21 December 2013

This One Takes the Cake on Interference

Thane has struggled a lot lately, but we are back in the saddle so to speak again. I have never been more grateful for having my dog working well as I am today. The motto, never give in to a vet. After Met and now his history, I feel like Vets are there to ruin our partnerships, not to keep them healthy and together.

Anyway-- enough of that grin

We are busy doing shopping like most everyone is this time of year-- from food to miscellaneous shopping errands for him and me.

Today I was unsure if I wanted to go to Winco or Whole Foods. I need to do both, but in the end decided it was best to do Winco today. We got a train really quickly which was fantastic.

Thane and I headed off for Winco walking our normal back neighborhood route. He was working fantastic and I was so proud of him. We were on the final stretch when Thane alerted me to a slow car. The way he alerted told me it was nothing to concern myself with and we were not in a driveway so I just thanked him and carried on.

We continued on not worrying about it.

All of a sudden a car blocked our way entirely. The person got out and from what I could piece together informed me that if I did not respond to her she was calling the police about me because I was not safe.


There was absolutely nothing that she could have witnessed to give her that idea other than the fact that I ignored her being obnoxious down the roadway with me.

I will admit, I probably could have been more polite when she did this to me, but oh my goodness! This is not the dark ages! Disabled people actually do function independently. Contrary to her feelings, we also ignore those being obnoxious or who might possibly be able to pose a threat to us. It's not that we are not aware of their presence. I was very aware, thanks to my wonderful sidekick.

I'm still a bit flabbergasted by her audacity. I mean, those with service dogs are used to pedestrian interference, but this one really takes the cake!

She said some other stuff that I did not follow, but one thing I did get was that I initially did not respond when she told me I had a pretty dog.

My goodness! If I even heard the words from a moving vehicle (NOT), responding to every single person while we are actively working, I'd never have the focus of BOTH of us necessary nor would I ever get anything done.

Thankyou that you like my dog, but enjoy him from afar-- don't block our path and threaten to call the police if I do not acknowledge you and then act like I was a person in danger when all we are doing is smoothly walking on a wonderful sidewalk as a team keeping focus on what we are doing, not your silliness.

Shaking my head

13 November 2013

Six Years of Love, Challenge, and Devotion

The year was 2007, I had just lost my first combo trained service dog two months prior. Here I was in eager anticipation readying my home for a beautiful red and white smooth coat Border Collie boy to grace me with his presence.

I love to focus on the memory of our first connection. My mom opened the crate door from behind and he places his muzzle into my outstretched hands. He was so beautiful, so innocent, so confused by the changes that took place this day

and yet

This is the day when I was able to allow my heart to begin to heal as I rejoined that circle of training again which led to my wonderful, albeit challenging, partnership with Thane.

Here I am 6 years later. We learn lessons from every partnership we have, but I think that the lesson of most impact for me today is that you can never predict the future accurately.  You can learn from the past in order to prevent future similarities, but you can't know what tomorrow will bring for sure.

I thought I would list some of the lessons I have learned through my training and partnership with Thane. I won't be listing them all, as I would be here typing a very long time to do that. The lessons shaped our future are important though.

It can be overwhelming when you get a dog who is basically a clean slate after you have been partnered with a dog for many years (from adoption to passing I was with Met for over a decade). You have to relearn how to communicate with clear commands again grin

I can not nor should I mold this dog into a carbon replica of Met. Thane is his own self; a very different dog and I need to let him work in his style.

Emotions run down the leash-- learn to manage your own stress for a better partnership (especially with a soft dog)

Backchaining a task can lead to much greater reliability than if a dog just learns the task by example watching another dog or with fine tuning a behavior offered.

A less *natural* dog can test one's training abilities. The successes also are that much more exciting when the breakthroughs happen.

A vet's competence can go a long way to either supporting or challenging the longevity of a partnership

When a dog begins having symptoms that encompass many systems of the body, treating symptoms is not going to be life affirming. One needs to get to the bottom of things quickly with a knowledgeable Veterinarian.

Ticks can be diseased wherever you are in the world. You do not have to live in Massachusetts to develop Lyme disease from a single tick.

Treat the individual, not the lab reports, otherwise a partnership may be sidelined (even lost completely).

