18 December 2012

A Home for Christmas!

It's the news you all have been waiting for. Unless something unforeseen occurs in the next day or so, Thane and I will spend Christmas in our new home.

It is in the same vicinity as the previous one we visited in the down pouring conditions, but it is a much better situation for me/ us.

I had to make some compromises; realizing that with the time limits, cap on what an apartment could cost, and limited accessibility in our area in standard built apartments, if I was ever going to find a place, it would need to be with compromises.

The hardest compromise made is that Thane has lost his yard. I have wrestled with this more the last couple of days than I initially thought I would. Though this puts a wrinkle in dealing with his busy needs, the part about it that is the hardest for me is losing the ability to play off lead in the snow from our back door.

This morning when we woke up, we were treated with a dusting of snow and snow still coming down. After busy, Thane immediately looked for his football (which had already been packed). I ran and found another suitable toy that was in an open box still and we just cut loose. I did not care if he wound up needing a bath. We needed this *send off*.

With that aside, let me tell you how great our new place will be once we get our life sorted out there. It has indoor locked mailboxes. There will be no more running for mail in my unsecured mailbox in pouring rain or being forced to go for the mail when I am sick or toxic things are going on. A little stroll down the hall and mail can be retrieved vbg

We lose a bedroom, but we gain our own washer and dryer and the opportunity to train a new task for Thane. I wonder how he will be at unloading a dryer. He's never even been around one since he came into my life. I'm excited about that new opportunity.

We will be playing games in the bath tub at the new place to acclimate Thane to a tub. Losing the roll in shower will be difficult, but in the end, I think it will work out alright and besides it is always fun to run after treats no matter where they land!

The best parts I have saved for the end. We will be just a couple stops from the nature trail we love to frequent and a few stops from New Seasons where most of my grocery shopping is done. I can't even wrap my head around that quick ride. The most awesome thing of all probably for an individual with MCS is that this complex is smoke free- not just the indoors, but the entire grounds.

There was a time when I felt this was never going to come to a close, but once the right place was there for us, things began moving really fast.

On the downside, I am in constant pain from the extreme level of overuse I have had to endure lately. I/ we just need this to be over! We need our life back so whoever stole ours, would you kindly return it!

Our next post will most likely be from our new haunts where we will be spending Christmas this year. I can see a trip to the trail in view as long as it is not raining, but then- this is the pacific northwest Totally unpredictable!

04 December 2012

Apartment Hunting in the Rain

GADS I hate rain but most of all I hate being drenched to the skin when trying to see apartments.

Thane and I took on our first attempt to view the apartment complex of my dreams- or so I thought it was. I gave us plenty of time cuz frankly I knew I'd get turned around. I always do that when it comes to directions and new locations, but somehow if I give myself time and ask for help, I usually succeed.

Today was no different- except that we were turned around in a deluge of elephants and rhinoceroses LOL

Thane's work was pretty amazing for the most part today which impressed me with all that has been going on. He needs a bit of work in slowing down his gait in the rain, but that is my fault from how I have worked him in the rain trying to lickety split to get where we can go inside. I need to work with him a bit on that.

Once we were turned back around, I found we were still early. That gave me some time to dry off the muddy paws, legs, underbelly- what didn't need cleaning up before trapsing into the office (huge place) and the apartments we were going to see.

I really liked the lady, but the business office was quite toxic something I'll be paying for (amidst the bus drivers perm and hairspray that left me flushing water, milk thistle, and washing my coat when outdoors couldn't cut it)

The apartments were located in such a perfect area- close to the max. I guess they were about as far from the max as I am from the closest bus stop right now (if that). Their location is also very central for quick ease of all sorts of shopping needs for me- the biggest being their proximity to New Seasons.

There were some things I didn't like from the start. The apartments require you to go inside a hallway of apartments. This is done via an outer closed door and there is no discernible pavement deviation like the cracks I use to determine where we are (or I am when I'm solo). These types of door situations are difficult for me. I swear I need to be an octopus! I may have been able to accept that and work with it, but it would have been quite difficult when coming home with groceries if there were not people around to ask for help.

Once inside, I realized how spacious my apartment really is. It was quite small and quite obviously built for the able bodied population and those who do not have many belongings. The washer and Dryers were great. They even had a built in complete apartment de-humidifier in all the ground floor units for the humidity aspects of having the washers.  The area was quite confined though which would be a bit difficult. The layout  in one had the two separated, but not by the kind of distance I thought so it would have been manageable (though I did not like it off the kitchen)

The show stoppers were the walk in closet where I could not get beyond the door (but came close) which meant I could not get to the rack where I'd hang my clothes. Theoretically removing the door probably would have solved that.

The bathroom though was the definitive show stopper. It was designed like the letter L shape for passageway putting the bathtub in the back corner. There was only room for a head on transfer- with both the toilet and bath tub- something I can not do. Being blind with tremor issues in my hands, I also do not back out of narrow places well. Though I managed to do it in both the bath rooms (two different size units), it was pretty obvious to me, that the situation was not a safe one. I think I'd be on a first name basis with the fire men at the local department if I took these apartments.

From there, I learned that there is no direct apartment access to busy a dog or even anywhere for them to play like I am able to do here. I realized there would be things I would have to give up to get a safe home again with the section 8 price caps, but this is not one of those things I can rationalize losing. Between weather, my health, safety after dark, and oh yeah that fun disorder of gluten intolerance that could have Thane in explosive diarrhea- nope I need to be able to potty him at our apartment.

There were so many pluses too about the place- full sized washer and dryers that are energy conserving, carpet was in good shape and not fragrant through my mask (business office was that way), no new painting, the dining area was slightly separated from living room so that my sewing and dresser I use for medical supplies could easily have been set up there.

The biggest asset of this place though was its location.

When I tally up everything and ask myself how I would manage to live the independent life I now do with that bathroom and the busy restrictions for Thane (and not being able to play in the snow when we get it), I had to realize that this complex, as ideally placed as it is, is not the future new home we are looking for.

This has really been a difficult decision, but honestly I knew the instant I entered the bathroom that it was over- that this was not to be our home.

We came home, got Thane a good rinse down from all the mud and wet he dealt with today, got my drenched multiple layered clothes off (drenched to the skin) and warmed us both up. 

Tomorrow is another day to hunt for apartments again

but really, I need some gf chocolate chip cookies before we do any more serious romping like we did today!

Thank you Chimette

Today you would have been 16 years old. I find myself thinking about the silly quirks you had today. I dunno why- perhaps because they were funny. Like how you loved to roo roo roo when I was playing with you what a ham

Today I am grateful for the lessons taught but also for the fact that your suffering is no longer. There will always be moments of missing you- afterall you were the one who showed me that I actually could train my own service dog.

You were a great first dog for me to have to work with and train but on those days when I am struggling in my work with Thane, people remind me of just how many days like that were in our partnership too- funny how I don't remember those! vbg

There are lots of things I could thank you for today, but I guess the one I appreciate the most is how you let me see through you and kept me safe until I was really ready for the world on my own.

