Sunday, January 31, 2016

Where Can You Take Your Psychiatric Service Dog?

Psychiatric service dogs are dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with psychiatric disabilities, such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. The specific tasks performed by psychiatric service dogs depend on the needs of their handlers, but Service Dog Central explains that tasks may include things like reminding them to take medication, interrupting them if they engage in compulsive behaviors, helping them determine if something is real or a hallucination, and helping them find their way home if they get disoriented. Some people with psychiatric disabilities rely on dogs or other pets for companionship and emotional support, but those are not tasks that dogs must be trained to perform so those animals are not considered to be service dogs; they are usually referred to as emotional support animals instead.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives disabled people that use service dogs the right to go almost anywhere the general public is allowed with their service dogs. This is a federal law enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and it applies only to people with service dogs, not to those with emotional support animals.
You can take your psychiatric service dog into most stores, including grocery stores and other stores where food is sold. Your service dog must be on a leash, unless a leash prevents it from doing specific tasks you need it to do, and must be well-behaved and not bother other customers or store employees.
You can take your psychiatric service dog into the dining area of a restaurant. However, service dogs are not permitted in the kitchen or other food preparation areas. Your dog should remain on the floor and should not sit on chairs or tables in a restaurant. You should not feed your service dog in a restaurant and if you must give your dog water, you should bring a bowl with you for that purpose; don’t use dishes the restaurant serves food on for that purpose.
Other Businesses
You can take your psychiatric service dog into most other businesses, even when pets are not normally permitted. A service dog is not considered a pet. There are a few exceptions. If the presence of the dog would interfere with the business in a significant way, you may be unable to take your dog in. For instance, you will not be able to take your service dog into a room where computer chips are made, because a single dog hair could ruin the equipment. You may not be able to take your dog to certain exhibits at a zoo, if the animals in the exhibit are frightened of the dog or if the dog might pass on certain illnesses to the animals in the exhibit.
Hospitals and Other Health Care Facilities
You can take your psychiatric service dog to a hospital, doctor’s office or other health care facility, with a few exceptions. Service dogs are generally not permitted in areas that require special clothing or other precautions, such as operating rooms, burn care centers and some intensive care units. Since a dog cannot be gowned and masked, and cannot be sterilized, it would create an infection risk in an operating room.
If you are hospitalized, your service dog can probably remain with you but hospital staff is not required to care for your dog and if you are sick enough to need hospitalization, you probably won’t be able to care for your dog by yourself. You would need to arrange for someone to come to the hospital to take your dog out for walks, to feed your dog and provide other care as needed.
You can take your psychiatric service dog with you on buses, trains and air planes. Your service dog can also ride with you in taxi cabs. Your service dog can stay with you in hotels, even if they typically do not allow pets, since your service dog is not a pet.

Where Can You Take Your Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are animals that provide therapeutic support to a person with a mental disability. They can be dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs or any other type of pet. These animals provide unconditional love, affection and companionship and provide their owners with a sense of purpose. Many people with disabilities like depression and anxiety disorders benefit from emotional support animals.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. As the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law explains, courts typically interpret that to mean that, in addition to other accommodations, landlords must allow tenants to have emotional support animals even if they typically do not allow pets if tenants are disabled and health care professionals recommend emotional support animals as part of their treatment. Tenants may be required to provide a letter from their treating physician saying they are disabled and that an emotional support animal is recommended.
Emotional support animals must be reasonably well-behaved and kept under control by their owners; they can’t damage property or disturb other tenants. Landlords cannot charge additional fees to tenants that need emotional support animals, but tenants are responsible for paying for any damage done to the property by their animals.
Airline regulations require airlines to permit people with mental health-related disabilities to fly with an emotional support animal in the cabin of the airplane if they have the appropriate documentation from their treating physician. A letter from the treating physician must state that the person in question has a mental health-related disability that is included in the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used to diagnose mental illnesses), that the disability significantly limits one or more major life activity (things like seeing, hearing, walking, communicating and thinking), and that an emotional support animal is recommended as part of the person’s treatment.
Emotional support animals flying in the cabin of a plane must be well-behaved and not disturb other passengers or airline staff. Certain types of animals, including ferrets and reptiles, are usually not permitted to fly in the cabin even when designated as emotional support animals because they are considered a safety risk.
There are no laws that permit emotional support animals to accompany their owners into businesses where pets are not normally permitted. Federal law allows people with disabilities that use service dogs to take their dogs into most public places, including stores and restaurants, but emotional support animals are not the same as service dogs. Service dogs have been trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate a handler’s disability. If you want to take your emotional support animal into a store or other business that does not normally allow pets, you can ask the manager or business owner for permission. They are not required to allow you to bring your pet, however, and emotional support animals are generally considered to be pets.

