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Archive for August, 2011

We flew back home Sunday (arrived early Monday morning), and on the way we had one experience that just shocked me.

My fiance had gone to take Hudson out to do his business, as it was a long connection so we had time for it.  I was on my scooter and headed to check in with the gate agents so they knew to pre-board me so we had time to get everything taken care of and settled properly.

A man started snapping pictures of me.  I couldn’t believe it!  He didn’t ask, and by the second picture I was giving him the ‘WTF is wrong with you?!’ look.

When my fiance returned with the dog, the guy once again took pictures.  When my fiance rode the scooter back to the gate agent so it could be checked, even more pictures.

I’m furious.  I don’t know what the hell people are thinking when they pull shit like this.  It’s not the first time it’s happened, and most of the time it’s people of asian descent.  I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t like it.  It feels like being fetishized – people are taking pictures of me because I look disabled.  Or maybe it’s people who are taking pictures because I’m fat and disabled and use a scooter, so they can har har over the way I use a scooter because I’m fat (nevermind that I’m fat because I have a disability and have been on meds that increased my weight, and the scooter is to relieve pressure on my feet and knees that they can’t take because of my multiple, overlapping disabilities).  It makes me so damn mad.

I’m not here for you to take pictures of and amuse yourself with.  I’m just living my life and I’d like the space to do so without being a THING to you, thankyouverymuch.

(On the other hand, the guy who wanted to take a picture of Hudson because he’d never been on a plane with a dog before?  He asked first, and I was totally okay because A) the picture was of the dog, not me and the dog, and B) he ASKED and waited for me to okay it rather than just jumping in and taking pictures.)

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So, I’m on vacation.  We flew out on the 11th, stayed a few days in a nice hotel with my folks, and then went up to the lake in the mountains.  The last day at the hotel, my dad suggested that we do a few miles of whitewater kayaking.  Being a bit of an adrenaline junky, I love me some whitewater.  Mom doesn’t usually participate in very physical stuff, so it was me, dad, and the fiance.

It was a great time, and while I had some sore, tired muscles at the end, I thought that it had gone well.  My back didn’t hurt, and I didn’t hurt anything while I was rafting.

Enter the next day.  My hands and wrists were swollen up bigger than they have been the whole time I’ve had this maybe-rheumatoid arthritis, and so painful that even with a vicodin added to my normal pain meds, I couldn’t sleep from the pain.  The tendonitis in my forearms is the worst I’ve ever had it.  My biceps are sore.  It astonishes me that I don’t have any backpain, though.

Four days later, I’m still puffy and painful in the hands and wrists, and the tendonitis in my forearms is still actively painful instead of just acting up when I do something specific that annoys them.  I did finally buy tendonitis straps yesterday, and it seems to have made things improve dramatically.  Sadly, the drug store didn’t have the arthritis support gloves you see so often, so I don’t have anything to help with my hands.

Other than that, the vacation has been amazing.  This whole trip has been in dry country, first the high desert, and now a relatively dry alpine climate.  I can’t express to you how much better I feel when I’m a drier place.  If it weren’t for the trouble I’ve had sleeping due to pain (and a relatively hard bed), this vacation would be pretty well perfect physically.

It’s a small family reunion, so my fiance has gotten to meet the far north branch of the family that never comes to anything and the central coast folks as well (who likewise rarely come to anything).  All told, there are just over 20 of us now with another 3 expected today.  He’s getting on well with him, and coming out of his shell nicely.

Tomorrow, we have rented a waterski boat.  I know that I shouldn’t, but I am going out.  I will definitely go tubing behind the boat, and I’m thinking about also using the kneeboard.  I’m probably not waterskiing, though – I was never all that good at it, and it means a lot more stress on my hands than kneeboarding.

Hudson approves of our vacation local because there is lots of grass for him to use for doing his business, not to mention that there are critter smells – squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, and there’s a chance of the occasional coyote or bear.  He’s not sure about all of my kin, mostly because we’ve all been packing into one livingroom/diningroom together for dinner.  The crowd makes him a bit anxious, but a few at a time he likes most of them.  My nephew, Gavin, has been making him a bit nervous when he hops around (as 3 year olds are wont to do), and my cousin’s 4-year old makes him very anxious – probably because he’s not as gentle as he ought to be and because the damn kid won’t leave him alone unless I run him off.  I get very concerned when I see a dog moving away from a kid and the kid following – that’s asking for a bite.  And the last thing I want is a dogbite incident involving Hudson!