02 December 2012

Chicken Little, the Sky is Falling!

That is exactly what I have felt like over the last nearly three weeks. You might wonder where we have been. Well... my life and Thane's literally turned upside down almost three weeks ago when my manager showed up at my door with a massive renovation schedule. Forget the notice that this was even taking place or the fact that it is the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest and inconducive for spending any amount of time outdoors or with windows open to air a place out- oh yeah and forget the fact that I have PROFOUND MCS!

Here I was though with my life in the balance LITERALLY. There was no way around it, it was time for a move and so began all the frantic work between me, ILR, caseworkers, my folks, Community Action, a few very caring friends, and I am sure I am leaving someone out.

Living on Section 8 allows me to move which is a huge plus (something HUD complex subsidy never would have enabled me to do) On the other hand, it can be very restrictive. Lets face it Section 8 limits don't take into account the real reality out there.

When you add MCS to the mix in trying to find a new place- oh boy, it makes life interesting. Apartments are not generally advertised until AFTER they have already been painted, re-carpeted, and cleaned with heavy chemical cleaners. I keep telling my folks that what we need is a list of the units *to be available soon*

Needless to say my holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) have been/ will be spent frantically packing/ unpacking hopefully. If trying to prepare for a move spur of the moment isn't difficult enough, try doing it when even the boxes you use to pack have to be MCS safe and they are in limited supply because you had no idea you needed to be keeping every and Amazon box that hit your porch over the past year!

My apartment has rapidly been worked into box after box so that when a place is available, I will be ready to just seal up the last minute boxes and boxes of clothing that I am living out of as though they were suitcases.

You might wonder what happens to Thane in all this hubbub going on. I won't say it has been easy on him, but he is really taking it in stride. Sometimes he seems sad or a bit bewildered by the happenings. After all we have lived here the entire time I have had him. He does not know what this scale of moving is. I'm taking the time for those moments of training and fun. Sometimes that just means throwing his dinner for him to fetch while others it means filling buster cube so he can dispense it around the room himself.

I've been concerned obviously about what this level of stress on me, could do to him. At present, I've actually found him more in tune to me and the alerts we have trained or were training. I absolutely love it when he bounces up to me in full *paws* mode (front feet in my lap, on my armrest, on back of chair) to tell me someone is at the door or my timer went off (wherever I sat the thing down at). Moments like these are a joy.

Life will one day be normal again, but for right now, I struggle with getting everything done amidst the toxicity that I know could easily take my life. Today though, it is not. Today I am here with Thane and we will be OK in a new home one day very soon.

The leads have been few on the *new home* front. Either they don't take Section 8 or the price in their advertisement, isn't really the price they plan on charging and thus it is over my cap for Section 8. I'm also having to downsize to a one bedroom which is not good for MCS. Having a spare room for detox needs is crucial for me. I didn't have this in the apartment in California and I paid pretty heavily for that. I have the ability however to layout my living area how I see fit and appropriate for my needs since I will be entering this post MCS when I can control my personal space.

We've got our eyes on a place now. All I can do is take a look and if it seems good for my needs, hope that it will be able to be fit into the cap that Section 8 has for me. The overall expense there will be higher, but there are a number of perks that would make my life with MCS so much easier.

Today though, I have to be patient. The lady who helped my folks see the place is away until Tuesday. These days are for errands and more packing (while hoping other staff memebers don't rent the units out from under us), and oh yeah, a time to get out and work this redhead of mine so he feels like a new dog again.

One day I am sure I will look back on all this chaos and nightmare that has unfolded and have a funny tale to tell, but today, I just want it to be over.

13 November 2012

A Special Day

Who knows what today is?

I'll give you a hint...

A 9 month old Border Collie

You Give Up?

OK, I'll tell you all. Today is the five year anniversary of when this red and white pup came into my life. It was just a little over two months since I lost Met. My life had been shattered literally, but the entrance of Thane signified hope for the future.

He had a very big day- this country Border Collie. His flight required two plane trips and landed in Portland  at night. Heck, I was normally getting settled for shows and bed when we took off from here for the airport.

One of the first things I realized was just how much I had taught Met. I couldn't believe it. It'd been so long since I had a dog that didn't know how to walk beside my chair on a leash. It was mind-boggling. It was scary. There was even some wonderment if I had bitten off more than I could chew- could I really do this again with as much as my disabilities had progressed over the past decade.

Thane was to be a challenge for sure. He had a doggie door before- none here. He had the ability to pee and poop where he wanted- not here He did not like this stupid new owner who was insisting he was going to busy on the leash- yup in the pouring down rain, no less. Oh did we battle over this one- I know how NOT to approach that next time around! vbg

There were times- many of them, when I felt the likelihood for this to become a successful partnership was slim at best- and yet we managed to triumph over the obstacles that brought that dreaded R word to mind. I figured at this point, after our victory, there was nothing that could hold us back

How wrong could I have been!

Thane had unexplained symptoms- dulled and slowed responses, wandering lameness, falling off edges of sidewalks as though he had peripheral deficits, seizures, bruising and bleeding issues, and the symptoms kept mounting until he collapsed. They were bizarre, scary and the vet NEVER used any of her training to help me decipher what could be happening. It was up to me to research and suggest what to test him for.  Thanks to Sharon at After Gadget blog, who knows tick borne diseases better than she would like I am sure, I got a diagnosis for Thane before it was too late.

It was to be a long journey back- a journey being fought amidst undiagnosed hypothyroidism (because noone would listen to me) We made it back from Lyme, but the setbacks from hypo (which included months without my sidekick in public) and severe gluten intolerance (caused by mishandling his hypo) were difficult and are newly being addressed.

Today when I look back at the last five years, I have to admit, this is not the journey I envisioned when I welcomed this healthy redhead into my life. I realize though, that just like Met taught me about vaccinosis and how not to address hypothyroidism, Thane taught me about Lyme Disease- how it is everywhere despite what his previous vet keeps telling people. Thane is also teaching me about other modes of treatment in hypothyroidism- about treating the individual instead of the labs, and about Gluten Intolerance, a disorder I knew nothing about this past June, yet now am living the benefits alongside Thane of a gluten free life. Above all though, he has taught me about a dog's love for his deafblind handler- experiencing him saving my life time and again will never become something I take forgranted. When will people just drive already and forget about their phone, radio, makeup, how late they are- snicker

There've been days when this journey has been so much like Mets was that I just want to flee- start all over and recognize that dark bump on his abdomen as a tick- get him help then. I can't do that though. Instead I will take these lessons that were Thane's to teach and be grateful that I can use this knowledge to help others avoid our heartbreaks.

Sometimes I wonder why both my dogs wound up with long term and/ or chronic conditions like they did. I struggle with it from time to time, but in the end I realize that this is a partnership- one of teaching and working together as a team. These were their lessons to impart.

It wouldn't be much of a partnership, if I were the only one doing the teaching now would it?

