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Archive for September, 2010

I mentioned in a couple of posts that Hudson and I had some difficulties after we were forced to be separated for 3 hours a week ago on Sunday.  I believe it was the first time in his life he was left entirely alone – always before, there has been company.  First his litter and his dam, then his puppy-raiser (who I know never left him alone because he was part of a prison program, so there is no leaving the dog in the other room for the night or similar) , then his kennel-mate and his trainer, and then me and the boyfriend.  He is a very emotionally needy pup, and will often come over and nosebump me to get my attention and a pat on the head.  When he is parted from me, he is always extremely happy and eager to be returned to me.  (this happens, for example, when I am ill and the boyfriend must take him out, or when I have a severe IBS attack and must run for the bathroom while the dog is eating his dinner, or when I need x-rays and other imaging done that would either be a health hazard or so loud as to unsettle him)

Being a very sensitive, needy dog who has never been left alone, he was quite upset to have it happen to him, and for so long!  It was somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 hours altogether that he was left home.  I am quite happy to note that he did not become destructive at all.  I worried mostly that he might hurt himself trying to get back to me, but fortunately that did not happen.

That is not to say it was smooth sailing.

When I first came home, he was delighted to see me again.  He scooted around like he does when he was excited, his tail whipping so hard back and forth that it struck his own flanks.  He nearly leapt into my lap.

However, that was short-lived.

Like a small child, Hudson went back and forth – he was upset and wanted my comforting, but he was also upset with ME and wanted nothing to do with me.  He’d come over and bump me with his nose or his head to get my attention like he does sometimes when he wants affection, and after just a moment of petting he’d walk away from me.  It was totally abnormal for him, because usually he wants to hang out as long as I’ll pet him!  Other times, I’d invite him to come be petted and he’d just lay there looking at me, sometimes not even bothering to look at me.

Worse yet, from my perspective, is that he started ignoring commands.  It’s one thing for him to ignore me when I’m offering affection – it’s a bit of a snub and hurts your feelings a bit, but it’s not removing the very capabilities you rely on.  On the other hand, when your service dog won’t even follow you out of a room on command, you worry about relying on them.  When I tell him to stand, the command I use when I need to use him to steady me when standing or transferring, will he ignore me and keep moving, risking injury to us both?  When I ask him to pick something up for me, will he?  When I need him, can I rely on him?  Or will he keep ignoring me?

I suppose I’m lucky that I continued to be sick and not leave the house.  I had to do things for myself that he usually does – get up and turn on and off the light, figure out how to pick up things off the floor, use the edge of the bathtub to steady myself instead of the dog when getting up off the toilet, kick things out of the way instead of having the dog move them…it was a rough couple of days, but managable.  I don’t know what I would have done if I had to leave the house on Sunday or Monday.

On Tuesday, I had to go out, because Hudson and I were due to be tested for our recertification.  I was very, very worried that we wouldn’t pass.  A big part of the test is how well the team works together, and to judge by Sunday and Monday, we might not work well at all that day!  He ended up behaving fairly well.  Not at our best, but it was good enough to pass.  It was a huge relief to pass…and be done.  To not have to worry about this for another two years.

But I went through 2 1/2 days of my service dog not wanting to have anything to do with me, and that was their fault for separating us.  I went through more pain at the hospital, I was alone, and I had to deal with days of my service dog ignoring me.  If it weren’t for them, all I would have had to deal with last week was a nasty stomach virus.

And THAT, that I could have handled.

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Passed!

It’s official, folks, we passed our recertification exam!

I was a little worried about the day of the exam.  You see, Hudson was upset after the ER incident.  Specifically, he was upset at ME.  I guess he blamed me for him being left all alone for close to 3 hours.  So for the next couple of days, he alternated between trying to get my attention and ignoring me.  Sunday and Monday, he was all back-and-forth, but mostly ignoring me.  I can’t blame the pooch – he didn’t know why he’d been abandoned, and I’m the one responsible for everything in his life, so obviously it was my fault.  Like I said, I can’t blame him.  We’re finally getting things back to normal now, back to my dog who does things when he’s asked to instead of the dog who wouldn’t even get up off the floor for me unless I nudged him with my toe repeatedly.

