isaac and I hike an average of three miles a day, almost every day.  Some days more.  And I'm sure that has been good for my health.

I realized today that, while I certainly do still have some anxiety and PTSD stuff going on, some of it has greatly improved.  For instance, I used to be afraid to take a shower at night, especially if I was home alone.  And of course, I live alone, unless you count Whiskers and Isaac.  That meant I had to plan my schedule carefully to make sure I could get a shower while it was still daylight out. 

One of the things I wanted a service dog to do was to sit in the bathroom with me while I showered so I would feel safer.  Well, that's not exactly a task, so I guess I wouldn't have to have a service dog for that.  A pet dog could do the same thing.  But that's one of the things I was hoping would help me when I got Isaac.

And it has helped.  He rarely sits in the bathroom with me while I bathe these days, but he often sits in the doorway or just outside the door (which I leave open since I live alone and cats and dogs do not like the bathroom door to be closed).  But anyway, the fear of showering when it was dark outside just kind of went away without me even noticing it leaving.  I just realized today that I can't remember the last time I wasn't able to shower because it was dark out and I was too scared.

That might seem like a little thing.  But it's a big thing when you can't shower. 

Geez, I remember shortly before I got Isaac, when I was still living in my old house, one night when I really really needed to pee but was afraid to walk down the dark hallway into the dark bathroom to do it.  I remember at the time, I was thinking how great it would be when I had my service dog and he could go ahead of me and turn on the bathroom light. 

And that might seem like a silly little thing, being afraid to go into the dark bathroom, but I was really terrified and I really had to pee.  I mean, I was thinking of what alternatives might be available to me, like could I find a bucket under the kitchen sink and pee in that and then empty it in the morning?  Or could I pee in the kitchen sink?  I mean, it's a drain, right?  I know, that's gross, but that's how bad the PTSD-related fear of walking into a dark room was. 

In case you're wondering, I did finally make it into the bathroom.  I did not pee in my sink.

Anyway.  It's been a very long time since I had trouble getting to the bathroom to pee.  And that is a huge difference.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Laptop Cat

Whiskers has decided she likes to sit and lie and sleep on my laptop case.

She also likes to sit and lie and sleep on my lap, of course.  She says she is a laptop cat, so she obviously belongs in my laptop case.

No, He's Not in the Army

Today I was having lunch with friends at a local restaurant and an older man approached me and gestured toward Isaac and asked "Is he a sergeant?" I had no idea what he meant and I guess I looked confused, because he pointed at Isaac (like maybe I hadn't understood who he was asking about) and repeated the question.

I just said "He's a service dog." Because I didn't understand what he meant and didn't feel like trying to get him to explain it.  Maybe he thought Isaac was a military dog or a police dog or something.

When I said he was a service dog, the man nodded and then told me how beautiful he was. I told Isaac he could say hi, which delighted both Isaac and the man.  The man told me repeatedly how good looking Isaac was and that he looked very healthy.  He was actually the second person to comment on how healthy Isaac looks today.

But I still have no idea what he meant by sergeant.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pig, Juice, Whatever

Isaac looked like he wanted to play so I told him to get his oinky pig (it's a squeaky toy but it oinks instead of squeaking). He looked around and didn't see it so I pointed him toward the kitchen, which was the last place I'd seen it.

Isaac headed into the kitchen, and then... maybe forgot what he was going in there to get? I certainly do that often enough.

Instead of coming back with his oinky pig, he opened the fridge, got out a juice box and brought me that.  I can't imagine what made him think I wanted juice, it's not like that's something I ask for often.  But he looked very pleased with himself when he delivered it to me, so I gave him a treat.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hanging Out at McDonald's

Isaac and I are hanging out at McDonalds (free wifi and cheap iced coffee) for a bit and we just had a lovely conversation with a deaf woman who came up and asked if she could pet Isaac. She gestured to tell me she was deaf and to ask if she could pet him, and I said yes.

I sign some (I need some practice, I'm rusty), and she signed that his eyes were beautiful. I agreed that they were and she seemed surprised to find that I could sign. After she got done kissing him (he was loving it), I told her his name and she asked how old he was and we talked for a few minutes.

It was one of those things where I could tell she really wanted (or needed) to pet a friendly dog. Isaac was happy to oblige.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Few More Pics from Our Trip to Nebraska

This is the Missouri River, early in the morning.  We drove across that bridge from Missouri to Nebraska.
And here's Isaac swimming in the Missouri River.

After his swim, he got to take a little walk before getting back in the van for the last leg of the trip.
As you can see, he was having a great time.

In the Waiting Room at My Acupuncturist's Office

I am sitting in a chair, flipping through a magazine.  Isaac is lying quietly at my feet.

A woman comes in, squeals, "What a pretty dog!" and bends over to pet Isaac's head.

I say, "Isaac, stay," and he does, although he makes flirty eyes with the petting woman.

Finally, she takes a seat (far enough away that she can't pet him).  Then she strikes up a conversation with me.

Woman: Are you training him?

Me: No, he's trained.

Woman:  He's trained?

Me: Yes.

