31 December 2011

There is Hope Yet

I have not wrote much about accomplishments this year. I have struggled a lot over the ground we have lost through Lyme as well as training indoor alerts as a general rule.

Lately I have been trying to work with Thane again in regards to the door alert. We lost a lot of ground with indoor alerts especially through Lyme. I had purchased a second tactile pager to use in our training. Since things fell apart, I decided to just start back at square one again. Some days he seems to get the aspect of show the door, but it takes work to put the alert and showing the door together. I keep it short to keep it fun, but we don't practice nearly enough- hampered by his med and supplement dosing schedule (some of which require as much as an hour of no food in the stomach time before and after)

Tonight was pawsitively amazing!

We were in the bedroom and Thane took off like he was on a mission, but I was unsure just what that might be since the tactile pager did not go off. I went part way which put me in the same room as him, but a good distance away. I did not go further because I was unsure where he was. A moment passed and he raced to me in his paws alert that we have trained as the hearing dog alert for in home alerts. After that, he raced me to the door.

I grabbed my mask to answer it because he was persistent. No one was there at the time, but if Thane heard the door, then someone was there. Of course I did not have treats, clicker, not even a toy, but boy I praised him for a job well done.

My neighbor has her grand daughter from hell staying with her. She is old enough to know better and to behave, but lets just say that she will always be a thorn in my side. The manager has been at her wits end with the situation. Tonight though her knock on the neighbors door before grandma notices I am gone paid off for us. There is something good to come out of it all.

I will admit I was having a downer day today in just dealing with how much of our year got swallowed up by Lyme. Having this take place tonight was just- how else can I put it, but Pawsitively Pawsome!

15 December 2011

Just *WOW*!

Lately I've been trying hard to work with Thane's excessive energy in regards to our work. Once I realized this was not a phase, but the process of Lyme receding, I began taking a more training approach to all of it.

Yesterday this paid off. The entire day was not perfect, but overall I saw that by using equipment like the GL, playing before outings, and walking long routes all could play a part in bringing our function as a team back to the way I remember it being.

Thane definitely needs more in this season than I am able to reasonably give him. Between the weather and my abilities, its a hard place to be as energy comes bounding back! We've been lucky this month though. We are experiencing an unseasonably dry December. Its often very cold, but as long as I can bundle up enough, we make good use of the days when I am able.

Yesterday I took a trip to New Seasons with him. Though he wanted to ice walk the floors excessively which took a lot of work to get him to slow down and walk on his feet, I still felt overall like things were going better than some previous outings lately where I was frankly half ready to retire him. The trip home went really smoothly- perhaps he was finally using up some of that extra energy grin.

We got home to discover that one of my neighbors had been running their exhaust fan and the exhaust fan cover I use to prevent neighbors from filling my apartment with their toxins had fallen off. It was horrible in here. This complex (despite what they try and make tenants believe) uses shared exhaust outlet. Rather than each apartment being a single outlet to the roof, they all come together and have a single outlet. This also means when one person runs their exhaust fan, it floods someone elses apartment. If that person happens to have MCS, it's not a pretty picture.

I was exhausted from the big trip to New Seasons, but we needed more foil tape for Dad to fix the vent cover. I planned to leave Thane home because I really did not expect he would want to turn back around and work again. He's the kind of dog who once you are home, it has taken a lot of work and training to get him willing to do something else again.

I was surprised when Thane was ready to go again. I harnessed him up and off we went to the hardware store- clear down where we catch the bus after taking the long walk in the morning. Thane worked flawlessly which was so great for me. We spent a lot of the evening playing toys in the bedroom. It was a lot of fun watching Thane begin to play by himself at times again. It was like I was seeing a side of Thane that I have not seen in a very long time.

I know Thane needs more than I am able to give him on a daily basis. That is a hard thing for me because I want to give him what he needs. That all said, I plan to do my very best as we continue to press through the remainder of Lyme and re-learn how to work together as a team with all this energy!

07 December 2011

The Energizer Bunny Returns

Those who have known me since Thane entered my life know that one of my nicknames for Thane is *The Energizer Bunny*. Those who know us IRL can attest to the amount of energy Thane had back then. The commercial of the energizer bunny who kept going and going and going pretty much summed up what Thane is like.

Thane had begun to settle as he matured. This was awesome for me as clearly had he been a program dog, this match never would have happened. I am an individual with the need of a medium harness pull at best and Thane well, his pull was hard. As he matured (or so that's what I believed it to be), his pull became more of a medium in at least three quarters of the situations we encountered.

Fast forward to present day- Lyme is receding and losing its grip on Thane. As it does, his symptoms are being checked off as they become resolved or at the least significantly diminished. The dog who collapsed in late June, is now a dog who has enough energy for every living being in this town! Needless to say I have discovered that Thane had not just matured, but Lyme had reduced the energy he had to give.

This year, I have been visited by profound nerve pain and increased sensory loss. Though it is easier to work with when I am not on the computer, as a deafblind individual, my computer is my lifeline to the world. This isn't just about social needs, but about business requirements as well. With all of this going on, Thane's increased energy and thus increased pull in harness has been beyond rough on me.

It was not until today that I learned this was about Lyme receding and not just about Thane being a handful, stubborn, or whatever other word you choose to employ here. smile This is not the way Thane was a month ago in any way shape or form.

When I got home today, I was pulling my hair out. I hurt so bad that all I could think or say was that if Thane did not find a way to snap out of this, the R word (retirement) may have to be employed in the area of guide dog. Thane is a combo trained service dog so it would not be the end of the road, but it would most definitely change my ability to function in the world.

You can imagine my resolve once I learned that this was about Lyme receding. On one hand it was a let down knowing this is here to stay, but on the other hand, I think it gave me some ideas on just how to approach what is taking place- ie wear the boy out with some hard play before heading out to town.

Boy we sure could use those kids he was growing up with about right now! LOL

06 December 2011

Dry Spells Are Good!

We are in a dry spell where the weather is concerned. After the excessive rain and flooding of November this is a very good thing in our book. Dry means we can do stuff- well sort of. Right now we are in an inversion where it is warmer in the mountains than it is here LOL It just means we have to wait until later in the day to head out and do anything much.

After the mishap last week with the max, there are ramifications I am still dealing with. Thane has been awesome adjusting to my temporary albeit more pronounced issues for the time being.

With this crisp and dry weather though, it's really fun to get out and work with Thane- even if it's just in town. It's giving me the opportunity to evaluate how he is coming along in regards to the effects of Lyme. Though his distraction level can be a bit high at times in areas where we are not used to encountering other people, overall I would say he is really coming along.

Focus, cognition, collagen (which affects eyes as well as skin and coat) are the symptoms that I am trying to evaluate at this stage of the game. I have to admit that in some areas the improvements are much more pronounced than in others, but I also know that patience is crucial at this stage of the game.

The fact that Thane was able to guide me in the dark last week and not just for a short distance has replaced any doubts I once had about his full return to duty. I feel hopeful though I have to remind myself at times that all of the healing won't be happening tomorrow. Smile

While the meteorologists complain about our lack of precipitation, I am making my list and checking it twice for adventures to take during this unseasonably dry start to December VBG

04 December 2011

Happy Woofday Chimette

Some people find it odd that I still celebrate these special days. I probably always will- not just for Met, but for all my successor dogs as well. OK I may not be able to celebrate these days with new toys and the like without breaking the bank by the time I am on my fourth or fifth dog, but these days will always hold special meaning in my heart.

If Met were still in our lives, he would now be fifteen years old. I often think about this concept. I have many friends like Rox'E at the Doghouse- Let the Fur Fly blog who have senior retired guide, hearing, or service dogs. Though I feel very happy for them that their dogs are still in their lives, I know that no matter what way I slice it, I would not want Met to still be in my life.

Please don't take this the wrong way. For over a decade, Met was my entire life quite literally. From the time he began public access, I can count on one hand the times when I went somewhere without him. In these situations, I had someone else with me. They were very specific situations where there was a huge reason for leaving him home alone. Because of my approach though, I was quite literally afraid of the outside world. By losing Met when I did, I was forced to face the reality of my progressive disabilities. In a sense, Met's death allowed me to gain a level of independence I never felt possible. Lets face it, I grew up a lot through a loss that I never imagined I would ever rise above.

Met's life was not an easy one. Though we gained great control over his vaccinosis, it was forever a balancing game of tweaking meds, supplements, or the like. It was a partnership where I had to think just as much or more about how what I needed to do would impact him as to my needs to head out. In hindsite, I see that this partnership should have ended before his time on earth did.

I don't have near the regrets now that I had when I lost him. Met's life taught me things that I never would have learned otherwise. Essentially I did a whole lot of growing up through the journey through vaccinosis and progressive disabilities.