How Do You Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Psychiatric service dogs are dogs that are trained to assist people with psychiatric disabilities, like major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. Not all people with mental illnesses such as these are disabled by their conditions, of course. To qualify for a service dog, you must be disabled by your psychiatric illness.
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for disabled people; for instance, they might bring medication to someone suffering an anxiety attack or wake someone with post-traumatic stress disorder from a nightmare. Simply providing comfort is not considered a trained task and does not make a dog a service dog.
If you think you might benefit from a psychiatric service dog, discuss it with your treatment providers, such as your psychiatrist and therapist.
Psychiatric Service Dog Programs
Unless you have extensive experience training dogs, including working dogs, your best bet is to find a psychiatric service dog program and apply for a fully trained service dog. When you get a service dog from a reputable program, you get a dog that is well-trained and that has also been screened for potential health issues that might affect his ability to work. You should also receive training in how to work with your dog and have access to a trainer in the future for advice or assistance when needed.
Most service dog program charge a fee for trained service dogs, which can range from $1,000 to $10,000 or even more, but they often have scholarships that cover part of the cost for low-income applicants and they usually provide assistance with fundraising, so a service dog may be more affordable than you think. A program dog usually ends up being less expensive than training your own dog in the end.
Unfortunately, there is more demand for psychiatric service dogs than there are program-trained dogs available currently. You may have trouble finding a program in your area that trains dogs for the sort of tasks you need a service dog to do for you. Consider traveling to another area of the country if necessary to get a service dog. Most programs have one to two year waiting lists, but keep in mind the fact that it would take that long to train a service dog yourself, too, and if you train your own dog, there is no guarantee the dog will work out in the end.
Psychiatric service dog programs all have their own policies and procedures, but typically they will require you to complete an application, to provide documentation from your doctor verifying that you are in fact disabled and could benefit from a psychiatric service dog, to provide reference letters from people that know you verifying that you will provide a good home and care for a dog, and to attend a face-to-face interview. Most programs provide a period of training, sometimes done in a group format, in which recipients of their service dogs learn to work with their dogs.
Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog
If you have experience training dogs and you want to try to train your own service dog, you must start by finding an appropriate dog to train. An animal behaviorist or a professional dog trainer, one with experience training service dogs, can help you select an appropriate dog.
It takes about 18 months to train a service dog. Your dog will first need to be trained in basic obedience. Then he’ll need to learn to obey even in very distracting circumstances. In order to be allowed to take your service dog into public places with you, like grocery stores and restaurants, he’ll need to learn to heel closely, not to sniff people or objects, not to attempt to get to food or to eat food even if it’s dropped on the floor in front of him, and to ignore distractions like people calling him or attempting to pet him. Finally, he’ll need to be trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate your disability. For best results, work closely with a professional trainer during the training process.
Can Your Pet Become a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Your pet dog might be able to become a psychiatric service dog, but it’s unlikely. Most dogs simply do not have the temperament to be good service dogs. You can have your dog evaluated by an experienced professional trainer to see if he might have the right temperament. If he does, he’ll need about 18 months of training in order to become a service dog.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I Wish My Dog Would Listen Like That

Yesterday I had to go to my local hospital to get labs drawn.  The way it works there is that you go in the emergency room entrance, register at the same place you'd register to be seen in the ER, then go down the hall to the lab. 

I think the reason you register in the same place you'd register to be seen in the ER is just because it's a really small hospital.  It doesn't make sense for them to have separate registrars in different areas.  I mean, it's a really small hospital.  My high school was bigger than this hospital (and I did not go to a huge high school).

Anyway.  I sat down to register and Isaac was sniffing the chair next to mine with great interest.  So I said, "Isaac.  Quit sniffing that chair and lie down."  And he did.

And the registrar said to me, "I wish my dog would listen like that."

People say that sort of thing to me all the time.  And you know, I am very glad my dog does listen like that.  And I know not all dogs are cut out to be service dogs, many dogs would have a very hard time behaving well and staying calm and following directions in a busy public place.

But all dogs can learn to listen and lie down when you tell them to.  Most people just don't bother to train their dogs very much or very well.

So I said, "Well, it takes training." 