Woman: Oh... well, he seems like he's well trained.

Me: Yes.  Thank you.

Woman: They train them a lot near where I live.

Me:  Uh huh. (I don't ask where she lives.  I assume she means some organization trains service dogs near where she lives, but I don't ask that, either).

Woman:  I know you're not supposed to pet them.  I knew I shouldn't pet him when I saw him, but then I saw those eyes and I had to.

Me: Um....

Woman: He just has such beautiful eyes.

Me: Yeah, he does.

Woman: He reminds me of my lab, Sammy.  He looks just like him.  Except Sammy was all black.

Me: Oh.

Woman: He died recently.  We had to put him down.  He had cancer.  He got it from lying in front of the fire place.

Me (slightly confused): I'm sorry to hear that.

Luckily, at that point my name was called.  I said good-bye and hurried away.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cute Kitty Playing

Today I went into the kitchen for a minute and Whiskers grabbed the lid to my water bottle.  Apparently she felt she does not have enough toys and needed to play with that lid.

So here you can see her playing with it, then she notices her cat scratcher with the dangly ball inside and starts to play with it.  She is so playful.

When she's awake, anyway.  She does enjoy napping.  :)

That's Not Accessible

I've mentioned before that, when available, I use the accessible bathroom stall when I have Isaac with me.  He and I can squeeze into some tight bathrooms when we have to, but we are both more comfortable when we have more room.  When I am without Isaac (which is rare), I use a regular stall because I don't need the extra room when I'm alone.

I may sound a bit obsessed with accessible bathrooms, but it's because Isaac and I have been on the road so much this summer.  I have found myself using many, many public bathrooms.

So a couple days ago, Isaac and I were at a McDonald's.  I needed to pee, and I needed to get something to drink, and I needed to sit down and use the free WIFI for few minutes.  I discovered a "caution-wet floor" sign in the accessible bathroom stall.  In case you don't know, if you put something in the accessible stall that would prevent someone with a wheelchair from accessing the stall, it is no longer accessible.  You are not supposed to do that.

So when I ordered my drink, I explained this to the employee.  Who looked confused.  So I explained it again, a bit more slowly, a bit more carefully.

Still looking confused, she asked, "Is it in there now?"

I said, "It was two minutes ago.  I assume it still is."

She said, "OK... I'll check."  She looked like she didn't understand why I was telling her about it.

I get that look a lot when I point out to employees that something is not accessible and it should be.  I think they don't get why I care since I don't use a wheelchair.

Friday, August 14, 2015

She Says My Purse Makes a Good Pillow

I Can See You

Today I had to go to my local hospital for a mammogram and ultrasound.  It was followup from six months ago - well, a little over six months ago because I was slow in scheduling it - when my routing screening mammogram found something suspicious.  They did a diagnostic mammogram and then an ultrasound of one breast at that time, said they thought it was just a cyst, and recommended repeating the tests in six months.  So that was today.

So one interesting thing is that I was not particularly anxious about having the procedures done.  I am so much less anxious about medical stuff these days.  At least some medical stuff.  But just six months ago, I had to get a friend to go with me because I was too anxious to go alone.  So that's awesome.  There are still some medical things I would be very anxious about but this was OK.

The thing I wanted to blog about, though, was when the radiologist came into the room to do the ultrasound and then discuss the results with me.  He took one look at my service dog and asked me if I was blind.

I said, "No, I can see you."

He said, "Oh, yes, of course.  Are you training him for a blind person then?"

Shouldn't a doctor know if a patient is blind before walking into the room?  And if he didn't know, like if he hadn't read my chart and the ultrasound tech hadn't bothered to mention it, shouldn't he be observant enough to notice I was making eye contact with him while speaking to him?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Introducing the Oinky Pig

When we were in Nebraska, Isaac played with all of his buddy Jake's toys.  One of his favorites was an oinky pig, a latex squeaky toy that, instead of simply squeaking, oinked like a pig.  He liked it so much we went to Walmart to buy him one.  Well, actually, we bought two, in case he killed one.

He loves it and immediately learned its name.  Tell him "Get your pig!" and he runs to get it.  The only other toy he regularly fetches by name is his Kong.  Anything else is just "Toy."

He adores the oinky pig.  This may be the best $4.97 I ever spent on him

Monday, August 10, 2015

She's Settling In

Traveling with a Disability and a Dog

While on my recent trip, I reflected several times on how lucky I am in many ways.  I own a car, I am able to drive, I had the time and the money to take the trip - all things some people with disabilities would not have had.  At the same time, I also thought about the challenges involved with traveling with a disability and a service dog.

The trip from Ohio to Nebraska was about 14 hours of straight driving time.  Of course, no one can drive non-stop for 14 hours.  One must stop to pee and get gas, at the least.

The trip there took me longer than it would have taken many people, I think, because I have to stop frequently and stops take me longer than they might take someone without a service dog. 

Frequent stops are a must for me for a couple of reasons. 