Similarities in health issues at the onset, do not have to mean the same result over the long haul.

Healing myself can result in a much healthier, more focused connection between dog and handler.

How I deal with  situations in life has a direct impact on the pull into harness that my dog presents with-- relax and enjoy yourself!

Today I have found great joy in taking really long hikes through various areas we can access directly or via the public transit system. I love having a dog that enjoys these adventures as much as I do.

I don't know what the future holds for Thane and I-- where we go from here is anyone's guess. What I do know is that by being partnered with my challenging redhead, has made me have to become a better trainer and handler than I had to be with my first dog. I love that about this partnership, but most of all, I just love Thane's ability when we get lost, to make us found again so easily. It's like anywhere we go, he just has this extra sense about the surroundings that I will never have.

So today, we celebrate the six years of life, both the good and the not so good, because when you put all these events together, they present with a partnership that has had to grow and learn hard lessons to be who we have become.

C'mon my redhead, time to throw that ball

23 October 2013

Lessons Through Healing

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Brooke at Ruled By Paws

I wasn't going to do this round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) because recently my life has been a full time job, and then some-- but I think the lessons I am learning in my partnership are also just as important. When I saw the topic for the carnival is Lessons, I could not pass this up.

For the past month, I have been working with a program to recover my health (and it is happening). In the process of this, I have been taught some interesting, unexpected lessons about how I work/ed with Thane and the inadvertent teachings that my avoidance behaviors have conveyed to him.

I always knew that Thane was one who really was connected to my emotions. More times than not, if I was having difficulty in working him, all I had to do was check in with myself and know where the problem lay. He taught me to really relax and stay in the moment, which I felt to be a very good thing for the entire partnership. He would not have made a very good candidate for an individual recovering from the traumas of war or other PTSD impacts, but for me, with less impacts in that area, he has been a great teacher.

So, I thought we had this all figured out!

I mean, I was relaxed thanks to him and thus we worked great-- right?


One of the first benefits of the program was the development of a calm and relaxed person who was able to live in the moment more. Once this began setting in, I could not even wrap my head around how tightly I had been wound for so many years. As I relaxed (and I mean, truly relaxed), the partner at my side transformed into someone I did not even recognize.

We were just getting started at that point. I pondered what other lessons were in store for me/ for us as the program progressed.

The next realization wasn't such a good one. I discovered that there were unintentional teachings going on due to my need for avoidance of heavy exposure. The result of this teaching was that I had inadvertently taught Thane that in all high fragrant environments, we must high-tail it out of there at the fastest possible speed. While I was living it and experiencing the impacts of the exposures, I could not see that the quick exits I make in living this very isolated life, albeit necessary ones, were inadvertently training Thane that any place there was high fragrance, we were to behave as though we were jumping out of the starting gates at the Kentucky Derby!

Needless to say, part of our work now entails some serious retraining to slow down and move along at a more normal speed. This isn't just retraining for Thane, but for me as well. I have had a strong aversion to crowds and have avoided them for much of our partnership by shopping only in the morning hours. As I have regular *homework* with the program I am doing that must be performed a few times a day, it means to get out early would require getting up at an unspeakable hour. Needless to say, Thane and I are getting our exposure to situations where we must work at a more natural pace (to others). It's definitely giving us more training opportunities where we can succeed together as a team in earning the jackpot.

There is still a time and a place for our enjoyment of higher speed working, but right now it is a matter of using my common sense to teach him which places we should work more slowly and which ones we can cut loose and enjoy the wind blowing through our hair.

There is so much more than the unintentional training that is being addressed right now. Part of Thane's training/ work has been in the area of medical alert to very specific triggers I have/ had. In the process of the program I am doing, some of these triggers have either improved or gone away. As a result, the alerts for them are either not as critical or not necessary at all.

For those who have never been around a Border Collie on a regular basis, it can be quite challenging to undo training. I've learned through experience that accidentally clicking in training when the dog lets out a woof (Met) as it closes the door can be much harder to extinguish than it may seem. In Thane's case, I have had progression of my blindness and have had to work very hard to extinguish simpler approaches to awkward curbcuts or turns with awkward placements of sidewalks in retraining him to do what may seem inconvenient, but conveys more to me about my position/ location. Now it seems, just as changes to his guide training were necessary, so are changes to his alert training, by using the alerts he provides in different ways-- essentially backchaining the unnecessary ones out of his repertoire as I progress for the better.