The registrar sighed and said, "I know."

I mean, Isaac wasn't just born listening.  It takes training.  A lot of training, sometimes. 

Updates on Isaac and Hobbes

First an update on Isaac.  He is doing well.  Doesn't seem to be having any pain and his tail looks great.  He is very active and we did three mile hike today.  The weather was gorgeous and his only regret was that he wasn't allowed to run off leash, due to needing to keep his tail clean and dry.

This evening he began acting like his tail was itching.  I think it was itching and not hurting because he would be busying doing something else, dozing or playing or whatever, and suddenly spin around and begin licking or chewing furiously at his tail.  However, the incision looks great, nothing to suggest he might be having increased pain, and also he wags his tail enthusiastically and even thumps it loudly against the walls and furniture, which I don't think he'd do if it was sore.  Plus, when I had staples in my arms, they itched a lot.

I checked with a veterinarian friend of mind, who suggested giving him Benadryl, so I did that.  It seems to have helped a lot.  Shortly after taking it, he went to sleep and is now sleeping soundly.

And an update on Hobbes, the visiting kitty.  She is now settled in to her new home and seems to be doing very well there.  She decided she liked a particular kitchen cupboard, so her new people let her take it over as her own room.  She has a little bed in there and her very own food and water dishes, although she comes out to drink from the communal water dish as well. 

A couple days ago when no one was home, Hobbes decided the dog bed, which was in a nice sunny spot, looked comfy and when everyone returned home she was sunbathing there.  She says the dog bed is hers now, too, when she wants it.  So she is a happy kitty now and I am happy for her.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

He's Recovering Well

Isaac had surgery two days ago to remove a mole from his tail.  He is recovering well.  He seems almost back to his usual self.

Yesterday he napped a lot. 

I had an appointment with my primary care doctor and I decided to take Isaac with me because I knew it would be a short appointment and all he was going to be doing was napping in a down stay while I was there anyway.  The vet had said it was OK for him to return to work if he seemed to feel up to it.  I wouldn't have taken him grocery shopping or anything involving a lot of walking or even a really long down stay.  But this seemed OK

When we were in the waiting room, Isaac farted.  A lot.  He had really foul gas.  I think it must have been related to the anesthesia and if he'd started farting before I left for the appointment, I probably would have left him at home.  Luckily my doctor just thought it was funny, but it was really bad.  I apologized profusely.

When we got home from the appointment, he napped and farted some more.

Today we went for a walk in the woods, about 1.5 miles, at a leisurely pace.  Isaac had to stay on the leash and he was disappointed to learn he was not allowed to roll in anything smelly.  His tail has to be kept clean, though, and his stitches are not supposed to get wet, so he can't have a bath.  That means no rolling in stink.

But the weather was nice and he got to sniff a lot and seemed to enjoy the walk a lot.

And no smelly gas today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

And He's Home from Surgery

Isaac is home and the vet said the surgery went well but I don't think he is feeling so great.

He wants to play but seems very tired, which seems logical to me. I suggested he just lie down and go to sleep, but he won't listen.  Instead, he starts to prance around and brings me a toy to throw for him, but I won't throw it because he isn't supposed to be running and jumping. Then he dozes off while waiting for me to throw the toy, then wakes up and realizes I haven't thrown it and starts to whine at me. He is very whiny. 

Then he wants to get on my lap. He is very clingy.

Then all of a sudden he starts to chew on his stitches and I have to stop him. Then he falls asleep and starts to snore. He just seems all out of sorts, poor baby.

His incision does look good, six stitches and it doesn't look red or swollen or anything. Whiskers wants to check it out and sniff it good but I told her no.

He's at the Vet

I dropped Isaac off a couple hours ago.  I felt so bad because he had no idea what was happening.  He was just all happy and excited to be going somewhere, although he was disappointed about not getting breakfast first.  But he loves going anywhere, loves riding in the car.  He likes going to the vet.  He was all excited getting out of the van.  He was delighted to see the vet tech, went right to her, leaned up against her, asked for a belly rub.

He looked slightly concerned when he realized I was leaving, but only slightly.  I told him to go with the vet tech and he sort of shrugged and said "OK" and asked her for another belly rub.

Now I am at home without Isaac and it has occurred to me that this is the first time since I've lived in this apartment that I've been here without him.  The first time in almost three years.  I rarely go anywhere without him, but I do occasionally.  But I am never home without him.  It feels very strange and very empty and very lonely and I don't like it at all.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Service Dog is Having Surgery

Isaac is having surgery tomorrow.  It's a very minor surgical procedure.  He has a mole on his tail and is having it removed.