One thing I was able to admit after Met's passing and still feel to this day is that I am relieved by his passing. Don't get me wrong- I still have moments from time to time when it stings and I just miss him, but I know that death was the kindest thing that ever could have happened. I can't imagine what his life would be like, had he not succumbed to the disease back in 2007. It was his time. I can see that just as clearly as I did back on that beautiful autumn day in 2007.

I will forever love and cherish the dog who showed me that my disabilities did not have to be so complicated and difficult to manage and rise above. I will forever be grateful for the journey filled with lessons- both good ones and tough ones; for in experiencing them, I was able to grow in ways I never fathomed possible

Forever those auburn eyes will be burned into my mind as they led me through life's uncertainties

Thankyou my sweet tri-colored boy for showing me just how much I could accomplish with you at my side

02 December 2011

Quite a Day!

Yesterday Thane and I had the opportunity to really get out of town without the need to do errands. He has been showing the boredom and high energy side that I recall from pre-Lyme during the rainy season. We got a rare dry spell for the start of December though and by all means I was going to take advantage of it.

It was quite cold when we set off, but beautiful. Thane loves the cool and cold weather (silly man). Me, on the other hand, as long as its dry and I can bundle up enough to keep warm enough, I am game. smile

At first I was not sure where we would wind up, but I really did not want to go back to the trail so soon and especially not on such a cold day. Its significantly colder in that woodsy trail area. Instead of the trail, I decided that we would head to Clackamas. I knew Thane had a lot of energy now thanks to the progress in his Lyme treatment and all the rain we have had lately keeping us penned up in the apartment.

We caught the bus and I was relieved that it was one of my favorite drivers and not the driver I had to report for refusing to ask people to move for me. This driver was awesome and gave me a pass until 5PM. I thought gee 5PM we could do an awful lot in that time (except we needed to be home before dark).

We got to my stop, and my chair would not move! I was a bit leery about this but this chair has always had a quirk. There is something called drive lockout with the tilt. It's supposed to engage at a certain point where it would be considered dangerous to drive and be tilted. In theory that is the way it works, but my chair has always locked out at all different ranges, even stupidly low ones. That said, this chair also had a problem with its joy stick control connection once because the idiots who put it together did not screw the pins in on the parallel cord. Its placed right in the armrest side cover which is easy to hit things when you misjudge your clearance. I kept thinking though that this was happening at the worst possible time. I both fiddled with that connection and lowered the tilt so I have no idea which was the answer- most likely the tilt as the connection still appeared solidly connected. PHEW! was what I felt when it started though.

Some people would have taken that as a signal to go home, but since I was pretty sure it was the tilt, we went ahead to the max. While on the max I decided to go look at the neat toys and other doggie stuff at REI. There are two REI's we could use, but one requires a bus that only runs once an hour. It also is not quite as good in the doggie wares  There were a few things I have wanted to see in person before deciding if they are an appropriate item both for Thane and with my MCS detox needs.

Off we went for the biggest adventure since the collapse from Lyme. We had a great time actually. Thane was so in tune with my needs while at the same time having this need to follow the edge (thanks Capstar). We checked out some neat toys which though they were quite unique, I knew they either would never detox or would not do so in the time frame I had to work with. There are some that I would definitely consider in the future.

There is one aspect I do not like about this outside mall, REI is near the end of it and you have to go around the entire circle and deal with idiots who think stepping in front of a guide dog and power wheelchair using handler is no big deal. I don't know how many times we had to swerve one way or another to miss leveling folks who are more interested in texting on their iphones than what is going on around them! LOL

On the way back there was another sidewalk approach that would allow us to leave the shop area pretty immediately so I said what the heck, I'm game *let's try it* WHOOPS! It had beautiful sidewalk access all the way up to the street but then no sidewalk, no crossing, NADA We backtracked through the parking lot a tad and managed to pull it off safely, but we won't take that shortcut again smile

Things had gone relatively smoothly and Thane was getting to ride his trains. He loves to take long train rides. We were headed home when all of a sudden, we were all disembarked! There had been a power outage with the Max system that affected a number of the stops. All of a sudden that wonderful bus pass was not looking like it was going to be good enough to get us home. It took 45 minutes to get a shuttle which they said was going to take at most ten minutes LOL That was the second shuttle and still not enough for the initial influx of people from three different max lines that all converged on one transit center.

We took everything in stride. It was a beautiful day albeit cold. The workers from Trimet did an exceptional job assuring I understood what was going on and that I got where I needed to be to get a shuttle. Being deafblind can be quite disconcerting when plans change and no one tells you what is happening- they all just disembark! LOL

I was wary though before I even got off the max. It was dark. I have not worked Thane in the dark since Lyme impacted him so dramatically which included an impact on his eyes. I also have severe photosensitivity. The contrast of the dark with all lighting- headlights, street lights, signs, fluorescent lighting, etc all are huge triggers for me. I was really unsettled by how my body was acting. Thane can sense these changes in me I believe. Anytime it happens he is a lot more cautious of my needs, his pull, his enthusiasm and takes great care with me so that we both get where we need to safely. This was much the case as we de-boarded max, thanked the gentleman who helped clear the path for me, and headed for the bus to ride the rest of the way to our town.

I was so proud of Thane! He showed he can work in the dark, but also found the bus we needed in a big transit center from a direction we have never taken to access that bus. When we got off in town it was such a relief to be out of the crammed like sardines travelling we had been doing all afternoon.I knew a lot of toxic cleanup awaited me. Right now though it was decision time. Was Thane really up to the task of guiding us all the way home or did I pull out my guide cane and heel him.

We had an all sidewalk route other than two small street crossings so I decided to give Thane the chance to shine and shine he did! I became very disoriented and yet, Thane kept moving us forward towards home- alerting me to any obstacle, bump, driveway, or intersection. This is the kind of situation in which he truly excels and makes me feel like all the hard work, worry, stress, and yes frustration have all been worth it!

This was not the kind of adventure I anticipated when we headed out the door, but Thane sure got to show me just what he was cut out for on this day full of changes.

13 November 2011

Another Gotcha Day for Thane

Anniversaries are things to hold close to your heart and celebrate- each and every time they come around (for the living). Today is just such a day for Thane and I. November 13, 2007 Thane took a very long trip across the country by two planes to become my successor to Met.

I will remember that moment with his muzzle resting in my hands for eternity. It was that connection I needed to resolve my sorrow of the lost partnership and companionship of Met. It was as if Thane knew what I needed. Not in terms of service, but in terms of healing my broken heart.

I'm trying today to think about who Thane is to me- all we have achieved and experienced together instead of about the uncertainties I feel about whether or not this partnership will survive. That's not for now- not because of the date but because its too soon to be making any decisions about our future.

Thane is fast, agile, and if I'd let him, he'd be jumping out of the starting gate all the time! We still work on containing this over-zealous side. He prefers hide and seek be that he hides and I seek- then when I can't find it (which is about 99.9 percent of the time) he comes and points his nose and body to where he left it. If I still can't find it he comes in for a close up of the same stature. He is definitely a herding dog. Sometimes I wonder what he would be like with sheep and wonder if this life was the right one for him. Then he breaks hard when a car is ready to plow us down and I know that he is the best gift I could have imagined.

I love the memories of all of our firsts- from obstacle avoidance in training, to saving my life when drivers forget what a crosswalk is. From the first trip to the toy store once he was comfortable riding the bus, to learning to ride max (something never done with Met), to trips on max to the trail, to the transit center for a nice walk around the community there, to trips into Portland and beyond- yes beyond. Of the recent experience where I wasn't focused enough on his alert of an Emergency Vehicle so he blocked me until I paid good attention. From the first time he did a solid retrieve, to the first time he actually tugged a door or the fridge open, to the first time he nudged the fridge door closed with power instead of a slight nudge that let gravity complete the task, to the time he recycled his ball because it seemed the thing to do after a bit of training with bags and baskets- all of these things (and there are many more) put smiles on my face today because I know without this day (November 13, 2007) there would not be all these awesome firsts and experiences- there would not be a dog mitigating so much.

This year put great limitations on our partnership. Our summers are usually spent with many pleasure trips where we can enjoy life and each other. This summer did not allow for that- in fact it was late fall before we made it to the trail. I have to admit though, that outing was one of the happiest days in our partnership as we took back our life that Lyme stole.

I wasn't going to talk about all this today, but every time I tried not to include it, I realized just how much its a part of who we are. This day is special. Perhaps I feel how special it is because I realize how close we really came to losing it all. Thane was diagnosed just days before he went into a complete collapse. This wasn't early onset, it was late onset and my hope for a quick resolution faded fast. Its hard to fathom what would have become of him, of me, of us had it not been for a very special friend battling this disease for a number of years. Today, Thane and I owe her this day of ours!