At the end of the day, it may seem like this partnership has been filled with more sorrow than triumph, but I don't look at it that way. Because of Thane, I have grown as a trainer (trying to determine the best way to teach what seemed unteachable with him). I've advanced in my mobility skills thanks to Lyme and I've learned how to truly trust a guide unconditionally in traffic emergencies.

This redhead and me, well, we were just meant to be together

20 October 2012

Saving a Life or Two

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Martha at the blog Believe in Who You Are The topic for this carnival is *Moments*

There are so many aspects to Assistance Dog partnership that have their memorable moments- even more so for those of us who are owner trainers. As an individual with progressive deafblindness,  incomplete quadriplegia, and other substantial medical hurdles, the first moments that come to mind are two life saving events- one by each of my combo trained guide, hearing, service dogs. Initially, I was only going to write about the event with my present partnership; however, I realized that both of these events have played a crucial role in shaping who I am as a trainer and handler.

It was around 2004. I was taking Chimette (AKA Met) for our normal routine short walk while my apartment was being vacuumed.  Met was a typical male who loved to mark when I allowed him to, and sometimes tried to do so of his own accord with failing results. As males go, his marking behavior was honestly not that bad though he had a favorite area where he really loved to mark as we turned toward home.

Our path had no big obstacles to deal with that morning- everything was flowing with a calm, peaceful simplicity until Met jerked over under the trees alongside the sidewalk path. Something told me that despite our location, this action was not about marking so I followed his lead moving my chair over under the trees just as a white streak passed so close I could have reached out and touched it. The driver, so out of control, that he or she jumped the curb at the corner using the sidewalk as an extension of the road. I knew the police were not far behind after Met's siren alert so we stayed put.

Met got a jackpot of praise and opportunity to mark, and as Julie Johnson puts it, check all the pee mail he could ever want to check. During that interval I worked on getting my heart to stop pounding so hard that I could feel it in my chest. The realization of just what Met had done for me in that moment remains as clear in my mind some eight years later as it did the moment it occurred. He was indeed my hero who quite literally saved our lives that day.

Life goes on though and one doesn't think every day about each moment of excitement, wonder, or even life saving events. Met aged, passed away, and his successor stepped up to the plate in grand fashion. During this time, my disabilities had all progressed substantially. Still, I didn't think too much about all the moments each day- all the times Thane proved himself as we trained or worked as a green team.

There were so many times when drivers needed a refresher course about yielding for pedestrians, about looking for pedestrians when entering the crosswalk with their vehicles, and oh boy- the stories I could tell about the life saving moments caused by individuals who plain and simply need to have the keys taken away from them.

The one moment though in this partnership with Thane, that really stays in my mind and probably will for all time occurred May 20, 2011 shortly before Thane would collapse from undiagnosed Lyme disease. I included this fact, solely because it makes what he did this day all that much more of a memorable moment forever etched in my mind.

It was a beautiful day and we were going to take advantage of it. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we were coming off of our nine to ten months of annual rain and everyone was ready for the kind of weather we had that day. We headed to the trail and then back to New Seasons for a few items. As we were crossing the street with the signal (why are we always in the middle or three quarters of the way across the street when people try and put their 2000 pound or more vehicles to the test against pedestrians- deafblind ones at that), Thane slammed himself across my path at which point I immediately backed my chair some, but not before the unfortunate aspect of wheeling over a paw. With Thane's focus on getting me back, I doubt there was even a whimper at that unfortunate impact we made. I felt the swoosh of the air as a car ripped past us, not even slowing down at our presence. The signal there (and all along that street and too many others) has a yield arrow where cars can turn left when it is clear. The problem being is that they RARELY look for pedestrians.

Once we made it across the street and steadied our nerves, I gave Thane jackpot praise for what I realized immediately was the closest I had ever come to being severely injured or killed since partnered with a guide dog. This event had a greater impact than the one with his predecessor, Met, but each leaving me with gratefulness for the results of hard training and partnership with the dog at my side. I swapped handles (the glue had popped in the forceful re-direction Thane had to make) and we carried on. I've learned many times over how valuable it can be to carry a spare guide handle with us.

As we walked along towards the max station, I noticed Thane's pull in harness was different, but didn't think too much about it since his gait seemed normal. When we got to the max station is when I realized just the extent of what he had done for me. His forceful blocking of my chair had caused a sheering of his skin from the harness straps and forced torque of the guide handle.

My skin didn't fare much better than Thane's did. As we spent some days at home to heal, I tried not to let myself feel as awful as I did about Thane being injured in the performance of his duty. Instead I focused on the fact that we were still there, still together, because he performed his duty to the utmost of his ability.

I've heard a number of heartbreaking stories over the years about service dogs killed while crossing streets or parking lots, many of which were guide dogs. I continue to be grateful for the fast action of Thane that day. I am sure that his training, the repetitive need to use this skill due to distracted or incompetent drivers, our bond that helped me realize his urgency in that split second, and especially his agile build helped keep us safe that day.

That was the day when I realized above and beyond, that Thane was the right dog to have at my side.

10 September 2012

A Day of Remembrance for Chimette

Met Guides me in harness- early partnership
Five years ago today, my life changed forever. I had no idea how I was going to survive beyond that day. It was the day that Chimette, my awesome side kick of nearly 11 years, stepped out of my life.

The days that followed were unbelievable. I could not imagine how I would ever be able to function as a whole person again. Over the years, Met had adapted to my disabilities as much as I had to them by providing me with skills that I never would have considered needing when I first began training him. When he was gone, so was my strategy for functional living.

As hard as those first days and weeks felt in terms of my functional skills, my heart was turned to raw mincemeat. The loss went far deeper than just skills I lost. As an individual with MCS, I had no physical friends that I could visit with or do things with. My animals, but especially my service dog were my family, my firiends, my everything. I had lost my birds earlier that year and now I was literally alone for the first time since 1992.

Eventually I learned to pick up the pieces and adapt a bit- albeit awkwardly to my limitations. I knew I would eventually adopt another dog to train as my successor, but I could not imagine how I could bond with or work with another dog that was not Met.

It took a while, but I came to a place where I realized that Met would want this for me- Met would want me to be happy, to move on, to give another dog a chance to truly shine.

And that is what I did- little by little I let Thane worm his way into my heart, into my life, into the position that Met once held

But even as it is a special thing with Thane, there will never be those first exhilarations as I watched and experienced how much a service dog could become for me, could change my life and my outlook on life

Though moving on was the right thing to do, I take his journey and all its lessons with me. They are afterall a part of who I am today- why I am the way I am and most especially why Thane is alive and getting healthier each and every day.

Met lays on the grass in the sun on one of his last really good days

07 August 2012

So Many Lessons

Thane has taught me so many things in my time spent with him. Some of the things have been exhilarating, but over the past year much of that has been the gritty trials of fighting through Lyme and subsequent slow return of function because of just how long it took to get a right diagnosis.

This one however was a great find. The results of which have totally changed our life around from that of *would Thane every work full time again* to the *Thane is working full time again* mode

Thane is gluten intolerant!