I discovered the mole about a month ago.  It is on the underside of his tail, near the base.  He was on his back, enjoying a good belly rub, when I spotted it.  At first glance, I thought it was a tick.  That's what it looks like.  It is the size and shape and color of a tick.  And I thought, how on earth did he get a tick in the middle of winter?

Then I looked closer and realized it was not a tick but some sort of growth on the skin.  Like a mole.

So I made an appointment to have the vet check it out. 

It is indeed a mole.  Probably nothing serious, but the vet said the dark color was a bit concerning.  He said we could wait and watch it a while, or he could freeze it off, or he could surgically remove it.  He recommended surgically removing it, because then we could get pathology on it.  Even if it is a melanoma or something like that, it should be easy to remove the whole thing surgically.  The prognosis would be good.

And it will be a minor surgical procedure. He will have a few stitches and have to keep his tail clean and dry until they come out (so no rolling in poop for a week or so) but should recovery quickly and should not have too much discomfort.

I'm not worried about the results of the pathology.  I wasn't worried about anything until today, when I started worrying about the procedure itself and the anesthesia.  He's been under anesthesia before, when he was neutered and again when he had a tooth pulled.  But there is always a risk, with anesthesia.  A small risk, but still a risk.

I think it's going to be hard to sleep tonight.  I'm sure he'll be fine.  But I still think it's going to be hard to sleep tonight.

The Never Ending Journey Home

The trip from Georgia to Ohio took forever.  Like.... forever.  I left Georgia early Saturday morning and didn't make it home until Sunday evening.

My back and neck and shoulders were just killing me.  I had to stop ever 60 to 90 minutes to get up, move around, stretch, try to relieve the pain a little.

Of course, I was also tending to Isaac and the cat.  The cat was good on the never ending trip, no yowling or crying in the van.  She just lay calmly in her carrier.  She ate and drank when I offered her food and water.

She refused to use the litter box and peed once in the carrier.  But only once on that ridiculously long trip!  I wiped out the carrier and dried it and put a clean towel in it for her.

But it took time to feed Isaac and take him to pee and to offer the cat food and water and to offer her the opportunity to use the litter box even though she only growled at me.  And I was moving slowly and in pain.  And I was exhausted.  Just exhausted.  Several times I stopped for short naps.

On Saturday afternoon, I think I was somewhere in South Carolina (which shows you what slow going it was), I stopped at a state park to take Isaac for a walk.  I thought a walk might help my back and energize me, plus I figured Isaac had to be going stir crazy in the car for so long.  It started to rain after we'd only walked a short way, though, so that was sort of a bust.

Saturday night shortly after darkness fell, it started raining.  It was really pouring and I was in so much pain.  I stopped at a rest area and I thought I would sleep for a couple hours, then continue on.  I woke up several times during the night, but each time, I was so tired and groggy and bleary-eyed I could barely see.  Once I went to the bathroom and I felt wobbly, like I couldn't even walk straight.  I decided that attempting to drive was not a good idea and slept some more.

I didn't start driving again until Sunday morning.  And I hadn't gone far before the pain in my neck and shoulders was excruciating.  I was starting to feel like I was never going to get home and I was feeling really frustrated with myself for having such a hard time doing something that should have been relatively easy - just driving.

It's hard to explain the level of frustration and anger I felt at myself.  But I thought transporting this cat was something I could do, and while I did manage to do it, it was so hard.  And it's not something I am likely to volunteer to do again.  I still want to travel, and I will do that, but I will plan more time, rest more, not try to spend so many hours straight behind the wheel.  But it made me rethink some of my plans and that was frustrating and painful.

Somewhere in West Virginia, I got off the turnpike and stopped at a truck stop and paid $7.50 to take a hot shower.  It was actually only $5 for the shower but an additional $2.50 for a towel, a small bar and soap and a little packet of shampoo.  Who wants to take a shower with no towel?

Isaac had to inspect the shower facilities before I actually took my shower, then he lay down near the door and waited for me to shower.  I stood under water as hot as I could stand it and that relieved the pain some.  It also just made me feel better and refreshed and a little more energetic.

After that, the rest of the trip seemed to go more quickly and we finally made it home. 

Isaac was at least as happy as I was to get home.  As the van pulled into the parking lot of our building, Isaac began to whimper in the back seat, the way he does when we go to a park he really likes.  As we entered the building and got into the elevator, his tail began wagging harder and harder.  As we headed down the hall toward our door, he was prancing with excitement.