Thane has been my rock for four years. He had been offered to me when he was just two months old. Met was struggling and I certainly did not feel I had what it took to help him and raise a puppy. Of course I also had no idea that within six months of turning down the puppy, Met would be gone. I have heard that he was offered to others, but just like me, it was not the right time. This all played out for a reason- so Thane could still be there when it was the right time. Boy I'm so glad for how things worked out!

I thought I would close this entry with a poem I wrote for Thane in 2008. Though we have re-worked some alerts such as the one for emergency vehicles, it basically shares where my mind/ head was at the time- trying to move on with Thane but realizing part of me was still with Met.

May I have this dance?
I can work this job
Youth on my side--
spunky yet agile
I halt in perfection
steel on wheels

Differences of style
not mistakes
attributes of me

I zag
where he zigged
sway as a boat
on calm seas
try to pace traffic
just my immaturity

head turns left
watch that cup tossed aside
cart blocks the way
hedge protruding
a twig or a branch
oh my--
construction ahead

Hard Halt!
that speedsters way fast!

Sirens approach
Hard Halt, quick sit
as 9-1-1 I instruct

Each outing new
as a competitive course
head turns slightly
be it right
be it left
directional cues
the path I must choose

High alert
be they patient
or rude
no need to hurry
your safety
my concern

Entrances a puzzle
single door
double door
buzz us in
new challenges await

Each turn of my head
a distant world I relate
Through eyes, ears, paws, tail
every movement a cue
in my role for you

Girthed in harness
or just fur
my role as your guide
as a nose nuzzling friend
unconditional love
a bond tightly formed
time, training, and trust
comes with each step

Accept me, for me
it's time for my chance
give me this job
I really can dance!

by Karyn E LaGrange
copyright 2008

19 October 2011

The Border Collie Boys

This entry is for the fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. The topic for this carnival is achievement.

There are many areas I can reflect upon as an owner trainer of not one but two successful Border Collie multiple disability trained service dogs, but for me the biggest achievement isn't in the overcoming of medical hurdles in each of my dogs, or training two dogs for multiple disabilities,  or any specific task they have been trained to perform for me, but it lies in the independence I have gained by the massive achievement of training my dogs with all the naysayers out there (especially when I took this on with Chimette having never had a program trained dog).

I had waited for over eight years on a waiting list for a program dog when they decided they wanted to start my application all over. Once my deteriorating vision became known, I became one of those *not really fit* candidates. I decided that I was just not going to take any more delays from the program and set off to find a dog to train myself- something the program insisted I could NEVER accomplish on my own.

Enter Chimette- a 6 month old Border Collie Shepherd cross from a rescue I was referred to. There were times I felt like I was insane to think I could train my own service dog, but through the help of a friend, I stuck with him. Chimette AKA Met was in many ways a natural service dog. He learned things really quickly that I trained him and more times than not, began doing things that merely needed me to fine tune the alert for. In instinct, curiosity, trying new things he was the absolute best candidate for a first time trainer. In terms of breed, fear and behavior which later was determined to be vaccinosis, he was the absolute worst candidate. In fact, at one point, I had resolved myself to training him for non-public access only. As his issues resolved and he came out of what we called *his shell* life in public access was pursued.

I had no concept of just how much my life would change with a trained service dog at my side. As my disabilities progressed over the years and new ones joined the ranks, I kept training. The choice to adopt him so as to train my own service dog allowed me to achieve an independence with progressive disabilities that I never would have imagined possible. Met showed me a truly remarkable thing- a life where relying on humans was replaced by relying on a four legged unconditional friend who carried me through some of the most unspeakable changes in my health and abilities,  while at the same time changing something inside of me- changing my mindset about my limitations and what life was like from so pessimistic to the picture of optimism.

As Met aged, I knew theoretically his retirement time was drawing closer. He had already outlived the veterinarians prognosis by five years by then. I had no idea even with that knowledge though, that he would be passing before full retirement would come to pass. I had often thought about the differences in me since Met came into my life. It was not about how he changed my outlook so much, but the fact that my disabilities without Met, would be quite severe. Could I really pull off training a successor? These were just thoughts in my mind though. I had no picture yet of how much Met did- how much of my independence was about him until the day he breathed his last.

When Thane arrived as a nine month old nearly clean slate just three months after Met's passing,  it was only then that I realized just how much I had done with Met. I had begun adapting to my disabilities by then through the use of various equipment purchases and technologies but the struggle to perform the tasks was still profound. I really wondered if life would ever again have the level of ease that Met's skill had provided me with. I was quite literally wracked with pain all the time from the methods of accommodation available to me. Due to my MCS, human assistance could only come from my folks and though they tried to help when they could, they just are not able to help in the areas that I could really benefit from.

Thane was an awesome dog, but the trauma from the flight and the fact that he had to be vaccinated just days before to comply with airline regulations made for a very different dog than he was beforehand not to mention the ramifications of  stress on the immune system. As a result of my grief and his needs to adapt to such a new life we spent a lot of the winter doing things the wrong way.

As owner trainers, learning from mistakes teaches us more than if everything goes smoothly though. smile The process of leash training while trying to control a power wheelchair, use a guide cane and a tactile mini guide left me feeling like maybe my doubts were warranted- maybe my disabilities were now too severe for me to successfully train a successor dog. Everyone who knows me, knows I don't give up on anything easily. I craved the level of independence I had achieved with Met and knowing what I had lost kept me pushing forward asking questions on multiple lists over and over and over again. It's a wonder people did not strangle me for how much I vented about leash work with Thane. Eventually I got an awesome tip from a gal on a clicker based guide list and the rest shall we say was history. I was finally able to communicate effectively with Thane. He was finally able to understand what I was asking of him. It was an achievement far above any task I had trained Met to do or fine tuned from his instincts. This successful training meant that we could move forward now- there was potential for not just me to train my successor but for this beautiful red and white boy to become my successor.

Training Thane was not as straight forward as it was with Met. Once the foundation training was behind us, I had to evaluate my disabilities and the tasks I needed from Thane. Thane was not a natural. He would test my skill, confidence, and patience as we pursued through each task.  I had to break down each task into their individual segments back chaining until we reached the end goal. I had to quite literally really train as opposed to fine tuning as I did with many of Met's tasks. So many people were there for me to make this a success. For fear of leaving someone out, they shall remain nameless in this blog, but you all know who you are and hopefully have a grasp of just how much your training pointers mean even today as I work independently with my successor dog.

In the beginning there were a number of things I wanted and needed NOW NOW NOW! It was one of the hardest things I had to do- to slow down and work on the things that Thane showed interest, curiosity and understanding in as opposed to what Karyn needed first. I was fortunate that one of the most pain wracking areas (use of a guide cane) was an area at which Thane was excelling in that first spring together. Over the summer he continued to excel in that area going from an in training guide to a green guide dog that needed new experiences to cement his skill, but was very much showing me that he had the ability to leave Met's pawprints in the dust in this area.

It was almost laughable because so many people think of Border Collies as these superb hearing dogs and yet, the one area Thane seems to be a natural at (if any could be called this), is as a guide dog. I have a level of trust and the return of independence with him at my side that is so much beyond Met.

Thane's training continues in many areas and will until the day he retires. He has become a well rounded guide, and service task dog and has a number of hearing alerts under his belt. He's beginning to recognize changes in me when my MCS is being affected so have every reason to believe that he will succeed at this as well.

Thane has never had that high level of curiosity and intrigue that one would look for when evaluating a dog for such a spectrum of disabilities. As a result, I have had to work extra hard and much longer than I sometimes felt we should be doing. Many people would have retired or career changed such a dog, but the fact remains that I know when the chips are down and my life is on the line, Thane will keep me safe. He has proven his training more times than I can count, but also showed me this spring that my safety is paramount when a car ran a yield light as we were crossing in a crosswalk.

Independence is a great achievement for someone with multiple progressive disabilities. It's something I wondered if I would ever really achieve again. Though I have the benefit of experience from the interval between Met and Thane coupled with my knowledge that my disabilities have progressed even further since Thane came into my life, I choose not to focus on that big question in the back of my mind- will I be able to train Thane's successor, but focus instead on the moments of independence that we achieve each and every day, all because I took the chance to try it again.

Met and Thane are my rocks!

28 September 2011

Our Awesome Day

We have had a return to some beautiful dry weather again. It was a perfect opportunity today to get out for an errand and see if my new rigid handle hardware could be adapted to for public access or if, like most in wheelchairs feel, rigid hardware just can not be done with the wide turns and obstacle avoidance as a wheelchair guide team or if we could in fact do this.

I love the feel the handle gives me as Thane guides. Its so much more precise. Movements that before felt so jerky due to the flexibility in the handle connection, now feel pristine.