I actually stumbled upon why Thane improved so dramatically on an MCS list. They were talking about gluten in supplements. I had shortly before that time changed Thane's diet and pulled almost all of his supplements. I began doing research and sure enough, he was on several that were not gluten free, as well as having been on a couple more that were not at some point over the past year, including the ALA which caused T4 to T3 conversion issues earlier in the year.

Life has improved so much for Thane and us as a team. His life at home is so much more peaceful- his anxiety just lifted almost overnight. It was such a radical change from the dog I had become accustomed to having to watch like a hawk or use an e-collar with.

There has been such vast improvement, that its hard to remember all the symptoms he had that melted away, but take a look at any of the Thyroid articles by Dr Jean Dodds and just about every system that can be involved in thyroid disease, was in Thane.

The jury is still out as to whether Thane will completely recover without any medical intervention. The frustrating part though is that my vet did not catch this early on either. It has been going on for years and did not surprise her that he was gluten intolerant. sigh

Now I sit here at home with anticipation of the lab results- hopefully there will be answers in them that lead us towards further resolutions cuz Thane and I- well, we love being back together on the road again

28 July 2012

It's Not Always Just Black and White

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival
The topic chosen by Brooke at  the RuledByPaws blog is Marchin' to Your Own Drum

When I brought Thane into my life as my successor candidate I had many hopes and dreams for us. None of them involved another journey through chronic illness, but that is exactly the cards that were dealt for us. I knew that there were great variations in the outcomes for dogs diagnosed with Lyme. All I could do was treat Thane and hope for a good outcome that leaves chronic illness behind as just a bad memory. We're still waiting for that LOL

Seriously though, in the beginning of this journey I could not think about anything but treatment for Thane. He was too sick to work at that time and so for the first time since his training was complete, I had to face that scary world full of sounds and sights I was oblivious to by myself. I had to deal with grip issues and the pain associated with navigating my guide cane while Thane recovered. The worst part was having to deal with everyone who just had to know where Thane was. Leaving him home certainly gave me a huge eye opening experience of just how much Thane really does for me as a deafblind incomplete quadriplegic.

Many in the service dog world believe that once a service dog has developed a health condition that it is time to retire them. I don't believe it is really so simple- so black and white. As a more sedentary individual and an owner-trainer, I have greater flexibility in this area. I will admit I did a lot of soul searching about what was right in our situation, but I knew going into this that every case is different. For Thane, however, having not been diagnosed early on, the prognosis was a long one of ups and downs as the spirochetes were destroyed.

The key in everything is that I put Thane first ALWAYS If he was not up for the errand, then we waited for a day when he was doing better (during times when it fluctuated) or I went solo. Don't get me wrong, it was tough going solo. I knew though that when I got home, he'd be there to help me put things away, change my smelly clothes from public access and be the in-home service dog I trained him to be. Though there is still some fluctuation in Thane's abilities, he has begun to work in public more. Lately, each week seems to be bringing with it an increased ability to be in harness at my side. There were times when I questioned whether I had made the right decision to wait the process out and see what outcome we could achieve.  Now I am watching the dream begin to unfold as Thane is returning to the job he loves. I'm so glad I don't think in just black and white!

17 April 2012

The Future of Our Partnership

Today I have made one of the hardest decisions anyone partnered with a service dog makes, that of hanging up the guide harness. This decision was not made lightly or in haste. Thane has been out of harness for a short time due to a skin issue which has since healed nicely. While out of harness, we worked together as a service/ hearing dog team (combo trained dog) When the harness came back into the equation however, stress was quite evident for Thane. I won't go into all of the details here other than to say that it was very important to me to listen to what Thane needs and wants rather than focusing on how difficult life without a guide dog will be.

At this point, Thane still loves to do his indoor tasks. These tasks are also a huge part of my ability to live as independently as I do. He will continue in the home to be my service dog and probably even learn new tasks. Public access as a service/ hearing dog may come to a close as well or we may find that stepping out of harness resolves the stress issue.

For now though, I will go solo and give Thane more time to heal, relax, and be loved for the awesome dog he is and has been at my side. He will remain in my life, as the teacher of the great lesson and heartbreak known as Lyme Disease. I sincerely doubt I would be making this post now, if it had not been for it. The reason really doesn't matter though- all that matters is that he is loved and will continue to be loved and cared for by me.

03 April 2012

The Future of My Blog

This is a quick post to my followers to give you a heads up on what may be the end of future posts from me. Blogger is updating their interface. For some this may sound like a great deal, but to those who are visually impaired or blind, its not the case.

You see, bloggers new interface is not very accessible to those who rely upon screen readers. For now the old interface is still active. Blogger is fully aware of the lack of accessibility, but it looks like they are still trying to get everyone to switch over to the new interface this month.

For those non-computer savvy folks who read my or other VI or blind folks blogs, the interface is required to add entries to our blogs.

Though I could just move to another blog hosting site, I have not decided what course of action I plan on taking at this juncture.

I loved that at the time I started my blogs, I was able to do it without captcha via my gmail account- that is not an option on a lot of other blog hosting sites so I have a lot to figure out.

For now, I'm staying put unless of course I log on one day and find that blogger decided for me

17 March 2012

My Life with Chronic Pain and Dream to Go Home

I am so ready to bust this climate- YESTERDAY! Our life has been nothing short of ordinary lately. It seems that my nerve pain has become widespread, chronic, and is triggered into a more severe pain level with the trigger of rain.

Living with such chronic pain is difficult at best. I have to limit my time on the computer, limit the household chores I do, limit how much I play with Thane, limit everything that has become my identity just so that I can keep the pain level down to tolerable levels.

I've been fighting with MyIPRelay this week over my account that they keep freezing out on me. For some online relay is a secondary phone for them- for me it is my only way to make calls and receive messages. I can't make a lot of calls as it is due to pain levels. I do much better with email communication, but some businesses are resistant to provide that option (including Thane's vet).

I spent the better part of three days fighting with these folks. I prefer Nextalk for outgoing calls but they lost their relay contract with no notice to consumers. Its been over a month and its still not back in place. I tried to set up accounts with other providers, but they either used captcha, the number options were not local for me, or I needed to port my existing number if I wanted to use the service within a short window of time. To port my number would then make it unusable with the provider I had been using once they get their heads out of their asses and stop monkeying around with my account that was all up to date to begin with years ago.

If I had not been in the midst of trying to reach the wheelchair vendor (something I'd been trying to do unsuccessfully for nearly two weeks) all of this would not have made my life so complicated. All the extra crap with the provider to get my account working right again only to have it fail for the same reason the next day and the next quite frankly used up all the spoons I set aside to work on reaching the wheelchair vendor. Since I can't answer incoming calls and the repair department was not picking up when I called, this meant repeated calls through relay for weeks.

Finally flabbergasted with the whole ordeal, when the national office picked up the phone instead of local, I explained whats been taking place to them and imagine that- they got them on the phone for me! YEAH! Not only that, she is going to use email to let me know when the appointment will be so that I can more easily confirm it with her.

