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.