Hudson and I now have 2 years until the next time we’re due to be examined.  Thanks for everyone who kept us in your thoughts.  It’s a huge weight off my mind.

~Kali

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Well well well, wouldn’t you know it, I managed to get discriminated against twice in one night!  Saturday was quite the exciting night, as it involved me being ill enough that we were wondering if we should head to an ER before I went all floppy and semi-responsive and started having pain in my chest and difficulty breathing.  I also had a dehydration-induced migraine.

Looking back, I think the difficulty breathing was just that I was having difficulty doing ANYTHING.  When I get dehydrated, I have this alarming tendency to go from okay to NOT very quickly.  And, well, there’s not much like throwing up everything and continuing to throw up liquid out of your previously empty stomach to make you dehydrated.

I wasn’t able to help move me much, and we live in a narrow little row house.  Without my help, the boyfriend really can’t get me down the stairs.  He was getting scared and I was getting less responsive, and complaining that my chest hurt, so he called an ambulance.  I think it was a wise move given the situation.

Except, y’know, that the ambulance wasn’t terribly helpful.  First off, because we live in a narrow little rowhouse, they can’t easily get the gurney upstairs to the bedroom.  So they sent one of them up to help the boyfriend maneuver me.  After correcting him to not lever my shoulder (dislocated Thursday), I still had to manage to walk down the hallway, which was a near thing.  My legs were shaking, and I’m still surprised I didn’t just fold up.  Being vertical and dehydrated for me puts me at a high risk of collapse or faint.

We managed to get me down the stairs and to the gurney waiting outside our front door.  They get me on the gurney and strap me in, then wheel me into the ambulance.  As this is happening, the boyfriend decides to drive to the hospital because he thinks the ambulance will be too crowded with him and the service dog inside.  One of the EMTs is pretty cool and says something that we later realize may have been a warning about the ER, but the other one…the other one, who was driving, decides to stand outside the doors of the ambulance and harass me over the service dog.  What do I think he’s going to do to me in the ER?  It’s unfair to other people to bring my dog into the ER.  Why do I think it’s okay to do that?  So on and so forth.  I eventually tell him to knock it off, which he reacts to in surprise as if he wasn’t being completely inappropriate.

(Incidentally, my ankle partially dislocated on the way to the ER.  It wasn’t really anyone’s fault, but my feet were strapped in and we hit a little bump and there went my ankle.  It certainly added to the misery of the evening!)

So we get to the ER.  By the time the ambulance gets there, the boyfriend is already there with Hudson, arguing with security about letting my service dog into the ER.  Yeah, you got that right, security said no service dog in the ER.  It’s discrimination.  We’ve taken Hudson into other ERs.  We would have gone to the one we know is service-dog friendly (where, in fact, they love Hudson – yeah, they’ve seen him that often), but when you’re in an ambulance, you don’t have all that much choice over where you get taken.

So the boyfriend argued with security.  The first guard seemed like a decent human being, but one hamstrung by policy.  He had to call his supervisor, and THAT guy…that guy was the worst we ran into all night.  He said that “human rights trump animal rights” and ignored that it wasn’t Hudson’s rights he was trampling, it was MINE.  When I was brought from registration to triage, I noticed that Hudson and the boyfriend were gone, so I asked where my dog and my boyfriend were.  The triage nurse explained to me that they weren’t allowing the dog.  I told them, it’s like taking away someone’s prosthetic leg.  They argued that since I was in a wheelchair and would soon be on a gurney, I didn’t need the service dog.  I requested her supervisor.  Her supervisor came out, and they asked me what exactly Hudson does.  I explained a list of the things he does, and they said that since they could do all of that for me, I didn’t need Hudson.  I told them again that they were taking away my independence, that the entire point of a service dog is being able to do those things for myself.  I told them it was like taking away someone’s prosthetic leg, something they had no right to do.  They told me that they had to keep the dog out just in case someone came in with asthma and a dog allergy.  now, if they HAD a patient like that in the ER and couldn’t sufficiently separate us, that would have been a reasonable reason not to allow Hudson in.  However, the theoretical possibility is not.  Hospitals are allowed to restrict dogs from places like burn wards, where the slightest contagion can cause dangerous infections.  However, they are NOT allowed to just blanket refuse to allow service dogs into their facility.