I can't remember a time when I felt so sure of what Thane was telling me than I did today. It was just the most amazing feeling. My vision has been on a steady decline and as a result, I was feeling like I needed some sort of change to better understand the communication through the harness that Thane was providing to me. This is a team effort. Thane can only provide his end of the equation. He can't decipher what I have to when the handle flexibility leaves me questioning just how far to the right or left I need to move for the obstacle clearance.

We work well as a team, but with the ever changing level of my blindness, I just knew I needed more. I'm proud of this day. It was a day where I was able to capture a snapshot of how great a team we have become- a snapshot of being flexible enough (yes, even my redhead Border Collie who is so set in his ways), to make the changes together- to learn how to work once more with new gear that will broaden our independence as the shining team we have become.

Lyme may have stunted us for a while, but I feel like the light is beginning to glimmer again. He is full of energy, stamina, and bounces when I say lets head to town. A long summer indeed, but one where so much progress has occurred.

No, we are not done the fight, but with many symptoms a thing of the past, our focus is now on the fact that we are back as a team and that is just the most wonderful feeling.

16 September 2011

Life is Good

The season is winding down. We went from our really atypical September 90's to 60's Brrrrr I hate drastic temperature changes. My body does better acclimating when its slow changing. Thane however loves these temps LOL

Though our summer feels like it passed us by as we worked on bringing Thane back from Lyme, that was quite a treat to have a bit of September Summer so to speak- or at least it was a treat to me.

During this time, I worked what may have felt tirelessly on figuring a way to address Thane's icepack needs with the new harness design. It seemed everything was failing and would fail. I did many sewing projects trying to create things differently that would provide the cooling he got with his flatpacks years before. Finally I stumbled upon it. YOWSER!  A single flat ice pack is used on his back that fits perfectly with a small adjustment in the loop connection that required no modifications. Next summer he will appreciate this more than he can now in our 60 degree temps LOL

We are enjoying life again though. Every once in a while I see a clown emerge and it makes me just laugh, smile and forget about what we have been through for at least that time. I am a firm believer in the fact that trials can make you into a stronger team if you allow them to do so.

We've allowed them to do so

10 September 2011

Beauty at First Sight

Today I celebrate Chimette's life- the life of the one that started it all. Anniversaries are always tough, but Met's especially so with 9-11 following it, I have the nation each year reminding me of my loss. Some years are easier, but this one has been tougher with the struggles for Thane. This is Thane's blog, but in a sense there would not be a Thane if there had not been Chimette- so it seems fitting to remember him today here. I thought I would share some memories today- just perhaps a glimpse, but things I was thinking about.

I was mesmerized by that beautiful tri-colored pup huddled in the back of the crate at the adoption center. Though I saw the other puppies and dogs there, I did not really see them. I only saw this beautiful Border Collie mix boy. I loved him before I even touched his soft fur. There was just something inside telling me he was meant for me. I spent what seemed like hours sitting there talking to him. No one told me to move along or anything like that. I finally had to leave and as I did I looked behind at him as though I was making the biggest mistake of my life leaving him there.

It was a Saturday and there was one hiccup that prevented me from adoption on the spot- well two actually. He was only 6 months old and our lease required dogs be a year old. I had to get permission to have him, had to hope no one else got the connection I did with him,  and I also had to go on a petstore shopping spree. I knew nothing about dog care besides that from the pets we had growing up.

After he joined my life, I made some bad decisions along the way, allowed myself to be pressured by a vet to do things her way as opposed to what I wanted and was comfortable with. Met paid the consequences of that in a huge way.

This pup would change my life forever in the ten years we were together. I never imagined the ease of which I could live life with a dog at my side helping me with chores, alerting me to sounds, guiding me through life. He was my first and the first as long as you are a good match and bond well is always the one you compare others to (or so I have been told)

Met and I lived a very tumultuous life together throughout our partnership between my health and his it often felt like we were on a roller coaster. My sedentary lifestyle allowed for me to work with him throughout his life but I learned a lot in hindsite too- things I would do differently now. This song Stand By Me by Ben E. King really says it all

Stand By Me

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin', darlin', stand by me,
oh now now stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin', darlin', stand by me,
oh stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me,
oh now now stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Darlin', darlin', stand by me-e, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

 He was my first and as my first, he will always hold my heart- from the memories of him as a 6 month old puppy where life for both of us was more carefree

Chimette lays beside my wheelchair shortly after adoption  

To the journey through what I would later learn was vaccinosis, but amidst all that he learned how to be just the dog I needed- he became my ears, my eyes, my hands, my all

Chimette adapts to a new disability- getting the hang of guiding me

 Above all Met became my best friend reducing the isolation I felt when my MCS went into full gear. He became my very own sidekick. He always knew when I needed a cuddle, a kiss, or a great big laugh. One thing I miss most about him is his talking. He was one of the most expressive dogs I ever knew back then. I did not realize how much I missed that until recently. Thane is not a talker like Met was. I am letting myself remember the silly talkative memories today and mostly I am laughing about them.

Met and I in harness for a picture February 2005
There was so much I learned from this beautiful boy and our journey- medical lessons are always hard but the key is to learn from them and that I did in leaps and bounds. I never imagined though just how much my life would change when I brought that silly pup into my life. Honestly I did not know if I had what it took to train my own. Though there was a time when I felt Met did not have what it took, he proved me wrong. Together we proved just what a tenacious team can do when given the chance.  He changed my life, my outlook, and my independence for the better. I learned so much- broadened horizons by being partnered with such a spectacular dog. He truly was special.

Met and I needed a lot of adaptations to our way of life, to the way we worked together, so we broadened our horizens through agility enabling us to flow in better sinc- as though we were one being often times.

Collage of Met and I doing agility obstacles-teeter, weave poles,jumps, A frame, tunnel
He was in all senses of the word, my very best friend. There are so many songs we used throughout our life together. During harder times I would sing to Met as we went along. A common one was the chorus to You are My Sunshine but The Dance by Garth Brooks is special to me when I think back over our life and the passing of Met on his anniversary.

The Dance

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known you'd ever say goodbye
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance
Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn't I the king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say you know I might have changed it all
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance

03 September 2011

Venting on Attitudes

As long as I have trained my dogs, I have tried hard to surround myself with those who have positive attitudes about owner training as well as those who get how different working a dog from a wheelchair actually can be.

This has not been easy at all because that limits my exposure to the guide community substantially. Its only been of recent years that the view that the blind can not train their own guide dogs has begun to be trampled down by some of us who do it and do it well.

There's always been an issue I have had with advice from ambulatory disabled people- be they blind, deaf, or mobility impaired. After years of having to explain over and over again why their ideas won't work with a wheelchair team or that their ideas are unsafe, I've pretty much given up with explanations any more.

I'm on a couple of guide dog specific lists. Though I am a part of the lists, I always feel this attitude from some of the members- the attitude that because I owner train, I am missing a big part of what the programs can provide and therefore can't be certain that my approaches I chose are really the best. There's also that attitude that I am not really a part of the whole community not just because I don't go through programs but because I clicker train and God forbid I should offer someone some advice that just might be contrary to what their corrective based program would want.

Usually I just back away when the attitudes start coming. People offering advice about how they believe what I do is dangerous when its not (gotta be there to see how its done to judge that) and then offering me advice that is more of the same nonsense I've been fed for over a decade. I just get so sick of unrequested advice.

No matter what anyone wants to believe, just like I can't realistically know how much different my work with a guide is than how an ambulatory person works or trains their dogs other than knowing some of the differences in the approach to guiding, neither can the ambulatory really comprehend the ins and outs and dangers that the approaches they might take could present for someone working their dog from a wheelchair.

Offering true beneficial advice on the actual aspect that one is asking for input on is one thing, but where things go blurry is that the vast majority of those who think they know what's better for me and my dog are not even owner trainers or people who further their dogs training.

I just get so fed up

Right now I am going through a tough time. I don't have much patience for anyone or anything let alone busy bodies who think they know it all. I will admit that maybe these people think I could be more tactful but when you've been dealing with the same-ol, same-ol for over a decade, wouldn't you get tired of being all sweet and supportive in your responses. Its sorta like telling someone day in and day out why they can't pet or distract your dog.

I probably should have ignored the post altogether that claimed something I do to be dangerous since the person did not have all the facts to begin with, but alas I did not. In hindsite stupid really

I go through this kind of crap way too much on lists that are not multi-disciplined meaning lists that have one type of service animal as the focus and not ones that involve wheelchair users.

So for now, I'm taking a step back. I won't be reading posts on the list. I won't be replying to posts on the list. And above all I certainly won't post about any of the problems I am having for any sort of advice.