Spoons for the weekend are pretty much gone now after all of that this week- not to mention two grocery trips in rain and mud with the sorting and clean up to follow.

I've pretty much decided I have to begin saving for relocating. I have to have a drier climate than this. I refuse to spend the rest of my life in this place because my parents want me closer to them and I opted to move here based on half truths and down right lies about some things. I don't know when it will happen, I suspect I will probably be on dog number three before it does, but I have to have something like this to give me a renewed sense of hope.

When one relies on public transit, needs guided walks to keep their pain in check, must take long trips on transit to get the grocery needs provided, living in a climate where it now rains a good part of the year (8-9 months is common), its time to reverse that decision I made because i was provided with faulty information about my options here. I was also told they would help me get back there if this did not work for me, but that was the rouse to prevent me from changing my mind.

Meanwhile though both Thane and I suffer every year because of the rain and I am fed up with it. Now that most of the heavy duty medical treatment phase is behind us for Thane, I hope to be able to get my budget back on track and save for the process of a move.

 I know that when one is on section 8, the area you want to move to has to agree to accept your case. Its not as simple as me saying I want to rent such and such a place in the city I left. Housing also has some really ludicrous guidelines for making this transition (or any move even within the same county you live in). You have to fist give a 30 day notice to your manager and send Housing a copy. They then have to approve of the move. OK so if your like me, your asking who the heck designed such a system! OK I get your manager should get a 30 day notice, but one usually has somewhere to move to before they give their manager notice, don't they?! LOL

Thankfully I have a friend who has managed to do the state transition twice as well as transitioned within a single state before so I will definitely touch base with her at some stage of this. I just don't see this happening anytime soon with how expensive such a move could be for me. The bottom line is I need to live in a drier climate period. I can't live like this year in and year out. Its time for me to save my pennies. If people knew just how much more money I'd be getting now if I lived in California they'd probably croak. Between Social Security cutting my check over 200 bucks when my Mom also went on Dad's SS (something SS required to be done with me) and this state refusing to give me SSI or any assistance dog special allowance funds- I wish I never made this move.

Some people may think that I am just in one of those funks and I will get used to things once the rain stops (in say 3 more months if I am lucky), get real. I have felt this way from the beginning. Living with MCS though makes this even harder than you can imagine. Its the No friends, no contacts that are MCS safe, no way to check out the area easily because I can't fly, etc, etc. Of course if I land in the same area I left, I imagine I can get some assistance on that end of the transition from people I know there, but the journey to pull it off on the Oregon end will be oh so much fun NOT! It will be a nightmare to put it into place, but once it happens, it will be so much easier for me to live throughout the year. I know wherever I land will have its share of rain, but it will also have more dry than wet. I will choose where I land based on the transit system, location of organic grocery options, location of good veterinary care, etc My biggest concern is the *fight* for accessible formats with housing and their willingness to do reviews by mail. I hear that most areas do in person reviews. I know the law is on my side with reasonable accommodations but I wont say it doesn't concern me.

Through all of these thoughts and ramblings here today though, I have to wonder how things will flow if the transition begins before my third dog. How will things transition in regards to Thane's ongoing care, his permanent waiver (which is btw based on the vet you are seeing at the time- any other vet can choose to not honor it) Its part of why I am nervous to seek out a better vet for Thane as it is here. Of course in California, if I ask a vet for a written script, they CAN NOT refuse. It is law there that they must provide what I request. Of course I've never in my life heard of a month of amoxicillin costing 70 bucks until my vet was refusing and playing games about its being filled.

For now, all this can be is a dream. I know that. I know a few bucks are not going to get me back home. I know its where I need to be though for my own sanity and pain- so here's to the day that I get back home!

18 February 2012


Lyme negative are the most beautiful two words I have heard since our life turned upside down in June, but they are words being used in reference to Thane!

Its been a very long, hard journey that at times I was not sure which end was up and which down- or if Thane was going to be able to guide in all scenarios when the end actually came to pass- but its happened and he is at my side to stay for a while longer anyway.

A transition like this is interesting. To me, its more like remission as having had Lyme for about two years prior to diagnosis means there is potential for relapse through cyst forms. Cyst forms are able to hide from most antibiotic therapy. I'm not overly concerned since there are plans for a prevention protocol- one element of which can be used both preventatively and as part of a treatment protocol. Its capable of busting cysts as well. The supplement regimen will be continued. Homeopathy regimen if needed since it is about more than just Lyme.

For now though, I'm experiencing something I did not know when, if ever I would. I have the guide at my side that I had way back in the first week of June 2009 before he was bit by the tick, albeit a little thin in coat, but that will come in time.

Now when I head out with Thane, I'm not thinking so much about multiple approaches to deal with my disabilities- Thane is back in top form. There's no more concerns about whether or not he will be able to guide me in all situations. I don't have to think about what the weather is like or if its too late and we might be heading home after dark or any of that.

When I want to head out and do something- we just do!

Of course I've suspected for a few weeks that he was now negative, but having the test results on my computer confirming what I thought to be the case is just awesome.

I have previous experience working a combo trained service dog with chronic health needs. Its not the path I would have chosen for him and its certainly not the path I wanted for Thane. Today though, despite knowing that this could relapse, I still feel this sort of victory in that though we had a long haul to get where we are, it is not going to predict our future or put limitations on the way I live my life with him at my side. It really is a special feeling to have so much be past tense. No more seizures, no more falling off curbs or running into walls, no more wandering lameness, or skin so fragile that a shower causes it to peel away if oil isn't massaged into the skin. This and so much more are in the past and tomorrow is just that- a day when we can do whatever we please without worrying about what symptoms might rear their ugly face!

Boy isn't this just awesome pawsome!

14 February 2012

The Status with Thane

Much improvement has taken place in my wonderful sidekick. We are learning how to work with his energy. I'm finding keeping him busy and further training do help.

Presently the only symptom that is identifiable is the hair growth in progress. This is one of those symptoms that just takes time. With as multi-system devastating as it was before his diagnosis. I find this just amazing that we are at this juncture- getting our life back. I am eagerly anticipating his results to follow-up testing. My heart believes they will read NEGATIVE. The vet concurs with my feeling by seeing him.

Its still pretty amazing to me how this can devastate a life- how smart this bacterium really is. I know it will take a while before I will really relax and not be looking for symptoms from any possible cyst forms that took advantage of antibiotic free territory to wreak havoc again.

I'm getting ahead of myself now though- we still have to get the test results that tell us its time to celebrate smile

28 January 2012

What it Means to be Five

Happy fifth Woofday baby boy! My lil' redhead Man is five today. It is so hard to believe in many ways- from how could this much time have already passed, to how we actually pulled off Lyme survival.

I thought I would focus this post on what five means to me. See for me, five has some history and very deep meaning.