I love that Isaac loves his home so much.

Running in the Snow

He really, really loves snow.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Picking up the Kitty and Starting Home

After spending a relaxing afternoon and evening on Tybee Island, a friend drove south to Florida with me to pick up the kitty I was to transport to her new home.  We got off to a late start that morning and the drive to the kitty's home seemed to take forever.

Picking up the kitty didn't take too long, but there was a lot of stuff to load in the car and some rearranging had to be done.  It was well after dark when we got back on the road.

Unfortunately, some of the kitty's belongings were not very clean.  And I'm trying to be very kind here.  I think the kitty's owner was having trouble cleaning the litter box regularly and so maybe the kitty chose not to use the box regularly.  She used it consistently at my house but some of her belongings were soiled and had a very strong and unpleasant odor. 

After driving a few miles with the window down (only one of my windows, the one on the driver's side, goes down, the other one is broken and I haven't had a chance to get it fixed yet), it was decided that this simply was not going to work.  Even with the window down, the smell was very bad and I had about 1200 miles to drive.  Halfway home it was going to get very cold, much too cold to drive with the window down.  And even with the window down...

Yeah.  We decided we were just going to have to dispose of some items.  So we got off the interstate in search of a dumpster.  Of course, businesses don't like you throwing things in their dumpsters so it took a while to find one we could access.

By the time we got back on the road, it was getting late.

I decided I needed some iced coffee so got back off the highway to head for a McDonald's.  But then I saw a Starbucks.  It was going on midnight but there was a Starbucks and it was open.  So I decided I needed a sugar free vanilla latte.

Well, I think the barista used the regular vanilla syrup, not the sugar free.  I can't taste a difference but I was less than halfway done with it when I got sick.  Very sick.  I didn't vomit but I felt very nauseous and my stomach was killing me.  Plus, by then I'd been in the car for something like eight or nine hours, siting in one position, and my neck and shoulders felt like they were on fire.

I had to stop and rest.  I reclined my seat as far back as it would go, curled up on my side as much as I could, and finally fell asleep.  For like three hours.

I had hoped to be dropping my friend off in Savannah late Friday evening and instead it was early Saturday morning.  And by morning, I mean after sunrise.  Like, really morning.  Like maybe 10 hours later than I'd hoped. 

And I was still almost 800 miles away from home.


They are both enjoying a knuckle bone. Isaac gnaws on it and eats pieces, and Whiskers nibbles up some of the tiny crumbs that fall off. Isaac will later lick up any crumbs she misses.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Few More Pictures from the Beach

Digging in the sand on the beach on Tybee Island.  Isaac says sand is smelly.  In a good way.
And passed out on my bed in the hotel that night.  It was a very busy day and he was all worn out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Isaac Meets the Ocean

Tybee Island is a little coastal touristy area just east of Savannah on the Atlantic coast.  A friend who lives on the other side of Georgia met me there on my journey south to pick up Hobbes in Florida.  She paid for a room at a nice hotel right on the beach and then kept me company on the drive to Florida.  On my way back north, I dropped her off in Savannah.

One of the things I've wanted to do is take Isaac to the ocean.  I thought he'd really like it.  He loves Lake Erie, which has tiny waves.

Unfortunately, the beach on Tybee Island is not pet-friendly.  Isaac was allowed because he is a service dog, but he wasn't able to be off leash or to play in the water.  Still, he got to walk on the sand and smell all sorts of new things.
I put his vest on for this because the beach was not pet-friendly.  I hoped it would prevent anyone from telling me he wasn't allowed on the beach.  And I guess it worked.  Or maybe it was just that
there were very few people on the beach and no one cared about one well-mannered dog.

The desk clerk at the hotel when I checked in did tell me that dogs are not allowed on the beach. 

I said, "He's a service dog, though, so he is allowed."

She looked doubtful and said, "I don't know, I've never seen it."

I said, "The Americans with Disabilities Act says he is allowed.  It will be OK."

She looked like she didn't believe me but didn't want to argue.

She just didn't know.  She also asked if I had Isaac's certificate with me when I checked in.  She wanted to make a copy of it.  I said, "No, I don't have any certificate.  There's no such thing, really."

She told me some people have had one.  I said, "Well, anyone with a credit card and internet access can buy one online, but it doesn't mean anything.  It doesn't mean your dog is really a service dog.  It just means you have a credit card and internet access."