Some may feel I need to get a thicker skin, but honestly I think others need to open their eyes and think or consider asking more questions before judging whether I have enough experience or people with that experience at my disposal to ascertain what is safe or not (which btw I do)

Most of my ambulatory guide dog  friends are awesome. They are folks from around the world who just get owner training. They get operant conditioning or at least that I am not going to use corrective measures as my focus with Thane. They freely admit that they don't have all the answers when offering suggestions which they know may or may not be something I can do either because of my disabilities themselves or because of safety concerns between the wheelchair and work with Thane.

For now, these are the kind of people I need to surround myself by. If others take offense because I just can't handle the slaps I get for speaking how I feel- then so be it. Its their problem really.

20 August 2011


Summer has officially hit the Pacific Northwest. 96 in Portland by the five o'clock news which could go higher. Generally speaking, we tend to hit 2-3 degrees higher than that temperature in summer time unless winds are present from a cooler direction. That's not the case today. As for summer though, better late than never huh?

I had errands I needed to do this weekend. I procrastinated the New Seasons run, but figured I could use the two bus lines to get there today still since Sunday is the only day that line is unavailable. When I logged onto the website however to get bus times, I discovered that due to the airshow they had altered the route in a manner that made it not an option for us.

I struggled for about fifteen minutes over whether or not to give it an attempt using the Orenco max stop. I don't like the constant back and forth angles of the curbcuts on that street- leaves me disoriented at best. For Thane to go though, I decided to give that a go because the difference in pain would have been immense.

We had already got up over an hour earlier than usual to get all Thane's meds, supplements, Petz Life accomplished so it just made sense to give it a chance.

Thane really surprised me today. Though he still has some *follow the edge* necessity, it has tapered enough that I can live with it. His work was actually pretty right on for the most part as well. I would say he was about 90 per cent the norm today. In the process of Lyme from day to day, each day has differing function, but I am beginning to see more up days as long as I am careful not to overdo with him. These good days are leaving me with more of an optimism towards recovery.

We had to wait for both the max and the bus- why is it that on hot days we seem to *just* miss them? It was not too bad of a wait though either time- just ten to twelve minutes or so. The heat was not so bad so I decided to get off the bus a bit early and walk a bit before we got home because Thane still seemed full of energy. When we got off the bus though, I regretted that decision right away. It was significantly hotter in our town in comparison. Though we made it home alright, it's not a decision I would have made had I known just how much higher the barometer was here.

Thane rested in his swamp cooler while I spent a good deal of time rinsing, cutting, and freezing berries. The local strawberries were horrible. The produce man (not the usual good weekday guys) considered them good because they were just picked two days ago. Even I could tell that a good lot of them were spoiled beyond the edible. They also had no cover to their containers. I hate berries packaged that way as they not only are a trial to get home but they absorb store odors and can be contaminated by other peoples hands- be it germs or personal care products. Thankfully I found some good California ones that were packaged better for my needs. I also learned the California ones tend to be available for about eight or nine months out of the its mostly the blueberries that I have to try and clean up on the next month or two. Thane was so patient as I wheeled from one berry display to the other and back again to the other to determine what ones I was going to take home. I like to support our local farmers but not when their product will just be dumped in my trash.

Thane was so good until a manager tried to walk over him. I really don't like people to walk over him because people can fall and where will they land? He got up and she stopped to apologize to him at which point he decided he should attempt to visit- ughhh That is the first time he has done that in ages, but he also has not worked a lot lately and she did not do the whole *ignore the working dog* routine so there's blame to go all the way around. smile

I sure was glad to get my sweatshirt off when we got back home and I know Thane was loving his wet towel wipe down. When I do the wipe down I wipe his entire body and spend extra time on his underside to cool him down some as well as to do a bit of a tick check. It's not as thorough as I would like, but under the circumstances of just getting home, it's better than not doing any. Then comes his swamp cooler. He does not like it going on as its got a tight neck, but he gets all waggy tail once the head is through because it feels good I am sure. If I find out the technology in it won't be ruined by cutting it, I may re-design the neck in it so it's easier to get on. A small is more designed for a Cocker Spaniel not a Border Collie so the neck circumference is not the best. Now that he has filled out more, I am seriously considering getting him a medium. Boy it's been wonderful to have it though- especially with the heat today and the reduction in cooling from having no trees out front.

I sat here all afternoon in my cooling vest and Thane in his swamp cooler. He spent the rest of the day either sleeping or playing with me- both of us were comfortable  so I guess that is really all that really matters huh?

12 August 2011

My Silly Dog

I thought I should pull myself away from my mountain of housing re-cert paperwork and share something fun about Thane.

Thane has never been a dog with gusto confidence when it comes to getting his ball out of tight spots. Met was a lot this way and in time he developed major confidence in this so I had/ have no doubts with Thane. Thane's seems to be impacted by taking meds also. It does not seem to impact his work in public and when its necessary he will definitely retrieve things for me that are harder to get at, but there's always been this side to him and probably always will be to some extent.

There is one thing that I find absolutely silly, hilarious, create your own adjective for the scenario if you want after reading about it.

I live in an apartment set up (or at least in many ways set up) for a person in a wheelchair. They definitely thought that all people in wheelchairs have someone else cook and bake for them, but that's a whole other topic. Instead of a bath tub we have a large roll in shower. It sort of slopes to the drain so as to not flood the bathroom. As a result of this slope, Thane's ball always seems to find its way down to the drain.

I wash and hang my laundry in this shower so often times there are those *close confines* that Thane is not so comfortable with. By morning when I am removing the clothes from the line, there can be anywhere from one to five balls down at the drain level of the shower because someone would run get one from *toys* when he lost a ball rather than asking me to *encourage* him past the laundry, fan, and other paraphenalia.

Each morning after I have put the laundry away, Thane comes to retrieve the balls for me. Most dogs would walk down there, retrieve the ball in their mouth and bring it to you- right? Not Thane. From the very first time I had him go down into the shower to get a ball for us, I had to hold back my laughter. Thane is a very long dog, twenty-seven inches collar to base of tail. He walks down into the shower part way, stretches as far as possible, then nudges the ball to roll towards him. He does this all the way to the edge where the shower meets up with the bathroom linoleum flooring. At this point, he whips around and proudly produces the ball in my hand. It is so hilarious. Try as I might to train him to actually retrieve the ball at the drain position and walk back to me with his ball in his mouth- it just aint ever happening! This is the only toy he treats this way, the only place its treated this way and its just downright fun to experience.

You might ask why I find this fun, silly, hilarious- oh its because it is different than Met. It is different than any other dog I have ever read about. It is just a part of who he is and well- that makes it special in my book.

03 August 2011

Keeping Busy

The weather has been beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest FINALLY! Though I'd love to say we have been kicking up the dust behind our wheels and paws, we've been keeping busy in other ways. Taking some time to catch up on tasks left by the wayside from busy life requirements.

I've actually caught up on laundry, had the opportunity to make a new brace that was desperately needed, even washing and repairing some of the gear we use that we don't have extras of. In my spare moments, I am busy learning everything I can about Lyme and in turn, educating others about the importance of testing.

We may not be out in the glorious weather every day in the way we have been most years, but I am for sure enjoying the beauty of the sun beating down, the dry weather that I am able to do most of my solo trips in and frankly actually enjoying taking the time to tick check, massage, and stroke Thane in ways that busy life just never allowed for in the past.

You know how it is. You get caught up in the busy chores and errands of your life and forget to take time to actually enjoy the moments you have together. Though this isn't exactly the kind of thing I would wish on anyone, sometimes it takes these kinds of events to force us to stand still and appreciate just what we have.

I enjoy the little memory building moments- Thane dancing about with his zogoflex frib- my funny clown

29 July 2011

Appalling Misinformation on Screening

I follow some blogs on the net that have topics that appeal to me. Most are friends blogs from the service dog community, but I also follow the Dogs Naturally Magazine blog. Usually they have really great incites from the contributors there. Posts from folks such as Catherine O'Driscoll author of What Vets Don't Tell You About Vaccines and Shock to the System.

Imagine my frustration when I read Their piece on Canine Ehrlichiosis which basically says that testing the asymptomatic dog for TBD's is not warranted.

Perhaps if testing was more universally thought of as important in all areas not just endemic ones, we would not have stories like Thane's to write about. Since so many people share the link for this blog in forums where individuals want good hard truths and alternative options, it makes me sick to know that in areas where it truly is warranted to hit a disease hard and fast and hopefully before its hitting multiple systems, people will be listening to more of the propaganda about Lyme that adds to why it so difficult to conquer and as a result is being one of our nations biggest medical hurdles.