The security supervisor kept after me.  The guard said they were trying for compromise and I said no, you don’t want a compromise.  You want me to do things the way you want.  The guard said no, but the supervisor said ‘I won’t lie to you, you’re right.’  I said that’s a bully’s version of compromise, and you’re no better than a schoolyard bully throwing your weight around.

The ER supervisor said I had the option of going elsewhere.  Bullshit.  When you’ve been brought in by ambulance because you’re barely able to stand with tons of assistance, you don’t have the option of going somewhere else.  Especially when somewhere else is on the far side of the city.  I told them to just get me through and get me out of here.

The security supervisor followed the boyfriend outside, where he was waiting with Hudson, and started harassing him.  He said that the boyfriend was ‘making trouble’ (by standing quietly outside after he’d given up on being able to protect my rights?) and kept after him about the dog being unnecessary in the hospital.  The boyfriend eventually took Hudson home, because he didn’t have any other options, and returned for me.  I think it was the first time in his furry little life that Hudson’s been left entirely alone, and to be honest I was worried he’d hurt himself trying to get back to me.  He’s always had someone with him – his puppy-raiser, his kennel-mate, trainers, me.

So I was left completely alone.  I was reliant on the nurses answering the call button (which took forever) for the most basic of things – needing to pee, needing the lights shut off and the door closed because of the migraine, wanting the damn monitor to stop beeping because it felt like someone was driving spikes into my head every time it beeped.  Things that my boyfriend or my dog could have helped with.  I had to wait for an HOUR at one point to get the call button answered, and the nurse walked in and pushed the ‘off’ switch without even asking me why I needed her, abandoning me with the fluorescent lights still on (my god are those things painful with a migraine) and the door open to all the noise of the ER including a woman yelling.  I was in so much more pain than necessary from all these little things that could have been done for me if I hadn’t been trapped alone by their discriminatory policies.  Bullshit they could do these things for me.  Bullshit that I’d be okay without someone to help me.  Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

I think my boyfriend being kept from me was retaliation for being ‘uppity’ and demanding my rights.  Another claim to file.

They have the right to bar a dog with reason – if the dog presents a danger to others (actual, not theoretical) or if the dog is out of control and behaving inappropriately.

I spoke to the security today and was informed that what happened was against policy.  However, as 4 people acting within their job capabilities denied me access, it’s still a violation for which they are liable.  I plan to sue them.  At the very least, they are liable for a $10,000 dollar fine.  I also want training to EVERY employee mandated.  I’m torn about whether I’d prefer a formal apology or money damages; the whole situation was egregious, I suffered more pain because of it, and damn is it ever upsetting to be discriminated against.  I cried as I lay there, alone and in pain, and they need to pay for that.

At this point, as I see it, I have 3 choices: the first is to take my case to the Department of Justice, which is the federal branch that prosecutes ADA violations, the second is to take my case to a comparable state agency, and the third is to find a lawyer and prosecute the case myself.  I’m inclined towards the third option because if I take it to a government agency, I have virtually no control over what happens and what is demanded as reparation on my behalf.

But believe me, no matter which path I end up taking, I WILL be prosecuting this.  It was a horrific experience, and I do not want anyone else to go through it.  With cases like this, the only way to get through to people is to hit them where they’ll feel it – the pocketbook.  I hate that this is the only way to make people really learn lessons, but so be it.