Then she asked me if I needed some plastic bags to pick up after Isaac.  I said no, I have plenty.  I promised her I would pick up after him.

Anyway.  The beach.
It was lovely. 

I did take Isaac down to the water and he put his front paws in and dipped his nose in.  Then he tried to take off flying down the beach.  He says the ocean does not taste good.  Not like Lake Erie, which he thinks is delicious.

After that, he was not interested in getting any part of his body in the water.  He was, however, interested in digging a bit in the sand and in sniffing things.

He also expressed an interest in chasing some seagulls but that was not allowed.

After a very long walk, it was time for some relaxation.  Well, I relaxed, anyway.  Isaac was too busy sniffing the air.  His little nose was just twitching like crazy.

The Trip South

Isaac and I left home mid-morning on Wednesday.  We were due in Tybee Island, GA mid-afternoon Thursday.  My plan was to enjoy a leisurely drive south, stopping somewhere to do a little hiking on the way.

Late in the afternoon, we got off the interstate and found our way to Kanawha state forest in West Virginia.  It was cool, but not cold, and the mountains were absolutely beautiful.  We hiked a couple miles alongside a babbling brook.

Isaac was a bit distracted by wanting to go sniff and pee on all the things.

After our hike, I decided not to get back on the interstate but to travel through West Virginia on country roads instead.  I don't really like traveling on the interstate in general, plus if I stayed on the interstate I was going to be getting on a toll road and I really dislike toll roads, plus it was about rush hour and I was guessing traffic would be a lot worse on the interstate.

Turns out I made a great decision.  It took longer to get through West Virginia, but there was no traffic and it was absolutely gorgeous.  I was driving through the mountains on winding roads as dusk fell and it was a little big foggy and the view around each curve was prettier than the last.

It occurred to me that it might have been wise to time things better so I would be through the winding mountain roads before total darkness fell, but as it turned out, it was nice that I wasn't.  The driving was a big challenging, I had to really concentrate on the road, but it was beautiful. 

At one point I was coming over the crest of a small mountain and I happened to glance up at the sky and I was startled to see how many stars were visible and how big and bright they looked.  The stars looked huge.  I guess it's a cliche, but seriously, they looked like large diamonds scattered over black velvet.  It was literally breathtaking. 

There was a place I could pull over on the side of the road, so I did, so that I could turn off my headlights and safely stare up at the sky.  It may have been the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.  I could pick out a bunch of constellations, something I am usually unable to do.

Finally I got back on the road and I made it through West Virginia and got back on the interstate.  I stopped in Virginia, planning to sleep there at a rest area in the van but I couldn't fall asleep.  So I just drove some more.  I drove through Virginia and a little ways into North Carolina and then I finally got tired so I stopped again.  That time I slept well.

In the morning, we continued south and I started shedding layers of clothing as it got warmer.  I loved the warm weather!

We stopped for a walk at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, which looked like a tropical forest.

Isaac got to pee on a lot of palm trees, which he enjoyed.

She Bit Me!

Hobbes, my visiting foster kitty, is here.  I have lots to write about but I haven't been able to post much lately.  First I was driving to Florida and back, and had little time to write, and very spotty internet access on the road.  Then, yesterday, Hobbes bit me.

She bit me good.  I don't blame her, she was mad and scared and did not want to be touched.  And I was insisting on touching her.  She had on a harness and leash and I wanted to take them off.  It was easy to take off the leash, but the harness involved handling her to figure out where the straps unbuckled and stuff.  And she did not want to be handled.

She is still wearing the harness.  And I have three puncture wounds in my left hand.

Cat bites, it turns out, are notoriously nasty.  Cats have long, sharp, skinny teeth, so they cause deep puncture wounds.  Dog bites are often less deep, even if it is a big dog with really big, long teeth, because the tooth is wider and less needle-like.  Cats also have a type of bacteria in their mouth that is normal in animals but harmful to humans.  When they bite, they essentially inject this harmful bacteria deep into your tissue.

Because of that, antibiotics are typically prescribed for cat bites right away, instead of waiting for an infection to develop.  And even with antibiotics, serious infections can develop.  Something like one third of people bitten by cats require hospitalization for treatment! How bizarre is that?

So off to the urgent care I went, to get some antibiotics.  I just finished a course of antibiotics for an ear infection.  I take probiotics daily and I eat yogurt but I think I also need to pick up some kefir.  I am going to get a yeast infection or something from all these antibiotics.