In Healing Lyme by Stephen Harrod Buhmer, there is one portion when he talks about its difficulties in the diagnosis and treatment where he compares it to the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I could definitely relate to what he was saying, having had a boyfriend with AIDS from tainted factor VIII during those earlier years, it was as maddening as what I have learned about Lyme- both through vets, this book, and my dear friend Sharon at After Gadget blog who is another example of just how bad Lyme can get if we DON'T SCREEN EVERYONE!

I will test Thane every year when we beat this demon and I will also test any future dog every year. My mind is made up. It is not worth the heart break, the immune dysfunction, the loss of a partner (even temporary) to a guide dog team. While I get that antibodies could mean a dog has beat the disease and had an effective response, there are other more sophisticated tests like the IDEXX C6 that can be more conclusive about disease versus immune response.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd have listened better to Sharon's insights and tested Thane long before I did.When I think about how many health hurdles we could have avoided by this one simple test it makes it hard to swallow. I will have to take this as a lesson learned from my inaction. Don't let your dog walk in Thane's footprints because a natural health blog says that screening is not warranted.

27 July 2011

What a Difference a Week Has Made

I feel like a new person this week. I feel like last week was truly just a nightmare. Life is good and Thane is happily playing his ball and other toys to his typical Border Collie obsessiveness. It is good! I never thought I would ever dream for, wish for, such obsession and yet there I was doing just that.

Thane's improvements are wonderful! I am not kidding myself though- I know we are far from through this marathon. We will however celebrate the good and work through the hard times as they come.

One thing that I have learned through this experience is just how much easier Thane makes my public access life. The kinds of things he must negotiate with ease that I have not even the slightest awareness we encountered are basically revealing themselves to me now as I make my attempts for access in solo fashion.

Store workers for the most part are helpful as long as I am really clear what I need and why. New Seasons still remains the best in all of this though- particularly in the produce department where I tend to need the most assistance.

Today I headed out to use the bus stop closest to home. With Thane we take a long walk to a stop that is much easier to get to. I am really limited in my approaches though without Thane being with me- in my ease of navigation, in my physical limitations in using a guide cane and in the weakness and pain that I endure as a result. These aspects also limit how far I can actually ask myself to travel. Today I headed to the bus stop which requires navigating the sidewalk route in front of Safeway and the other stores in that shopping strip. Why is it that everyone but Safeway gets that the sidewalk area is not an extension of the store! Safeway has put up a barbecue pit from what I was told after I collided with it. Guide canes with wheelchairs aren't always as effective as they are for the ambulatory blind either. Thankfully it was my shopping basket that made contact and not my body. That was just the last of many new obstacles they had left in the way as I navigated around like I was amidst weave poles to try and find a safe route to where I was headed. Believe me I was glad to get beyond Safeway as it was getting on the disorienting side. I thought to myself and I have not even made it to the bus or route for travel from the max yet!

When I got off the Max which was the newer train design (I still prefer the old ones as does much of the population that rides max), I could not believe how much easier Thane makes it to handle those ramps that are quite steep. Trimet was power washing the station as well- great just what I needed! To do this requires two hoses for some reason. One you can get over in a wheelchair and another which is near the truck some distance from the station itself you can not navigate no matter what method you try. Thane would just take another path and then head us back the way we need after he cleared us of the obstacle but with my guide cane, finding an alternative route just was not that easy. I really began wondering just how many more surprises were waiting for me today.

Thankfully the rest of my travel and shopping went smoothly, but I barely made the max on the way back because, you got it, no one was there to help in the hose negotiations on the way back. I managed to find an alternate route, but it was not quite as safe IMO. They need to keep someone at the truck if they are going to do this nonsense during peak travel hours or better yet place a double ramp over their hose so that people can actually function when employees are not there to help us. I still think that it is really stupid to power wash a shelter when people need its use- shaking my head

Everything else went very smoothly from the max ride, to bus, to getting back home. Thane was so happy to see me. He's still trying to figure out why I won't take him, but accepts my decisions about whether or not he gets to go.

His walks go well when I have the ability to do them- when time, pain, energy and weather cooperate that is. We'll be trying a small in town errand in the next couple days and from there I will make decisions about what else I can ask of him.

One thing I have learned is that despite not wanting to fall into that rut of not realizing just how much Thane does, I have done just that. This has been quite an eye opening experience. I am relieved that he can and will be back soon because I sure do miss my other half of me.

22 July 2011

Entering Better Tomorrows

We had a really hard spell here. I haven't wrote much more about how things were going with Thane and his Lyme treatment mostly because I was too busy trying to get help for him or working through the tough ordeal.

Thane reacted to the Doxycycline. As a result of his reaction, we wound up at a specialist to figure out where to go from there. Though I suspected the Doxy, there was the possibility that he was herxing (experiencing a reaction to spirochette die off)

Our area is not Lyme central for sure. Because of this, testing for Lyme is low and the understanding of the various ways to best treat an individual for it are not fully understood by one's regular general veterinary staff.  At first, when my vet referred us to a specialist, I have to admit I was furious about it. I felt how dare she give this to him and not understand how to help him when it went south. Thane was suffering and I could not imagine how we would ever make it to the specialist who was about an hours drive away.

We made it there and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have spoken with a vet who understands much more about Lyme and how it assaults the body- especially for an individual whose assault began over two years ago.

Not only did I learn that most of Thane's medical history has been a direct result of the tick bite he received, but that his diet (a source of much debate by some unfortunately) had absolutely nothing to do with his medical history. On one hand that is a relief, but on the other hand, try as I might, it is very difficult not to blame myself for what has transpired. Though I know this now, I also know he may never be the dog he was before that fateful tick bite.

I know it's not my fault that he got bit by a tick, but I think sometimes that with a friend who has suffered greatly from the disease, that I should have been more aware- more intune with what a tick felt like on the skin and at least of what the reaction on his skin afterwards was.

For the most part I stay out of those kinds of regrets. I can't fix yesterday. I can only hope that should we encounter another tick, that I will have learned something from this experience that will change how I will respond to future experiences.

The specialist was definitely the way to go for Thane. I learned that reactions to Doxycycline are not just experienced by the most sensitive but that the kind of reaction Thane was having is usually more pronounced in the herding breeds. On the plus side of the equation for us, is that because Thane was reacting to the Doxy, further tests were run which revealed that he needed to come off it (and its class of drug) irregardless of whether it was the reason for the changes in Thane.

After 24 hours off of Doxy, Thane was a changed dog. Though he was not completely back to what he was before Doxy or before he collapsed from the Lyme, he was definitely at least 80 percent there. He has been on a new medication now for three doses and so far it has not taken the direction of Doxy. I have to keep close tabs on how he responds for a while here, but things look very optimistic thus far.

This morning Thane played a lot with my folks and has been his silly self a lot today. He has eagerly returned to retrieves of his own choosing and came to my side when he saw I was getting ready to take the trash out. Though I chose to leave him inside, his desire to be there was just the gift I needed as I deal with pain from the guide cane, my progressive disabilities, and the awareness I have of just how much Thane was making these changes in me seem almost absent.

It has been a hard and scary time for me coupled with a time of enlightenment as well which really changed my outlook for him.

I don't know what the future holds, but for today, I am focusing on the fact that his ball is back in his mouth and his ears are dancing with the sounds he hears.

21 July 2011

A Decade of Difference

This post is for the Fourth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. For more information on what the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) is see the post,  About the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival at the After Gadget blog.

When I first heard the topic for this carnival, The Difference, I could think of a lot of subjects to write on almost immediately. I wanted this posting however, to take on a different theme than my previous one did which focused on the medical heart-break in my life with my first service dog Chimette (Met). I also did not want to focus on comparing the differences between my two combo trained service dogs, Chimette and Thane. I had began a post sharing about the two different sides of me- the pre service dog me, and the post service dog me. It just never went anywhere though. I realized the reason- it is that I am meant to share the medical lessons my dogs teach me with the assistance dog community- so here goes...

My boys have both been exceptional service dogs. Each one has taught me things about myself, particularly in my ability to persevere through trials that no team should ever have to endure. In this entry, I hope to not focus so much on the actual medical *drama* side of the equation, but in the difference in which I have responded to/ handled it because of the opportunities that differ for me today, over a decade after Chimette's journey into the unknown began.

Thane was to be my new start; a healthy start. I had huge dreams of how different things would be- where we would go, things we would accomplish. Though many of my dreams have come to pass over the past three years we have been together, not everything has been as I anticipated it would be.

When Chimette began having seizures, I was a basket case. I was a babe in terms of internet access and certainly was not racing to google to find research or to yahoogroups or other forum sites to find lists for support, information, and stability in his condition. All of this came later. It came because Met was not an easy case to find answers for. It came because I was not ready to quit seeking answers when vets felt we had achieved about the best anyone could hope for- especially when having two of the most difficult breeds to control when it came to canine seizures, in one body.