When Met first began having seizures, with his breed mix and the fact that the storm rose fiercely a couple months after the meds began again, the vets were candid with me. His life expectancy with his breeds and seizure picture was not good. The life expectancy presented to me was five years of age- forget about working career duration. Most reading know how we proved them wrong. I found the K9epilepsy forum and learned alternative ways to work in tandem with his meds. He not only lived more than double that expectancy, but he was working up until he passed.

With my history, it's no doubt how much impact turning five has on me. Its not a negative impact, but one where perseverance can change the world so to speak.

I never expected to be found in the fight for Thane's life and yet this past summer that is exactly where I found myself. I never thought too much about the fact that he was not even five years old when this all came to a head until recently. I began to think about everything we had conquered or learned together as a team, but also about what we would have missed out on in the future had my good friend Sharon at AfterGadget blog not encouraged me to pursue testing Thane for TBDs.

Rather than focus on the heartbreaking journey through Lyme, I thought I would share some of the highlights- some of those special things that we as a team managed to do over the past five years. Some of these accomplishments required letting go both of Met and of the cover of *in training* to trust in the new dog at my side.

Moving on was hard- sometimes harder than I imagined, but putting Met behind us and letting Thane blossom in his work was the best thing I ever could have let happen.

Accomplishments that have special meaning:

December 2007 at less than a year old, Thane stops for car I did not notice
January 2008 figured our way around a road tripod when I couldn't figure the way using my guide cane
January 2008 first short distance timer alert (pre tick bite)
February 2008 first instance of intelligent disobedience
April 2008 Thane Shines!  public access began
June 2008 Thane regularly alerts to my mailbox in a string of 22 boxes
July 2008 Thane works crowds with great precision
July 2008 Thane becomes my guide dog
Sept 2008 We rode Max!
Dec 2008 Thane guides in snow and ice
March 2009 Guide brace gives us more freedom and ease as a team
June 2009 Thane is retrieving
July 2009 Thane woke me when alarm went off
August 2009 Mr Bold and Courageous walked me across freeway overpass in pedestrian walkway
Sept 2009 Manager tells me: *You have done a great job training him*
Oct 2009 first night work
Nov 2009 Thane has learned to tug
Dec 2009 Thane is tugging indoor doors open or closed while homebound in manual chair
Dec 2009 Thane is nudging indoor doors open or closed while homebound in manual chair
Sept 2010 When MCS attack left me almost completely blind, Thane stepped up to plate guiding me in dark to get medical care
Oct 2010 turned off my pain from severe MCS attack in wee morning hours by laying his body right up against mine without any direction from me
March 2011 first distance timer alert
April 2011 Thane closes the fridge with *smack it* command
May 2011 Thane does hard block traffic check saving us both from being hit in middle of crosswalk
Dec 2011 first door knock alert
Jan 2011 first doorbell alert Needs more training for door alert accuracy still

When I look at just a sampling of our accomplishments together, see Lyme receding knowing that we are getting our life back, I wonder just how much more Thane has to do in how ever many years of work he has ahead.

Thane is a great dog who has taught me valuable lessons both as a person, as part of a partnership, medically, and in life in general. The lessons of Lyme and just how it can ravage a body, I could have done without, but every lesson be it in life, in partnership, in health makes us stronger as a team. I guess for that, I am grateful for the lessons and strength that we have endured and built over the past four years together, but most especially over the past seven months

So you see what it means to be five or to make it to five is all about perseverance and ones ability to turn a situation that seems so bleak into one that is not only survivable, but full of life, service, and happiness as well

Now there's a tongue waiting my raw-fed boy for his special woofday meal and oh the day wouldn't be complete without some new toys either grin

24 January 2012


When you live in *rain central USA* you take your opportunities to get out when they present themselves. Yesterday was one such opportunity.

I'd been trying to decide whether or not to schedule paratransit for shopping errands when the weekend weather forecast did not match the reality we were presented with. I needed some things for both of us at two different stores- one of which takes about an hour to get there by fixed route.

Then we woke up yesterday to a cloudy day that was staying cloudy. There was no rain in the forecast, but then as forecasts go, they are not always that trustworthy. Needless to say, we set out with the plan to do both stores in one swoop- not knowing when we could get another chance for this again. I knew the following day I'd feel like I'd been run over by a freight train, but I also knew that not taking advantage of a dry day would come back to bite me. We set off for leg one of our journey, taking a bit of a detour due to plant and hedge storm damage that has yet to be addressed by home owners or renters.

For the most part, I've been really enjoying working Thane when the opportunities arise- be it just a walk or real work together for errands in town or in the surrounding cities. Yesterday was no exception. Thane was really into his job, happy and working the way I have dreamed of experiencing again for so long. Lyme really changed things so lately I've really felt like I am getting to know him all over again or in some aspects getting to know him for the first time.

Yesterday was amazing. Other than a small amount of *ice walking* on slick floors, Thane did really superbly. When we left New Seasons to finally head home, I was already beginning to feel the impact of the multi-errand day we were putting in.

Though there were a number of really great things he did as he performed his job, I think the one that means so much to me is his ability to take my words, *I'm hurting*, and change from his already steady pace to be more gentle with the sidewalk bumps and terrain we had to travel. He was just pawsitively awesome.

And today, well it has been raining since we crawled out of bed- pouring most of the day.

21 January 2012

Life in the Pacific Northwest

From snow to flooding and uprooted trees, damaged plant life, blocked sidewalk access on narrow streets where the owners/ renters NEVER do their own trimming/ cleanup

Oh isn't access and life just a wonderful thing to behold in the pacific northwest


Thane and I managed an outing in town yesterday but boy oh boy did we ever get wet! It was just raining a bit when we took off, but you all know how murphy's law goes now don'tcha? grin

We managed to do the outing, but did not get everything needed because most of the stores are moving away from natural meat to enhanced. It is getting so old! I can't wrap my head around why they keep moving this direction since it certainly is not a healthy move for anyone. Thane can't have enhanced meats- nor would I feed him that crap even if he could tolerate it.

By the time we got home, we were a couple of drenched rats! Thane's harness was so muddy and wet it had to be laundered right away. And Thane, well his rain coat did a pretty good job where it covers. He was shaking his head all afternoon until I finally realized he must have gotten rain in his ears. Sometimes I'm slow to get what he is telling me Poor guy

I am so ready for July or perhaps a trip to say NOLA where its in the 70's I hear.

18 January 2012

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

We love snow, in case you did not get that drift. grin

The last few days we have had some snow stick overnight, but not the amount of accumulation necessary for playing in.

Thane is so cute with his football in the snow and frankly I was feeling jipped. Snow is definitely something that breaks up the monotony of all that rain we get here in the pacific northwest.

Last nights forecast was pretty straight forward: 1-3 inches accumulation turning to rain around 2AM. Can you read the big SHUCKS about the rain there.

I am like a little kid when it comes to snow. I wasn't so much this way with Met, but with Thane it is different. Thane is just a bundle of energy in the snow. He loves it. He loves football. This energizes my love of the stuff too.  December 2008, the year of the White Christmas, was also our first experience together with snow. It quite frankly spoiled us. We were home bound for about three weeks as every time the snow stopped long enough for anyone to think it might be through, another storm came rushing in. It was incredible!