I like the nurse practitioner at the urgent care at my county hospital.  The urgent care there is only open Monday through Friday in the evenings, something like 3 pm to 10 pm.  So I can't always go there due to the limited hours, but I like the NP there and I've gotten good care there.

The NP gave me antibiotics and told me if my hand got any worse, if I had increased redness or pain or swelling, to come back to the ER.  Note that while my hand felt a bit tender, like it was going to have a big bruise the next day, the pain was not bad.  It was slightly red and slightly swollen right around the puncture wounds.  But it was not bad.  Maybe a two or three on a scale of one to 10.

A few hours later, my hand was swollen and red and it hurt a lot worse.  And the pain was not just right around the puncture wounds but my whole hand hurt.  It was hard to move my fingers.

I felt silly going to the ER about a cat bite, especially when I'd just been to urgent care a few hours earlier.  But my hand was getting more and more painful by the minute, and the NP had said to go to the ER if it got any worse, so I went.

It was not a great experience.  The ER doctor looked at my hand and immediately said something like, "that's not so bad."  I explained why I was there, what the NP had told me at urgent care, and he said, "Well, this is what I would expect from a cat bite.  They are red, they hurt.  This doesn't look bad."

It bothered me.  It upset me a ridiculous amount.  It was late by then, I was tired, I was in pain.  I felt like he was saying I shouldn't have gone to the ER.  I felt bad about being there.  Guilty or something.  I cried.

However, the ER doc wrote me a script for some pain meds.  I have had good luck getting pain meds lately!  I got some after having a tooth pulled recently and I got muscle relaxers when I had the muscle spasms in my neck and went to urgent care for that.  I'm not sure why I am suddenly able to get pain meds when for a couple of years I suffered in pretty severe pain, unable to get any meds, but I'm glad for it.

The ER doc also gave me a splint to help limit the movement of my wrist and hand, which helps limit the amount of pain.  It is hard to type with the splint on, though.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Big Box Cat

I ordered a 30-lb bag of Isaac's dog food from Amazon.  It was $1 cheaper than buying it at Rural King.  Came with free shipping.  And a free big box.

Whiskers says the box is hers.

Hobbes Has a New Home and I Get a Mini-Vacation!

Hobbes has found a wonderful new home. She will be traveling to Michigan to live with two humans, a cat and a service dog. She may have a brief layover with me because her new people are in the process of moving and it would be best for them to be in their new house before their new kitty arrives, but that will only be for a few days.

I am very happy for Hobbes and also for her current human, who is relieved to know her kitty will be well cared for.

I am also super excited because on our way to Florida to pick up Hobbes, Isaac and I will have the opportunity to visit a friend in Georgia.  She lives in Georgia and suggested we meet up and she would pay for a hotel room for the night and then travel with me to  Florida to pick up Hobbes and then I will drop her off in Georgia on my way back north. 

So I was looking forward to that anyway, but then I saw the hotel room she booked (and she got a super good price through Price Line, by the way). The hotel is on the beach!  Isaac will get to see the ocean!  I love the ocean myself and taking Isaac to the ocean is on my list of things I really want to do.  This is going to be a great road trip.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Still Raising Money to Help Hobbes Get to Her New Home

I'm still raising money to help Hobbes get to her new home.  Although I'm not yet sure where her new home will be.  Maybe Utah, maybe Nebraska, and now someone in Michigan has expressed an interest in possibly adopting her.  It's making me feel a little edgy, not knowing for sure what my plans are.

At least I am feeling a bit better.  Perhaps those antibiotics are starting to work.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Road Trips with a Service Dog

Isaac and I are preparing for our road trip to pick up Hobbes the kitty and transport her to her new home.  I thought I'd share a few trip for road trips with a service dog.  Or even a pet dog, really.
  • Take more food than you think you'll need.  I count how many meals I plan to feed Isaac on our trip and take that many servings plus a couple.  I measure out each serving, usually in these glass jars that my favorite brand of almond butter comes in.  One jar is just the right size to hold one serving of food.  I pack the jars in a box, with an old towel to cushion them.  When it's meal time, I just have to dump a jar into his bowl.
  • Take plenty of water.  I normally have a small jug of water in my van so I can offer Isaac water whenever he might be thirsty, but when taking a lengthy trip, I carry an extra jug or two.  I refill the water jugs at rest areas or gas station bathrooms.  Or sometimes I ask for a cup of water if I go through a drive thru for a snack or coffee for myself.
  • Don't forget food and water bowls.
  • I also take several towels so I can clean Isaac up if he get wet or dirty.  Or, you know, in case he needs to go for an impromptu swim somewhere. 
  • I take an extra collar and leash, just in case his gets dirty or lost or breaks or something.  I'm not sure how they would get lost or break, but I figure it's better to be prepared.  
  • And finally, make sure your dog has a collar with a tag that has your phone number plus a backup phone numbers and that he wears his collar the whole trip!  That way if something happens and he gets separated from you in a strange place, he can get back to you.  Of course, he should also be microchipped.