Though I had the support of people walking the same or similar paths as me, had research to cling to, had answers to the causes of canine seizures, and even discovered that Met's problem was vaccinosis; our partnership changed the very moment I witnessed his first seizure. It became one where stress and concern for Met's stability left me always asking myself what impact doing various access outings would have on Met, rather than one where I just headed out to do my errand without a care in the world.

Recently, after chasing symptoms for over a year and a half, Thane was diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease. It was a bombshell to put it mildly. Had it not been for my good friend Sharon at the After Gadget blog being so proactive about the presence of Lyme Disease *EVERYWHERE*, I might have never tested Thane. Though it was one of the hardest things I have had to face in a very long time, I found myself recently looking at how differently I reacted to not only Thane's official diagnosis, but his first seizure that told me something was very wrong.

When Thane had his first seizure, a partial one, I did not trust myself. What I mean is, it was so small that had I not had the decade of living with seizures before, I might never have realized what I was witnessing. With Met, I can still tell you the day and time of his very first seizure. I tried hard to pretend his seizure did not happen- that if I ignored what I witnessed, it would just be as though it was a sleeping nightmare and that would be the end of it. With Thane, I did not even write the date down, though I know it happened within a week of when I got online and placed an order for Taurine for him. Before placing that order, I also did a bit of research to determine which road of supplementation I should try with him. With Met, I never would have considered such a thing or trusted myself to make an informed decision.

There is another very big difference between my dealings of my two boys- for Met, I was always worried- always stressing over him. I know it placed an enormously unhealthy amount of pressure not just on my own health, but on Met's as well. In the first few months with Thane in my life, I made things pretty stressful too, but a read on the impact of stress in the book Shock to the System by Catherine O'Driscoll seemed to nip that in the bud. I won't say that I was not panicked when I got Thane's diagnosis. This would be an outright falsehood. This time would be different I told myself. I was not going to let long-term unnecessary and unhealthy stress impact our future.

I already had some very good resources which I gathered in my attempts to point another person with a Lyme positive dog in the right direction. All that was left was to begin to apply them to my own life- to Thane. I got a crash course from Sharon in Lyme Disease over that weekend following the positive test results. Over a decade ago, this kind of education would have been unthinkable. I don't think we realize just how lucky we are to live where we do, in the decade we live, until something like this happens.

Though I had a couple horrible days in my fight to help Thane recently, and though I learned some even harder news that pointed towards an impact on the liver after under two weeks on meds, I am more equipped with Thane to handle what may come our way without putting an undauntingly high amount of stress on either of our immune systems.

Today, I don't know what the future will hold for Thane and I. He may be treated effectively and work a long productive career. I know however, that realistically we may not have the duration I would love to have, that any team would love to have, simply because Lyme Disease causes immune dysfunction even in the best of cases where long term health complications could side-line this team permanently. With Met, such a prospect would have sent me into a *frozen* state of panic merely by considering crossing the street without my right-hand man. Today that would not be the case.Today I have the skill and resources I need to navigate in public solo, when the circumstances warrant it.

A decade ago, or even during the last few years of my partnership with Met, retirement would have been the biggest *unthinkable* possibility. Today I have high hopes for Thane and I, but at the same time, I have a bigger sense of realism. I know in all likelihood, one of the impacted systems in his body, will tell me/ us that despite how awesome Thane is at his job or even how hard it would be to ask him to step down, that it could very well happen, it could be the right call, the one that shows the love I have for him.

I choose to only think about the day before us. It's one day where, when we wake up in the morning, I will have or will be able to seek out the tools that give Thane the best options for a positive come back. I never felt this way with Met. I always looked to the future in the sense that, until the last month of his life, I never contemplated our partnership from what was the right call for Met, but instead from what was the right call for Karyn.

This time it's different. Thane is mostly side lined at the moment as we work with a specialist to find not only the right drug regimen to eradicate his Lyme Disease, but to work on healing his liver. One day in the not to distant future, I strongly believe that this living nightmare that we are walking through, will become a passing memory of which many lessons have been learned.

If you come away from this with nothing else, my hope is that you will not only realize that Lyme Disease is not only a North-East USA disease, but that it's a disease your service dog should be tested for annually- even if you live in the Pacific Northwest, in Hawaii, in Australia. If you come away believing that Lyme Disease is just as important to test for as Heartworm, then Thane and I will have made a difference in your lives.

15 July 2011

HI HO HI HO It's Off To Work We Go!

It was a fabulous day in the weather department today to me which means it was quite warm by Thane's standards. Thane ate all his meat at the 7AM Doxy time so it opened up a bit of opportunity for us today.  I was already working on his turf soak which had left a bit of a problem- Doxy means increased busy needs and it certainly would not wait until I was through! I had a small errand in town I wanted to run and figured we could handle two things with one stone- a busy at the street and the errand. I felt this would also be a great opportunity to test his endurance.

Right away I noticed Thane had a bit harder pull in harness, but figured it was just built up energy and blew it off. I barely uttered the words, do you need a busy and Thane was squatting except he missed the grass and it was a flood! Back home we went for some water to wash that down before heading on our errand.

We took the short walk to Bi-Mart to pick up the printer paper that I just realized I had to have and *like yesterday*. Usually I buy in advance for MCS detox needs, but I blew it here with just a few sheets left. Thane was pulling a bit firmer in harness than his recent work before the Lyme diagnosis and collapse, but he was working well so I let it slide. He worked awesome with Bi-Mart's dangerous parking lot and walked really well on their polished flooring today. He seemed pretty focused on what I was asking once more.

When we exited the store, he headed towards the pharmacy. It is safer to exit the parking lot that way usually as more of the cars park closer to the main exit and entry door. I had to use my *not now* command though as we approached the pharmacy window. As we worked on our exit from that side of the lot, this single truck kept blocking our path. That guy nearly creamed us once and after that he blocked the cross walk while he waited to get across the entire street so he could go the opposite direction- all the while making us wait because he was just *so not going to back up*. By that time, I don't think Thane trusted him any way; I know I didn't!

The walk home was firm pull for a while but we hit a snag where I could not get him out of a real hard pull. I'm unsure what the trigger was but it appeared from my perspective to be a sound reactivity thing. Sound reactivity is one of his neuro symptoms with his Lyme. I put his head halter (leader) on him to just make it easier for me as I am in a pain spell from over doing on the scanner this week.

I thought no more about the trigger as we continued on home. After one attempt by Thane to remove the leader, the rest of the walk was uneventful and actually had some really great work. His ice packs don't keep him very cool with his new harness design, so he was quite warm for a while after we got home even after his customary wipe down for his allergies. At one point, I was a bit concerned, but he finally seemed OK again so I thought nothing more of it.

I put my frozen smoothie ingredients into the blender to defrost and did more work with his turf. It was not until I was getting ready to make my smoothie that my big blunder became clear. When Thane ate all his breakfast this morning, I neglected to go back and give him his supplements that he gets after the Doxy is into his system. One of those is his Taurine. It can be taken with the Doxy, but since the Nupro can not, I do them together. Taurine really is beneficial for Thane in many ways, one of which is his pull in harness. It is also very helpful for the type of seizure his Lyme caused. As you can see, it was not a teeny blunder seeing as though by this time it was already after 2PM. Before Doxy, he would get that by 9AM at the latest unless we overslept.

The good news for the day though was that he had a real clear head when it counted and had the energy to walk the long way home. He wanted to walk the long way there, but I had him take the short route instead. I was all set to take him to New Seasons tomorrow but use a different stop so that the walk is shorter. I was also planning to use a second bus line to come home should it be warranted, however; the weather forecast was GREATLY changed on us from a day of maybe a small shower in the early morning to it being a rainy day GRRRRR

I would so love to bust this town tomorrow, but I am not chancing my power chair for even the shortest walk. The line we could use should thane not have the endurance for the max stop distance does not have a covered stop over by New Seasons so it looks like its Sunday with no backup approach to the route other than using the alternate max stop if its necessary.

Its hard to believe that a week and a day ago Thane collapsed and here, today he is re-bounding into my energizer bunny. He still takes more naps than normal, but I think some is out of boredom more than necessity. Any time I know each day may be different for him and to watch how he is really doing before we commit to something big, but all in all, he is headed in the right direction.

14 July 2011

Priorities and Entitlements

I will start this off by saying that I just need to vent here. smile

I am on a number of service dog lists and I find it really hard to get my head around something that I have begun to notice of late. It does not appear to be a cross disability thing but an issue that arises through individuals who receive guide dogs from programs. Before I get a lot of replies saying that I am stereotyping one group of people, let me be clear that not everyone who receives a dog from a program is this way.