Last night I was up at 11PM, up at 1AM, and again at 5AM. I checked out my snow, took pictures at 11PM and 1AM, hoped upon hope for it to still be usable at 8AM when quiet time at the complex ends.

The news at 6:30 was not promising. It had turned to rain everywhere they mentioned between 2AM and 4AM depending on the temperature in the city or town. It made me sad to think that the one chance for playing in the snow happened overnight and was going to be washed out before we could have a rip of the football and a springboard jump from this slender, agile redhead Border Collie boy.

Then we got up!

Our town had remained colder than everyone around us. It was fantastically fabulous! I tried to pass the time until 8AM as much as I could. I had to hope upon hope that the people on the corner who were fumigating us with their fabric softener at 7:15 would conclude and the air would clear out enough for our pleasure.

And then 8AM came!

Out the door he went.

First a busy

Then a sailing football sent him into action and it was so completely awesome! He jumped one way then the other- this way and that- jumped high, ducked low all to catch each sailing football as it was thrown through the air.

No rain in sight yet for our little town. Cold had settled here to stay for a while longer

Each time the ball was snatched from the crisp air or collected when it fell to the soft white fluff of covered earth, it was raced back to my hand with lightening speed. After tapping the football on the door frame to release the snow from its grips, it was thrown once more into the air, sailing until *snatch* it was collected by this energized redhead.

It was incredible!

13 January 2012

The Lessons Learned through the Many Obstacles with Thane

This post is for the Sixth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. The topic is Obstacles.

As assistance dog partners, many things can stand in the way preventing us from experiencing the partnership we may have dreamed of with our canine partner. From a dog and handler that are not a good match, to an inability to bond and thus trust in each other, to difficulties with pace and harness pull, to medical problems, to endless scenarios.

After my first partnership with Chimette, I had a hard time believing that I could move on and bond with another dog, but more significantly that I could actually have a healthy partnership.

When Thane came into my life, it was indeed love at first sight. We seemed to bond instantly, but then things began to fall apart. There was a huge obstacle in my path. I was dealing with what some call *second dog syndrome*. I just could not let go of the tenure partnership I had with Met to truly bond in harness with the trainee at my side. I spent so much time wallowing in the dreams of my seasoned predecessor, that the bonding process, training, trust, and emotional health were literally stuck in what seemed like a feedback loop, unable to move forward individually or together.

During this time when we were at home off training and just being together, all was fine, but back in training mode in-harness and I had a hard time exploring what was causing the lack of cohesion we experienced. I could always point to how different Thane was from Met, but could not let go of Met to allow Thane to be his own dog and excel where he would. Everything I saw pointed towards Thane as the obstacle, when in fact, the obstacle was me, the handler.

Once I was able to let go of Met, Thane blossomed into a very intelligent in tune guide and service dog. Most things did not come naturally in the training process though which made me have to work harder at looking outside of the box as I trained each task he now performs as though he were born doing it.

It was hard for me to get through the obstacles in training Thane, with the constant reminders of memory (incomplete or inaccurate as this might be) that reminded me of a time when there was such simplicity in training. Accurate or not, I soon realized that one of Thane's roles was to teach me to be a better trainer. He was not stupid- in fact, far from that! He was there to *grow me* as a trainer.

Once this process had begun, we really began to grow as a team flourishing into a partnership I never could have dreamed of in the past. I know this could not have happened, if I had not allowed Thane to blossom into his own individual. If I had continued to try and mold him into the dog that Met was, I would have lost out on some amazing experiences, hard knocks, and lessons learned.

As if I had not already learned a lot of truths about myself, about how far my successor dog would go to protect my life, and yes, even some medical roller coaster rides through things like giarda; Thane was about to teach me about a disease that is so often looked upon as a northeast problem. He would teach me just how far one can go and how close one can come to answers coming too late. Of course, without my very special friend Sharon at the AfterGadget blog, I know those answers would have come too late for Thane.

If you don't know already, the obstacle I am talking about is chronic late stage Lyme Disease. I'd been through what seemed like hell and back with Met through severe vaccinosis, but I was ill prepared for the journey Thane was in the process of taking me on.

We'd been chasing symptoms for about two years when I went into the vet office and requested TBD testing for Thane. Though his symptoms at this point seemed to match up with a tick borne disease, my vet tried to convince me that the ticks in the northwest were *healthy*. I was not buying that propaganda, but still wanted to remain hopeful that this was not the direction we were headed. In the end, Thane has surprised many about the presence of TBDs locally.

Our journey through Lyme has been one obstacle after another- from medication reactions that compromised his liver in under two weeks time, to symptoms that seemed unlikely to resolve that could shorten our partnership or at the very least limit when he could work. Thankfully through supplemental and alternative therapies that were added to his antibiotic regimen, I have reason to be hopeful now.

It has been seven months since Thane collapsed unable to leave our home. Though time will tell just how complete his symptom resolution is to be, I find myself amazed at just how tenacious these spirochetes can be and how hard a body can fight to win. With the resolution of neurological symptoms, orthopedic symptoms, GI symptoms, and some collagen based symptoms which included coat, skin, vision and hearing; I know nothing can stand in our way except the reality that such chronic Lyme often comes with relapses due to cyst forms that managed to evade long term antibiotic and nutritional support therapies.

Once Thane was well enough to work part time in daylight situations again, I found myself struggling with this major obstacle- that of a dog that had lost so much of his experience and function. He was at that stage for all intense of purposes, a green dog that could not learn from the experiences we were taking in. There was too much *fighting* of the disease taking place for me to even begin to consider the possibility that what I was seeing may always be what he would be now. I was grieving this huge loss while at the same time trying to remain hopeful that we would conquer this huge obstacle. I tried hard to put it to the back of my mind, but I found myself thinking about the reality that retirement may become necessary in the end. Thankfully, it looks as though those fears have been put to bed, at least for the near future any way.

Right now, we are literally experiencing something I never once took the time to think about during the hardest most heart breaking times in the previous months. Thane has literally come alive. The energizer bunny has returned and frankly it is taking a bit of getting used to after how settled Thane had seemed to be over the past two years. Energy aside, his incentive and instincts are surfacing as we work towards finding that perfect balance again.

I've struggled with his energy. Frankly it has been quite an obstacle since I also have developed chronic nerve pain this past year. I've found a number of obstacles though as we work back to the team we once were- many of them stem from his energy which makes it harder for him to focus. Some of it however stems from how *stuck* we were for so long in that *green team* mode where Thane could not learn from our new experiences. I guess the best way to describe it is that he was stuck in brain fog which has finally lifted.

For so long, I had to second guess his decisions with the tactile mini guide or be really in tune with our environment. It was truly exhausting, but as long as Thane was able and willing to work, I felt giving him the opportunities might one day just flip that switch again. Some days he seemed really on and other days, it was still a huge deal to work him, even if only for a walk. I kept looking for the reason for the changes from day to day. I kept looking for something in him that would point towards the issue.