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Sorry for the quiet…

Hi everyone!  I know it’s been a while since I posted.

See, the new internship takes a lot out of me.  I spend 3-4 hours a day hard at work 3 days a week.  That may not sound like much, but add in that I have to travel to and from work, and on top of that I have 3 classes.  Admittedly, I’ve not been getting in to one of those classes regularly, but that’s somewhat beside the point.

In addition to that, I had a paper this week that just kicked my butt (it was only 7 pages!  It shouldn’t have been so hard!) and a service dog class yesterday that I had to go to.  That, after the day out last weekend on Saturday.  It was a long, LONG week.  Oh yeah, and I had to come in Friday for a meeting at my internship before I went off to service dog class.

All in all, it was an exhausting week.

I love my internship.  I work for a GLBT* law project.  (Or to be more precise, I work in the legal office of a GLBT center – we have other parts to our center like medical and counseling services, HIV testing, and a branch that does legislative advocacy I think – or maybe that’s part of legal.  We don’t interact much with the other branches.)  We interns work without much supervision.  My first two weeks, it completely terrified me – what if I screwed up one of these cases?!  Now that I’m getting used to it, it’s not so bad, and if I’m uncertain about what I’m doing, I ask my boss or one of the more senior interns.  I’d like a little more involvement from my boss instead of me having to always go to her, but at least she’s always open to talking to us.  The hardest part of my job isn’t the work, it’s telling people that we can’t help them.  We don’t take criminal cases, and we don’t take cases unless someone’s GLBT status is at stake.  We also can’t take cases where people don’t have the law on their side, which is absolutely the worst part – where you can look at a case and see clearly that someone was wronged because of being GLBT, but there isn’t a law in their county or city that protects them.  Our state as a whole doesn’t have a GLBT protection, unfortunately.  I currently have 4 cases that are mine, but I can’t talk about the details because it is unfortunately very easy to extrapolate details to the individual.  One of the other interns is working on a case where knowing the job title and GLBT status of the client is specific enough to google and find our case!  It’s a little bit scary, to be honest, knowing how easily confidentiality can be completely obliterated.
A lot of what we do are comparatively simple, ‘routine’ things like name changes, but we also represent people in for example discrimination claims, adoption proceedings, prisoner’s rights claims, and so on and so forth.  It’s definitely a complex practice, and I expect a practice based on disability (what I really want to do in the long run) would be just as complex.
On top of all that, I’ve had 2 migraines and am headed for a third in the space of a week.
All told, it’s made it very hard to do any blogging!
*in this entry I’m using GLBT instead of GLBTQAI (which I prefer) because the center identifies itself as GLBT.  I prefer GLBTQAI because I think GLBT is a very limiting way to write things, especially when you’re representing people who may fall under the greater umbrella term but not under your more limited term.
I am NOT inviting a debate on whether what we’re doing is right or not.  I believe very strongly that it is, and that it’s human rights work to expect equal treatment for people who gender-identify differently just as much as it is human rights work to expect equal treatment for people with disabilities, for people of different racial and ethnic groups, and for people of different faiths.  I think if we leave anyone out in the cold, we have fundamentally gutted our work.  To give you a couple of quotes that I think are words to live by: Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and J.F.K, “Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.”

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I’ve been struggling with schoolwork since I woke up (which was late because I had a severe migraine last night). The boyfriend is at the laundromat because I don’t have clean clothes for work tomorrow.

I’ll admit, the work isn’t going nearly as well as I’d like. It’s a short paper, only 7 pages long, so it’s nothing like the stuff I’ve had to knock out before. But my brain still feels like mush, so all I’ve been able to do today is get little post-it flags on all of the points I think I will want in the cases.

But right now, I’m focusing on the fact that the boyfriend and I agreed I could call out for pizza tonight. I love pizza. It’s without a doubt one of my favorite foods. We like to get pizza dough from a grocery store near us and make our own pizza, but there’s no substitute for the thick, deep doughy crust of a Pizza Hut pizza. We just can’t concoct anything that is similar, and every now and again, I really crave that.