Urgent Care, Take Two

I went back to urgent care today.

Isaac is getting really used to that place.  Ugh.

I just wasn't feeling any better.  Actually, I was feeling worse.  When I went to urgent care on Thursday, I had a sore throat and my ears hurt.  I felt achy all over, which is typical for me because of the fibromyalgia, but it is a slightly different kind of achy along with chills when I am sick.  I was also coughing just a little.

I should have gone back yesterday, Saturday.  By Saturday  night, after six doses of oral antibiotic plus the ear drops, my ears and throat still hurt, plus I was coughing, a nasty, rattling cough, complete with icky phlegm coming up much of the time.  And when I blew my  nose, it was bloody.

Why didn't I go?  Well, being sick really triggers a lot of my anxiety and PTSD.  I talked briefly to a friend, who said he thought they probably wouldn't change the antibiotic because I hadn't been on it that long and it sounded like he thought I shouldn't go back. 

And somehow I fixated on that and started thinking I shouldn't go.  It would be a waste of money.  It would be a waste of time.  I would just be bothering the people there.  I should quit being such a baby.  I was just being lazy.  I had stuff to do.  It would be bad to go back.  I would be bad if I went back.

I knew I was sick and that the  antibiotic wasn't working.  But I felt like I had to choose between continuing to feel very ill or going to urgent care and feeling very guilty and angry at myself for doing something wrong.  I know that doesn't make sense.  I know that's not rational. But that's my disability.

And I know that's not what my friend meant.  I also know he isn't a very medical kind of person and he had no clue whether or not they would switch antibiotics.

But sometimes my mind just grabs onto something and it spirals like this and won't let go.  I used to do that a lot.  It's much better now.  I mean, it happens less often now.  Much less often.  But it's still bad when it does happen.

So I didn't go back to urgent care yesterday.

This morning, I went.  When I woke up, in addition to all the things that were wrong yesterday, I also felt like my head was going to explode.  The sinus pressure around my eyes was tremendous.  My chest also felt  heavy when I tried to take a deep breath.  I got worried.  So I went.

There was a different doctor there today.  He said I had a sinus infection but that my lungs sounded OK.  He changed the antibiotic and told me to get an OTC decongestant.

I should have gone yesterday. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Sick with a Service Dog

I am sick. Ugh, I am so sick.

It started three days ago.  I felt fine when I woke up but by mid afternoon, I was cold and achy all over and my throat hurt.  My ears also hurt when I swallowed.

The next day I felt worse.  I tried to ignore it, to do what I needed to do even though I felt bad.

Yesterday I woke up at 4:30 am and my ears hurt terribly, especially my left ear.  I decided to go to urgent care.  Isaac and I got there about two minutes after they opened.  I was the first patient of the day.

The nurse practitioner looked in my left ear and said, "Eww."  She ended up prescribing oral antibiotics and ear drops that contain both oral antibiotics and steroids for the inflammation.

Whiskers is a wonderfully cuddly kitty and is great company while I am sick. Isaac, not so much.  He is helpful, he is doing all his tasks.  But he is not so cuddly and he needs exercise.  This morning it was cold, about 27 degrees, but bright and sunny so we went for a walk.  Well, I walked.  Isaac ran and burned off some energy.  But I would have preferred to be home in bed, to be honest.

I love Isaac.  And he's helpful.  I took the ornaments of my Christmas tree today, the ones that were left on the tree.  Whiskers had already removed all the ornaments from the lower branches.  Isaac picked them up off the floor for me. 

He's helpful, but taking care of an active dog is hard work, especially when I'm sick.

I've had three doses of antibiotics and six doses of ear drops (I am supposed to do those four times a day).  I don't feel like the antibiotics are kicking in yet. I'm glad I went to urgent care yesterday, though.  Glad I didn't wait until Monday to see my regular doctor. Although I am going to be calling him first thing Monday morning if I am not feeling better by then.