I followed the rules so to speak with Met. I got him vaxed the way the vet wanted despite my desires to spread out the process and I fed him kibble for most of his life (otherwise known as krapple by those in the rawfood community) I, and especially Met, paid for these mistakes. I spent hundreds of dollars between processed food, supplements, and meds every month to keep him as healthy as possible for years. It was not easy. I had to do without a lot of things- there were rarely luxuries. I accepted my responsibility to him seriously though. I did not have a program to fall back on. Other than a couple of grants I received from the IAADP Veterinary Care Program (VCP) and a donation from a fund-raiser for another service dog team that allowed Met to get Gold Bead Implants (of which I paid a little under half of his bill myself that day), all the expenses Met needed, I somehow managed to provide until the day when I knew it was time to let go.

With Thane, he took the decision-making out of my hands. He could not tolerate processed foods after a bout with Giardia.After much research and realizing that krapple is nowhere near species appropriate for dog, I went to a Prey Model raw diet. I spend anywhere between a hundred twenty-five and two hundred dollars monthly in food for Thane, though others use a variety of techniques whereby they can acquire a lot of the food they need for free or minimal expense. When I am lucky, I think to budget for holiday sales and save substantially so that in the long run the expense balances out to be less per month.

There is a saying in the raw community, pay it now (meaning in food expense) or pay it later (to the veterinarian and to grief after a shortened life) I have no doubt by paying it now, I kept Thane healthier than he would have been. In the past I have spent no more than three hundred bucks a year on veterinary bills with most of that being in preventative screenings- something many teams do not address. Since veterinary care is paid by most guide dog programs rather than the recipients, this additional savings makes this even more baffling to me.

Now I don't expect anyone to go to the lengths I did for Met or even what I have done for Thane (or at least not the majority of service dog handlers any way), but when I read complaints from some of the program guide dog handlers for what they have to spend on a good quality kibble food, it just makes me shake my head. There is literally thousands of dollars put into these dogs trainings so that they can keep their handlers safe. They would give up their lives for us literally and some actually have or have been retired due to injuries caused in the line of duty. It boggles my mind that the people who can actually qualify for a stipend for guide dog expenses and/ or submit the receipts towards their medical expenses for foodstamp determination and Housing section 8 as I do, would feel they need to reduce their dogs care expenses to such a miniscule amount. If it were a child, the attitude would be so different.

I know many who use guide dogs look at it as a tool just like the ADA does. They may bond with the dog for the sake of the work, but not to the level that I or many of my friends do. It is a tool, not a member of the family to them. There are also those who consider it the programs responsibility to pay every medical expense the dog might incur other than the actual food and grooming requirements of non-shedding breeds.  They go into the acquisition as an entitlement rather than as a priviledge. Guide Dog programs, if they charge anything, it is miniscule amounts compared to the hundreds and thousands expected of those applying for mobility service dogs. Perhaps its this *provision* that has made some folks feel they are entitled to have the dog but not to pay for anything beyond thirty bucks a month. Then there's the added grooming expense- hey, you ask for a non-shedding breed, guess what? you best be prepared to pay for a groomer or to take a crash course in grooming yourself.

Often times these very same people who complain about the cost to maintain their guide dog are ones who go out to lunch or dinner at least once a week, go to movies, buy pizza or other takeouts, buy frozen prepared foods at a pricetag that might be able to buy three days of meals if they prepared it themselves, have desert and meat with every meal (neither of which is really healthy btw) go to conventions at a hefty price tag and yet they don't seem to prioritize things so that their dogs diet needs come before all the frills.

In all honesty for those who are on their first dog, I can see the sticker shock to some aspects of canine health especially if they are dealing with SSI income in states where there is no state supplement to the federal allotment, but these dogs are not pets. They are highly trained, put on working dog foods so they can perform their jobs effectively.

I won't get into the amount of pet food poisonings and recalls that continue on a regular basis as that is for another time, but my head just feels lately like it can't stop spinning from entitlement attitudes and poor priorities.

13 July 2011

Learning To Tick-Check

Due to Thane's Lyme Disease, I am trying to take the entire process of prevention more seriously. As a deafblind incomplete quad with a dog who is normally not even still in his sleep- well I think you get the picture LOL

I am slowly though beginning this process because frankly I never want us to have another round of this disease. Besides its debilitating effects, lets face it, it hampers my independence significantly when Thane is down.

I began the process by thinning out his pantaloons and tail- not so much that he does not look like a Border Collie, but enough that I can more easily feel to the skin. He looks fine and honestly I'd give up on aesthetics for preventing another tick from causing us harm in this manner again.

One thing I have noticed is that this is very energy draining for me. Its not as simple as a superficial massage. At the end of the day, the best time to be doing it, before he joins me in my bed, I am already drained. Right now I am more so this way with Thane being down. Its not just work in public that has been lost but tasks around home as well. So- frankly my arms are ready to just stop moving at the end of the day.

I am finding that I am discovering little imperfections in Thane's skin- be it scaley allergen spots, places he has chewed and hair has matted down, little bumps that I had not known were there, or even yes, a flea. Knowing where these things are and what they feel like will help me in an enormous way should another tick invade my dog. I will know that the bump is not normal- not a part of what I have come accustomed to feeling.

On the dog side of things- Met loved all the intimate rubbing and feeling he could get out of me, but Thane- he is another story. Thane would rather be playing ball. He accepts this new fondling I give him in limited quantities before he must bounce up and get a ball thrown. I realize this won't all come together overnight for us. We are starting with the places ticks often go first, but its still a learning process; a building up tolerance not just for me, but for Thane.

The other day I got his two hind legs before he was up and throwing a ball at me again. Yesterday I got three legs and his tail- perhaps by next week, I will get all his legs, tail, and head.

I've begun to check him a bit as we are waking up as well- this is a time when he is much more malleable and helpful in the learning process. I really don't want to be sleeping with ticks though so just because it appears to be easier in the morning does not necessarily mean, that is the time I should be doing it.

Personally I find myself feeling his skin in some location any time he stops by me and is still long enough for me to handle him- I guess that comes with knowing what these critters can do to one's insides.

I hope in the weeks and months ahead that this will get easier as I become more accustomed to the practice of it. I just don't know what I will do though if I really find a tick on him. I don't know if I can physically work the tool and remove it. That concerns me of course. In the worst case scenario I pay for the vet clinic to remove it when I find it- of course they are not open at night, but I think its still important to do what I can

12 July 2011

Thane Works

Thane was going nuts with boredom today. When Thane gets bored he licks. Its not an easy thing to stop once he gets into the obsessive compulsive action of it. For the most part, the target of his licking is him. For him to be doing this instead of sleeping meant that he was feeling better. Don't get me wrong we have a long ways to go until he is well. A sure sign of that is in the medication department. The meds upset his tummy this morning and he has antibiotic poop, but other than that- his energy is returning which is awesome.

I needed a couple of things up at our local Bi-Mart. After I changed into better clothes for the outing, I said you wanna go with me? Thane perked up with ears standinging as tall as they could. There was a bounce in his step as we headed to the door to harness up. I had made the decision that if he was not focused enough to trust his decision making, we would just walk down the street and back. I had my mini guide which gives me tactile feedback of obstacles as a support for the process.

Thane impressed me though. I did not have to tell him *slow* at all on the route there. He alerted me to the winding plant obstacles at the corner which I think someone should just take a chain saw to one of these days! The curb cut itself being an after thought with all those plant obstacles is an accident waiting to happen. Thane managed however to choose the safest approach to this nonsense. One thing about using the shortcut dirt path- we get to avoid all of that, but today we would have looked like we had just been in a mud-wrestling match.

Thane did precision work up the sidewalk-less street weaving in and out along all the parked cars before entering the curbcut on the main road. *Thane, Forward*  I said. I knew there was a stopped car but they have a stop and I have a crosswalk and they were obviously trying to go all the way across the main road. In other words, it was safe for us to go. Off Thane went like the only thing on his mind was to safely get us across the street. Midway however he alerted me and was prancing funny but not coming very far into my path. This is typically his response when we can't back up fast enough, but a driver is moving without looking. I did the only thing I could and yelled as loud as I could hoping they could hear me through the mask. This is the last thing either of us needed right now.

We continued to Bi-Mart but had someone in their lot think we needed to be part of the pavement too- what is it with drivers here in town today! I was feeling like maybe we should have stayed home!

We had more success shopping. Thane was responding to every command I uttered with a precision I had not seen in a while. He had minimal issues with the polished floors that he walks like he is on ice with unless I remind him to *stay on his feet*.

The trip home had no cars acting  like bumper cars and safe sidewalk to road transitions despite all that dangerous creeping plantlife.

Though Thane has been sleeping a lot since we got home, this venture out was good for both of us. I doubt bigger outings are a possibility this week, but just to have him at my side today and see that he could actually make it there and back gave me that security and belief that he will be back in better form than before when treatment concludes.