I've always said I have a bladder the size of a pea, but really, I think I have interstitial cystitis, an inflammation of the lining of the bladder that causes UTI-like symptoms including a frequent need to urinate.  It's apparently common in people with fibromyalgia, or at least similar symptoms are common in people with fibro.  I don't know for sure if I have interstitial cystitis because I don't want to be tested for it because I think it would be pretty triggering for me with regard to my PTSD, but my rheumatologist says it's common and that the gabapentin I take should help with it.  I don't think it helps much, though.  But anyway, I have to pee often.  I'm lucky if I can drive two hours without having to find place to stop and pee.

In addition, with my back problems, moving around and stretching frequently is very important.  If I don't do it, I pay later.

Isaac does not need to pee as frequently as I do, but I generally give him a chance to pee whenever I get him out of the van.  And getting him out to go with me someplace requires putting his vest on and then taking it off again when we get back to the van.  And I try to offer him water frequently, too, when we travel, pretty much every time we stop.  All of that only takes a few minutes, but add it together, and each stop takes a little time. 

And then add in the number of stop, and it's a long long drive.

And then I have to realize that a long drive like this will probably be stressful and my anxiety and pain will end up increasing, even if I have a really enjoyable trip.

And it was a good trip.  But now I'm recovering from it.  I'm still exhausted and my fibro is acting up.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Isaac and His Buddy Jake

After a swim in the lake.

A Very Relaxed Whiskers

She's doing very well.  She slept with me last night.  The incision from being spayed is all healed up although her belly fur hasn't grown back yet.

Thanks to everyone that helped care for Whiskers, including the person that's been fostering her until I could get here to bring her back home, and all who donated money for her care and the trip.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Adventures of a Service Dog

Isaac is having a great trip so far.

This morning, he got to take a swim in the Missouri River.

That wasn't even the highlight of his day, though.  This afternoon, he got to play with his friend Jake, who is also a service dog.

As you can see, they  mostly played tug.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Tail Is Not Even Wagging

Today at the library, I was looking at books while Isaac lay quietly at my feet.

All of a sudden, this woman near us gasped and said "I didn't even realize there was a dog there!"

And, now that she realized there was a dog, there, she began baby-talking to him. Isaac just lay there quietly, ignoring her.

Finally she said, "Well. The tail is not even wagging."

I sighed and said "That's because he is working. He's not supposed to socialize when he's working."

She said "Oh. Oh. well, I guess I will stop talking to him then."


Monday, August 3, 2015

He's a Young One, Ain't He?

This morning was a super service dog day.  What I mean is, Isaac did fantastic.

I went to the car wash to vacuum out my van before our big road trip and I needed Isaac to get out of the van so I could vacuum it, of course.  I had him sit on the pavement near the van and put the quarters in the machine and started to vacuum.  The vacuum was really loud and I saw Isaac start to stand up.  Since the vacuum was making so much noise, I signaled him with my hand to sit and then to stay.  And he did.  And he stayed right there while I vacuumed my very hairy van.

Then we went to Family Dollar.  While we were standing at the counter, this man walked in carrying a little fluffy dog.  Isaac glanced at the dog, looked mildly interested, but otherwise did not react.  He just did great.

And then...

We went to the park.  Where Isaac forgot that the whistle means come.  Even worse, twice, he ran away from me when I got close to him.  He was acting like he had never learned a thing in his life.

He ran over to this young couple at a picnic table and the guy grabbed his collar and held him for me.  He looked at my sympathetically while I attached the leash to Isaac's collar and said, "He's still a young one, ain't he?"

I said, "Um, he's four."

At which point the guy said, "Hmmph," which I took to mean, "And you ain't trained him at all yet?"

On the way home, I informed Isaac he will not be playing off leash for a while. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Really Touched by Donations for Whiskers

I am really touched by all the people that have donated money to bring Whiskers back home.  Most are friends of mine.  Some, I think, are friends of my friend Traci, who set up the Go Fund Me account for Whiskers.  Some donated anonymously and I wish I could know who they are so I could thank them. 

Some donated surprisingly large amounts and I am touched by that generosity. 

Some donated small, odd amounts, like $4 or $8.  I am touched by that, too.  I know why people donate small, odd amounts like that.  It's because they really, really want to help and that is all they have.  Think about it.  If you have plenty of money and you're going to make a donation, you pick a nice round number, like $5 or $10 or $25.  You only donate $4 when you absolutely do not have one dollar more, so you can't donate $5. 

One friend told me she decide to give up something for the entire month of August and donate the money she would have spent on that thing for Whiskers.  I'm touched by that, too.  By her sacrifice and just by the amount of thought she put into it.  She really, really wanted to help.

I'm told Whiskers is in good health and is eating and pooping well.  She has been showing signs of stress (no surprise there) but yesterday and today spent time playing with a toy and time looking out a window.  I think she's doing a bit better but I am anxious to get her back home.

My back has been bothering me a lot the last few days.  I haven't seen my acupuncturist in a few weeks because I haven't had the money for it.  I need to get in to see her before I leave for Nebraska.  I have a ton of stuff I have to do in the next two days before I leave, actually.  It's a lot of work taking a trip with a service dog.