Half pineapple, half pepperoni, here I come!

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Yesterday was the open house for my service dog organization. Because we missed so many service dog classes, we had to make an appearance there to make up for it. Well, more than an appearance. We had to go and stay for 2 hours to get ‘credit’ for being there.

It was, on the whole, a fun afternoon. We had good food (pulled pork bbq, a ton of salads and sides, ice cream from a local farm that makes the creamiest icecream I’ve ever had, sweets galore), we bought Hudson a new toy, socialized with other service dog partners, took Hudson on a short carriage ride, won another dog toy in a raffle, chatted with Hudson’s trainer, spotted a future partner with one of Hudson’s halfbrothers, and generally had a good time. I got a little overheated at one point, but was able to get into air conditioning and recover.  Hudson did a lot of whining, because there were all these other dogs around that he wanted to investigate and play with.  He’s so funny – the dogs nextdoor scare the pants off of him, but other service dogs are nothing but interesting.

There was one dark spot on the day, and that was finding out that if Hudson’s delicate GI had shown up before he graduated, he would have been failed out of the program; his allergies would have been iffy. I say it was a dark spot because the amount of money we have spent on vet care this year has been extremely frustrating. He’s had to take multiple courses of antibiotics, and we’ve had to change his food twice, he now gets a medicated conditioner when he gets washed, and he needs daily allergy meds at the very least all summer. Not fun, believe me! I’m still not sure how I feel about that. I don’t think Hudson would have made a good pet – he needs people too much. I’m also, on the whole, very pleased with him. He’s smart, he’s very loving, and I enjoy his furry little personality. The vet bills are just hard when the people paying them are a pair of students! And pilling a dog who won’t just gulp things down is no fun. As far as I can figure, the only difference between pilling him and pilling a cat is that he doesn’t want to hurt me and doesn’t tend to run away. (as I understand it, cats are rather vindictive creatures when it comes to pilling!) I learned very quickly that it didn’t matter what I hit the pill in, he’d find it. Even those pill pockets that work so well for anyone else would fail with him. Bread, cheese, meat, it doesn’t matter, he chews everything he eats so he always finds the pills. At this point, I pry his mouth open, put the pills all the way at the back of his mouth, force his mouth closed, and wait for him to swallow, sometimes massaging his throat. Even with practice, I get chomped on hard enough to bruise every few days and I have to try multiple times to get pills down about 1/4 of the time. I got a piller, and am going to be expiramenting with wrapping the pills in bread (because they’re too small for the piller) and using that.

Sorry for the side-track there. Ahem.

The toy we bought Hudson is like this but a different brand.  He wasn’t sure about it at first, and couldn’t get the treats out.  He was getting frustrated and bored, so I kept showing him that if it tipped over the right way, it spat out treats.  He eventually managed to learn how to tip it over, but his method involves tipping it with his muzzle and then whapping it with a paw so it spins.  He hasn’t quite gotten that the hole has to be down to get treats out, but he’s figured out a way to make it happen.  Once he learned the trick, he was very, very enthusiastic about it and played until it was empty.

The other toy we got him was one we won in a raffle.  I had looked at it in the stall of the toy vender I bought the pyramid from, and he said it was a bit symplistic for a dog as intelligent as a working dog, but I know Hudson gets bored easily with toys he can’t get treats out of, so I figured it was worth a try.  Not worth the selling price for my purposes, but definitely worth the $5 I spent on raffle tickets. 

We drooled over but couldn’t afford the Nina Ottosson wooden puzzle toys.  They were georgous and some had multiple levels of difficulty that you could customize to the dog to keep the toy ‘new’ and exciting.  If someone wanted to get a special present for Hudson, any of her puzzle games would be perfect, to judge by how much he likes his 2 new toys!