I will say that the one part of all of this that I/we am/are really enjoying is exposing him (and me) to new situations. Sometimes it is easy to transfer training from other situations to the new environment or experience and other times, it is completely new training. This is a really fun part of the program-- getting to experience new things/ environments with my sidekick.

10 September 2013


Six years ago today, I took Met over to my folks place to give him his final yard time before saying farewell and sending him off to the bridge with the help of the vet who had worked with us since we left California.

That was a lifetime ago

I still have my close connection, my memories, my feelings, and most espeically my accomplishments in training my very first combo trained service dog (when so many were still saying it could not even be done to train a dog for one disability)

Today, I wanted to Celebrate Met. I had been horribly ill on his gotcha day this year, so today was going to be spectacular in my mind anyway

Thane and I headed to our former haunts, but before we could really enjoy the day I had to deal with all the USPS online hiccups. This was not happening! I kept telling myself first yahoogroups, now USPS- what is next!

We did not get out of here until close to 11AM on a day with temps to hit high 80's to low 90's. By the time we did the errands we needed, it was just too hot for Thane to enjoy himself. Note to self- do not combine Met's anniversary with final section 8 re-cert needs again.

It was a beautiful day, but it was just not what I had anticipated

When we got back in our old haunts, I realized there is no longer that heavy magnetic force as it were pulling me in that direction. There are some nice things- the little park near where we lived, excellent curb cuts, sidewalks that are mostly wider than here where we now live so we can navigate with ease, rather than the narrow confines we often find ourselves in now-a-days

There were however HUGE reminders of problem home owners/ renters when it came to sidewalk access. It made it difficult to think about why we were there today.

After we were home for a while and I had enough time to feel rested from the trip, it dawned on me why it seemed so typical of any other day.

It is because I have truly moved on.

Don't get me wrong- I still have moments from time to time, but they are fleeting. I still have times when I wish Thane worked more like Met or would let me relax for just 10 minutes LOL but what it all boils down to at the end of the day is this:

I am succeeding at living in the NOW when it comes to my previous partnership with Met

Instead of trying to re-live what I had with Met today

I should have been focusing on living the day with Thane

Tomorrow I will do just that because he is AWESOME

(no matter how much I grumble about his quirks)

Next year I will remember that I may try and make these days special, but when I succeed it is because I spend the day focusing on Thane and THIS partnership, not the past one

Off to play with Mr. Awesome!

26 August 2013

YahooGroups Changes

It seems that yahoogroups is deciding to take a go-around at making things worse for people with disabilities- following googles run of the same not too long ago.

Yahoogroups has changed things so that there are no settings controls that you can change. They have removed the simple non-graphic banners with this horrible mixture of neon colors that makes me so sick, I have to run for the bathroom. It messes with me in a vertigo way as well as sending me into seizures. There is NO WAY to block their banners as they are not done like ads, but are a part of the script that can not be blocked.

The pages also constantly reload more and more posts making the screen reader jump all over in its focus. Its possible that could be rectified if I could get the latest version of the free screenreader NVDA, but unfortunately anytime I try and download, they want me to donate and won't let me download anything until I have done so- please explain to me how a compulsory donation makes an item FREE

The bottomline is that my list will be closed. It's a sad thing for me despite the inactivity since my move. I guess this bothers me so much because yahoogroups is the cause of this. The only other option would be to move the list to another server, but there are not very many servers out there and most are not worth considering.

Though for lists I am a member of, I could use digest format, the list I own requires I access the website for management reasons. As a result of this issue, the only salvation for the list will be if one of the list members comes forward agreeing to take over the list.

I am so frustrated by this change in yahoogroups that if I did not need yahoo IM to communicate with my Dad who won't do AIM for some stupid reason, I would be deleting my yahoo ID

18 August 2013

Communication with Thane through Progressive Deafblindness

Communication can be turbulent at best as a deafblind individual without the language skill of tactile ASL or access to technology that most able-bodied people consider paramount these days, but the area impacting my life the most is that of communication with my service dog.