Earlier this week, I was in significant pain, but knew Thane needed work and groceries needed to be picked up. Thane had been working the best he had in a while once some energy was worn off. Shortly after we left home, I laid my head back on the headrest and relaxed in harness for the first time since Lyme took so much from us. As I relaxed, letting Thane do what I had trained him to, instead of the frequent reminders for *easy*, *slow down*, etc, I discovered something quite amazing. There was no issue with Thane's work. He guided me with a smooth, easy rhythm of perfect pull in harness through some of the most horrific sidewalk terrain our town has to offer.

After this outing that took nearly three hours, I was not quite ready to believe that this was really all there was to the *growing pains* as we worked back towards becoming the team we once had been. I guess I needed to see this duplicated a couple more times- so duplicate it he did.

Perhaps there is yet another lesson Thane is meant to teach me before our partnership is through, that of not focusing all my energy into finding the obstacles in our work solely in his part of the team, but to look at the entire team when something is amiss.

I don't know what the future holds for our partnership, but I know this much, the obstacles we have encountered and risen above, are a big part of the strength we embody today.

10 January 2012

The Backseat Driver

As we made our way back from chronic Lyme, I had been seeing things in Thane's work in areas we navigate regularly that I did not like. It was like we had to go back to the beginnings of training on some of the very basics of guide work. It was frustrating at best and could be dangerous at worst if I did not get it nipped in the bud.

Working with Thane through Lyme treatment was not like working with Thane beforehand. For lack of a better way to describe it, it was like working with a green dog who did not learn from the experiences you encountered together. It was a lot of work, but working without him was even more work, so I stuck it out once he was an able and a willing participant. Many days I was wanting to pull my hair out from the frustrations. It was hard not to grieve for what we once had and to wonder if it would ever be had again.

With most of that behind us now and his renewed energy to contend with, Thane and I are trying to get out more frequently. I continued lately to struggle with the change in his guide work that resembled a beginner, but I kept with it believing that this too would resolve itself just as so many symptoms of the disease had.

Today when we headed out, we were right behind the garbage truck. I really did not feel like dealing with his exhaust, frequent stops and starts, and careless approach to handling of the empty garbage cans so I decided to do something different for our pre-bus trip walk.

We headed the opposite direction we normally do to connect with the bus. We got to the main street the bus runs on for heading out of town and I just decided to take it towards down town. We've actually never gone that direction on that street before so this was a brand new experience for both of us. I laid my head back on the headrest and relaxed for the first time since all this began; just letting Thane do the job he was trained to do and you know what, we survived! LOL No, seriously, we got on the sidewalk from hell. You know the kind- those where in many places the sidewalk was completely gone from disrepair so that we had to navigate carefully through or around the areas. We did so without a hair on our heads out of place (so to speak)

Thane's work was relaxed, with a much easier pull than I had experienced from him in a while. I was letting him do his job instead of issuing the frequent commands of *easy*, *slow down*, *surface* or the like. I took myself out of the backseat driver mode and let him do what I had trained him to do. He excelled and we had an awesome day together.

It's funny how when I looked at what was wrong in his work, I always looked for problems with him when at this point (at least lately) I was the obstacle standing in our way.

07 January 2012

A Hiccup

Thane's been doing doorbell alerts with absolute perfection when I trigger the training doorbell unit. I keep it hidden in my pocket, trigger it when he is not near me, watching me, or in the same room as me. In other words, I make this as normal as I can for the real experience (minus the presence of a person on the other side of the door). Its only been a couple days, so I get that it will take some time before this is really a solid skill.

Yesterday I had some packages arrive. One by UPS and one by USPS. When the doorbell rang, I ignored the pager and stayed where I was awaiting Thane's alert only it did not happen. For UPS, he eventually came about halfway back to me, but never all the way to me. With USPS he did not even leave the door so I had to go ahead and respond to the pager on this one.

The only difference that I can ascertain between the training doorbell practice and the real deal is that there is a person on the other side of the door. Thane is a real people dog- meaning he would be a social butterfly if he were not a service dog.

I'm unsure how I can rectify this situation. I can't be made toxic multiple times a day by people. I also don't really have physical friends. Its a sad reality that many people who live with severe MCS face. Thane is my everything- my service dog, my companion, my friend. The point of sharing this is that I can't call up a friend and ask them to come each day at different times to ring my doorbell for some real practice.

This part of the month when orders are coming in, there is more practice opportunity, but generally my doorbell might get wrung once a week otherwise. As you see, not a very good setup for training now is it?

I'm not sure what to do. I'm not sure if in time, the person on the other side of the door will fit into Thane's criteria for alerting me to the door. I'm really taken back by this hiccup and am not really sure just how to address it. I have to admit, I find this funny. Thane is way too smart for his own good sometimes. This scenario with a person on the other side of the door, in his mind, must not be what we trained for. LOL

05 January 2012

2012 Starts with a Bang!

Its been an exhilarating past couple of days. Thane's door knock alert that ended 2011 on a high note was just the beginning of what he had in store.

The dream of a well rounded hearing dog was as of yet, still very much a dream rather than reality in my partnership with Thane. Though he did fairly well with in harness and public access type of alerts necessary for my safety, those in our home life were hit and miss at best.

That is until now

For the longest time I really wondered if Thane could ever achieve this training- if we would ever be a hearing dog team. The last couple days have proven to me that the stars are our limit (to use a cliche). Once I saw that Thane actually did make the connection to put each step in the chain of events for an alert together, I realized it was time for me to make the time to focus once more on training with Thane.

Right now I don't much care what the reason is for the change in our ability to pull this off- though just about everyone seems to concur that it has to do with Lyme receding. What has become important to me is that the hope I saw at the end of 2011, has become much more than that. It has become reality as we spend time working together on the doorbell alert.

As I returned to the training phase of the doorbell alert, it was pretty clear that the alert to a door knock on New Year's Eve was not just a coincidence. The first day back at the grind, Thane alerted perfectly 3 out of 5 times. The two times that were not perfect just needed some work on follow through. He seemed to have the concept when we were a good distance from each other, but when we were in close proximity the follow through was lacking. Despite that aspect, I truly felt this was an amazing start after all the struggles we encountered in the past just trying to put two parts of the chain together.

This was just to be the beginning of what was to come though. Today's practice has been amazing. Every single time I triggered the doorbell (with my backup training unit), Thane bounded to the door, back to me, and back to the door with me in tow. One time I stopped midway just to see what would happen. To my happy surprise, Thane bounded back to me with a follow-up alert and back to the door with me on his tail.

I'd be unrealistic if I were to say that this alert is trained solidly enough that he will be able to perform it with such perfection from here on out. That said, it does not squelch my enthusiasm over the joy that is bubbling within me. This is a huge accomplishment that at various times I actually wondered if it would ever ring true.

Over the past two years, Lyme stole a lot from our partnership that I had no idea the depths of. Now though, with Lyme receding and the fog lifted, I am getting the opportunity to experience the partnership (and training) that we were meant to have.