Hudson really wasn’t sure about the carriage ride at first – he didn’t want to get up on the carriage!  It was a little single-horse drawn carriage a bit like this except that the seat could fold up for people to get in and the bottom extended past the seat.  The driver was also a service dog recipient, so her dog was settled up front.  Hudson eventually got settled half under half behind the seat.  His tail poked out so that the spokes of the wheel were brushing against it, but he didn’t seem to mind.  Once we got moving, he was no more nervous on the little cart than he is on the subway, which is to say, it was managable.  This was good news for us, as we hope to take a horsedrawn carriage tour of the old part of our city.  As we’re currently quite broke, it’ll have to wait for better times, but we know now that Hudson doesn’t mind too much.

We also picked up a little bag of gourmet doggie treats for Hudson.  They cost more than our ‘usual’ treats, but I figured for a small splurge, it was okay.  We only bought a quarter-pound, so it wasn’t too bad!

It was good to be among servicedog people.  Knowing that if you were asked questions, it was probably for an applicant.  Hudson, as usual, was quite the favorite.  He’s a handsome lad, and I think he gets more attention because there are only a few ‘doodles in the program – it’s almost all labs and poodles.  Even among his brothers, I think he may be the handsomest – especially the blondes just aren’t as striking as my silvery-black boy.  I may be a little biased, but he gets a LOT of attention from other people!

All in all, I think it was a fun day for everyone involved.  Especially Hudson.  He was so happy about his new pyramid toy that he dozed off with his nose touched up against it while we were watching TV last night.

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Well, I knew a day like Wednesday would have fall-out.

Because of the taxi cab discrimination, I took public transit to get home. It was harder than I expected. For one thing, the first subway station I went to was 4 blocks from work (because it’s a solidly accessible station), and it had a broken elevator and was thus completely inaccessible. So I went back two streets to the partially accessible station and hoped I was on the accessible side. I wasn’t, but there were ramps that said ‘police use only’ right next to the stairs leading you up over the subway to the other side, and I’ll admit I used them.

Then I got on a train that wasn’t due to stop at my stop, and had to get off a stop early. If I had waited there just a minute, the next train that would have gone to my stop would have been there, but I had decided that I couldn’t wait in the heat not knowing when the next train would come. I was in the pedestrian overpass when the next train came.

So then we had to take the longer route home. Poor Hudson had already been dragged 6 blocks in the heat, poor thing, and we had almost a mile from the station to home. He was panting hard and I’d had to slow down my scooter because he couldn’t keep up his trot. I got home about 20 minutes late, but at least I’d called my aide so she knew I wouldn’t be on time.

I couldn’t make it into work the next day. With POTS, it tends to take days to recover from heat exposure, and this is no different. I’m still feeling out of sorts today. I missed class yesterday as well. I also collapsed. I was getting up off the couch and I got to standing and then suddenly I was on the floor. I nearly squashed Hudson, but he had the sense to dart out of the way. I got stuck laying there for a while. I don’t know how long, only that Hudson was worried about me and nosing my face and at first I couldn’t even push him away a little. I couldn’t even bring my hands up to my face. I probably should have called myself an ambulance. Unfortunately, if I’m at the collapsing point, my brain is pretty badly addled and my judgment sucks. I was able to reason that they would have to break down the locked front door, and that was a bad thing…and I really never got farther than that.

I’m now in a bit of trouble, because at this point I’ve missed 2 scheduled days of my internship. I have to talk to the disability coordinator, and I’ll probably need to get a note from my doctor explaining POTS. I’m sure I’ll have to make up the time.

There was one good piece of ‘fall-out’. Well, at least I think it’s good. Yesterday, I called the cab company and spoke to their manager about the way I’d been treated by the cab sent to pick me up. The manager was both very apologetic and clearly upset by the discrimination. He said that driver would be taken off their roster, and he told me what I needed to do to get him reviewed for possible loss of taxi license. I figure if he loses his license, I’ll consider it enough, but if he doesn’t I may file an ADA complaint against him. I think it needs to be done because the next person he discriminates against may be in worse shape than I am and less able to defend themselves after the fact.

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