Anyhow, I hope you are all well and enjoying the tail end of summer.

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It’s carnival time!

Welcome to the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!*  We are assistance dog partners, trainers, puppy raisers, and people generally interested in the world of assistance dogs.  These dogs have a great deal of impact on our lives.  When I sat down to think about a topic for this carnival, I wanted to give a relatively general idea so that people could run with it.

Difference is something we live with.  Some of it is good difference, like the way our assistance dogs improve our lives and how they change us.  Some of the difference just IS, neither good nor bad, like the difference between the service dogs we have worked with.  Sadly, some of the difference is bad difference, like being the person whose placement doesn’t work out or having people react in negative ways to you and your partner.

Without any further ado, I give you the summer Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

I’d like to start with the tough entries, because I think it’s important to recognize that not all difference is good.  It is a shame that difference isn’t always a force for the better, but I think if we don’t think about and work with negative differences, we risk losing the positive ones.

First up I have truelyable, who offers a window into the 3 months she tried to make her service dog partnership work, “When it doesn’t work out.”  https://trulyable.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/when-it-doesnt-work-out/

I found the entry from Carin of Vomit Comet hard because I did a lot of thinking about how tough things were with her first dog.  As I am working with my first dog, I had to commend her courage in choosing to work with another dog after that first experience!  Carin talks about the difference between her first dog (who she had to return to the program) and her second dog (who is a great partner!) in “What a difference a dog makes” http://vomitcomet.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-difference-dog-makes.html

From the Pawpower Pack, we have ‘The difference is her’.  In this post, she talks about the difference her now-retired guide, Bristol, has made in her life.  I included it in the hard posts because part of this is talking about Bristol retiring and aging.  http://pawpower4me.blogspot.com/2011/07/difference-is-her.html

Karyn of ‘Through a Guide’s Eyes’ talks about how she has changed how she deals with one of the hardest things an assistance dog partner can deal with: health complications in her dog.  While it sounds like she is coping much better, dealing with illness in your partner is tough!  http://throughguideseyes.blogspot.com/2011/07/decade-of-difference.html

Martha of ‘Learning Baby Steps’ tells us about the differences in initiating relationships with her service dogs and how it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for her.  http://learninbabysteps.blogspot.com/2011/07/different-beginnings.html

We actually have 3 different entries covering city vs country living with assistance dogs and future assistance dogs.  I was kind of surprised that there were so many, but then, much of assistance dog training presumes that one lives in a city.

From Allison of Gilbert and Me, we have a blog about home in the country and feeling at home called ‘There’s no place like home!’ http://anastoff.livejournal.com/28684.html

Patti of Plays with Puppies brings us a discussion about the things puppy raisers have to think about when they live in the country with ‘Living the Difference’ http://playswithpuppies.blogspot.com/2011/07/living-difference.html

Sharon of After Gadget talks about the different issues a rural assistance dog partner faces that most of us city assistance dog teams never have to think about in ‘The Rural Difference’ http://aftergadget.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/the-rural-difference/

We also have 3 entries on the differences between dogs and/or transitioning between dogs.

Cyndy of Gentle Wit talks about the different transitions she’s had into new guide dog relationships in ‘Moving On’ http://gentlewit.com/2011/07/15/moving-on/

Linda of ‘From Puppy to Public Access’ talks about the differences between her two service dogs, exhuberant Laurel and calmer Hardy, in “Differences between Laurel and Hardy” http://frompuppytopublicaccess.blogspot.com/2011/07/differences-between-laurel-and-hardy.html

Brooke of Ruled By Paws tells us about the different relationships she has had with her service dogs in ‘My Scorpios’ http://ruledbypaws.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-scorpios.html

Next, 2 posts about how life with an assistance dog is different.

From L^2 of Dog’s Eye View, we have a post about all of the changes having guide dog makes in her life, from community, public reactions, and safety to dogfood in ‘Nine Years Later’ http://l-squared.blogspot.com/2011/07/nine-years-later.html

From me, my (admittedly late!) post about the difference in caring for a service dog versus caring for a pet in ‘Service Dog vs Pet: Care’ https://brilliantmindbrokenbody.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/service-dog-vs-pet-care/

I saved for last the 3 posts that talk about the huge positive impact an assistance dog has had on their partner.  I saved these ones for last because I wanted to end the carnival on a high note!

Katrin of ‘By My Side’ brings us a post about how she is percieved differently with a guide dog because she IS different with a guide dog – a more comfortable, confident person – in ‘Confidence’ http://asdbymyside.blogspot.com/2011/06/confidence.html

From Linda of ‘From Puppy to Public Access’, we have a piece called ‘What a difference a dog makes!’ about all of the benefits (including some subjective ones that just make her happy) her service dogs have given her.  Linda’s service dogs not only provide mobility support, they also alert on conditions that she didn’t even know service dogs could predict!  http://frompuppytopublicaccess.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-difference-dog-makes.html

Finally, from Flo, a post that brought a tear to my eye.  Flo describes how her service dog, Duncan, has changed her perspective on life and brought her, has the title of her post says, from “Hatred to Hope.”  http://duncanfloyd.blogspot.com/2011/07/hatred-to-hope.html

Thank you all for contributing!  I think we did a good job on addressing a lot of kinds of difference in the lives of people in the assistance dog world.

*Please accept my apologies for how late this carnival is going up.  Between a series of medication changes and the loss of a good friend to suicide, I have been really struggling to get anything done.

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Oh god, Hudson was making me laugh so hard I was having a bit of trouble breathing.  He just did the goofiest thing I have ever seen him do, and he’s routinely a bit goofy.

You have to understand, first off, that bugs are a relatively recent discovery for Hudson.  I suppose he first started paying attention to them a little before Christmas, because I remember it still being a new thing when we visited my family.  In the past couple weeks, he’s finally figured out flying things – before then, he would emphatically sniff where they had been and not be able to figure out what happened to them.

So I’m sitting here at my computer, and I see Hudson sniffing his belly…and then he got his back leg up and ducked his head under it and was sniffing at the ground.  I’m not sure what happened next, but I THINK he tried to jump after a fly…darting farther under his back leg.  What ended up happening was that his back foot swung down and he kicked himself on the back of the head.  He then very abruptly untangled himself and gave this snort…and started looking for the fly again.

OMG.  It was the most ridiculous looking thing you can imagine.  I was laughing so loudly that my fiance, who was in the next room, poked his head out to see what had me cracking up so badly and I couldn’t finish a phrase to tell him.

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We talk a lot about how service dogs are different from pets, but one of the things I don’t see addressed often is how much more care goes into our service dogs than most people put into their pets.

To give you an example, I know what texture Hudson’s poop is and I pay attention to whether he is straining or uncomfortable while he’s doing his business.  It’s important because it tells me a lot about his mental health – when he’s anxious or stressed, he’s very prone to diarrhea.  It also tells me how his gastrointestinal system is doing with his current food, which has been an issue for us.

Hudson’s food costs over $1.50/lb.  We make his treats ourselves from ground beef (and we are thinking about branching into other things like sweet potato chips).

Hudson gets brushed almost daily.  Even among people with longhaired dogs, I know few people who brush out their pets daily.  He also gets tick-checked almost daily.  I’ll admit that there are occasions where I just don’t have the wherewithal to do it, but even on bad days, I check his head and his paws, as those are the most likely places to find ticks.  Tick checking means I go over his entire body with the pads of my fingers, feeling for lumps, bumps, and anything out of place as well as for little bloodsucking monsters.

His teeth get brushed daily.  I’ll admit this is one I fall down on when my fiance isn’t around, because Hudson wants to get the toothpaste so badly that brushing his teeth without someone holding his head still is about as difficult as feeding an uncooperative baby (except that he struggles against me with 65 pounds of strength!) – things go everywhere but where they’re supposed to, I get frustrated, and his teeth don’t get done well.

His nails get cut weekly.  Most people let their pets’ nails get long enough to tick on tile or cement, but this is actually too long.  It makes dogs shift the way they carry their weight and will wear out their hip joints faster.

Hudson’s ears get cleaned weekly.  I know there are a variety of thoughts on how often ears should be cleaned, but that’s what our school taught and he gets frequent enough ear infections that it seems like a good idea with him.

He gets his paws and ahem personal areas trimmed twice a month.  As a longhaired dog, Hudson is prone to getting mats between his toes, around his groin, and around his anus, so I have to get in between his pads and around areas he’d rather I left alone and trim away fur.  He gets trims to his beard and moustache about every 6 weeks because otherwise he makes an enormous mess when he drinks.

Hudson sees the vet much more often than your average pet does.  My dog sees his doc any time he seems to be significantly under the weather, and he has gotten the canine flu vaccine because I can’t afford for him to be sick.  He takes medication to take care of his allergies and gets his monthly flea, tick, and heartworm meds.

Hudson also gets washed every 4 weeks plus any time he goes in the ocean.  He has to be clean and not smell too strongly of dog for public work, not to mention it’s probably good for him.  He also periodically gets a steroid conditioner as he has itchy skin when his allergies flare.

Hudson doesn’t care for a lot of the things that are done on his behalf.  He’s quite sure that his paws and nails are fine without any interference, thankyouverymuch.  He believes that his groin and his hind end don’t need to be touched.  The bath is entirely unnecessary.  Toothbrushing is a waste of time and I really should just give him the toothpaste to lick up.  Ear-cleaning is enough to get him fighting with most of his strength to get away from me pouring cleaner in and scrubbing his ear.  Tick-checking is annoying, and I really should just pet him instead.  Giving him pills is an annoying habit of mine that I really ought to stop (and trying to get him to take them via something like Pill Pockets is just silly).  Bathing is cruel and unpleasant, especially when it involves washing his head and his beard.  Brushing is unkind and I should stick to scratching and petting instead.

In short, Hudson isn’t fond of most of the care he recieves that keep him in tip-top shape.  He makes a lot of his care mildly difficult – in general he is very polite about the fact that he doesn’t like it, but it’s clear he’d rather we didn’t do it.  The most pitiful is probably the hangdog body language while he’s being bathed, while the strongest attempt to escape what he needs done is when his ears get cleaned.  For the most part, he makes it clear that he’s tolerating what we do.  He hates being clipped and has to be held in position by someone else while I clip him – usually my fiance, as no one else is willing to hold onto the dog quite firmly enough.

For a little bit of amusement, let me tell you what happens when we’re done doing pretty much any of Hudson’s necessary care.  Once we’re finished, I announce ‘All done!’  Hudson starts running around and frolicking, followed by a spate of doggy breakdancing.  His favorite move we call ‘the moustache’, where he uses both of his front paws to smooth over his snout like a man grooming his moustache, except that Hudson tends to make an even bigger mess of it.

So there’s my bit of difference: the difference in healthcare and grooming that a service dog recieves from his partner.  I had a lot of other topics I wanted to write about, including the difference in how people respond to you, but I decided that I didn’t want to write yet another post about how normal folks treat us in uncomfortable ways.

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Ack! Ouch!

I went off my most recent rheumatological med yesterday morning.

I guess I hadn’t realized how well it was working, because man am I ever in bad shape now.  I feel like I was trampled by a herd of horses.  My hands are in loads of pain, my back is agony, my feet are tender, and my knees rebel every time I even think about going upstairs.  I’m on percocet for the pain until I can get a hold of my rheum and ask for a new med.  My fingers are up 1/2 a ring size, and my wrists are about 15% larger than normal.  It hurts where my ribs meet my spine and where they meet my breastbone.  I’m actually nauseated from the pain.

I’m annoyed.  I auctioned a lace scarf almost two months ago to support some rebuilding efforts in Haiti via Random Acts, and I haven’t been able to finish it and send it to the (very understanding) buyer.  I really feel bad as the buyer had wanted to give it to her mother for her birthday last week.  And now it’s delayed until I can get a new med, AGAIN.

I’m very glad I dropped my research class, because all of these days I’ve lost to physically not being well this summer would have added up to a very poor project.  Certainly not anything worthy of my friend’s memory.

I’m frustrated that I’m having to try another new medication for the pain and swelling.  This makes three I’ve had to be pulled off (though one of those was only intended to be a short-term fix, but it didn’t survive even the amount of time we hoped it would).  Two went down to GI side-effects, and this one went down to fatigue and generalized muscle cramps.

I’m sick of this.  Sick of being sick with whatever it is hitting my joints, sick of the meds, sick of the side effects, sick of having to stop taking things that are working.

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ARG – down it is.

Well, this newest med has to be stopped.  I got two of the ‘call your doctor immediately’ symptoms.  From what I’ve read, they aren’t immediately dangerous (that is, it’s not for example an allergic reaction or thrombosis) so I don’t need the ER, but I do need to stop the new rheumatological med.

I was sleeping an extra 3-4 hours a night and last night, I started getting muscle cramps everywhere.  I’m still feeling painfully sore from that, but it is improving.  Grr.  I hate the medi-go-round.  I guess I’ll be starting a new med when I talk to my rheumatologist again.

You just can’t win sometimes!

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