Though Thane has been working much better as his thyroid is getting the support it needs and Lyme is behind us, we were still struggling in some ways which at time felt overwhelming. I could not put my finger on the cause despite backtracking to a training mode again to attempt to alleviate things.

Someone told me recently that my speech was sounding hollow and lacking some pronunciation. I didn't think much of it since my deafness has progressed quite a bit in the last year.

It wasn't until today when I was working with Thane that I realized this change may be playing a role in the communication struggle I am having with Thane.

Since Thane is a guide dog and as a result out front further of my wheelchair, there really isn't an alternate way I can communicate with him even if I had a free hand to do so with.

I don't know how long it will take for him to be able to adjust to this change, or if he can with his remnant hearing impairment from Lyme.

At home, he does not seem to have as much of an issue, but then at home I use my hands a lot in my communication with him in conjunction with voice.

I am hoping that the more I voice with him that he will begin to be able to understand me better. I'm not sure what I can do to make this easier other than to be patient when my commands are not followed right the first time.

14 August 2013


I'm not sure about you, but when it comes to veterinary care for Thane I have become gunshy- unable to trust my gut about a veterinarian due to previous poor care provided to us over the last few years.

The relationship with my previous veterinarian had become strained at best, but after I opted to go with NDT over synthetic Levothyroxine for Thane, what communication there had been, became like talking to a person who unbenounst to me had left the vicinity.

After years of Thane's health dwindling from not one, but three conditions (one of which never would have happened if hypothyroidism had been treated years before), I knew it was time to move on. I'd known it for a while, but with my health and the distance I had to travel to get to anyone else that might provide better care, it seemed impossible.

Then I had to make a move

That move turned my life upside down, led to my reliance on my parents more, led to a horrendous collapse in my MCS this spring and summer-- but it also led to some positive things which are sometimes overlooked when I talk about the situation I am in

Some of the positives were not just for me, but for Thane as well. We got free of the mold that had long infested our living situation- inside and out due to a complex that was literally falling apart. At the end, all you had to do was touch the siding and it would crumble off in your hands. Though funding was secured to renovate the complex, I doubt they will ever get rid of the mold that made both Thane and I (and perhaps Met) so ill. It was only in getting out of there that I saw just how much that mold impacted our health.

Another positive is that I live smack in the middle of the max system where I can pretty much get anywhere I want to in a fairly reasonable amount of time. As an example, I can get to the New Seasons I travelled from before by taking max just three stops and then off for our walk to the store. I can use the one in my city as well.

Thane needed a vet in May for an injury so I used a recommendation I received from a local team and checked out Rock Creek Veterinary Hospital which is actually a distance Thane and I can walk in dry weather. I was able to get a free exam for Thane then as a new client. At the time I was pretty sick from all the exposure with this complex's renovation projects (something they knew about and chose to withhold from me when I was loking at the apartment) Obviously with my health and Thane's injury I was not clearly  thinking then about evaluation of a vet for longterm use.It just was not in the cards that day. The important thing then was to get Thane's foot cared for and both of us home before I collapsed.

Fast forward to present day, I've had a lot of time to think about where I wanted to go with Thane to get his letter for my re-certification with Section 8 taken care of. I considered trying a place further into the city that is a larger facility and provides some alternative therapies, but I kept going back to how well they responded when I told them on the phone that my guide dog had a paw ulceration. It went all uphill from there. As soon as they learned about my MCS, they offered to gown, glove, and mask up for me. I gladly accepted that they use gowns and gloves, but not masks as it could impede our communication.

I placed a call yesterday to the clinic and they were able to get us in today! I forgot my list of questions at home when we headed off for the appointment, but only forgot one of them. The answers to all the other questions were exactly what I had hoped to hear. What's even better is that through one of  IAADP's benefits, I was able to get a discount here.

I made it clear to her that I am a bit gunshy where it comes to veterinarians after years of knowing what was wrong with Thane and not being taken seriously enough to protect his health. He has come back to me, doing so much better and I won't let another vet jeopardize that. We may have to agree to disagree on some things- was she OK with that. The answer put a smile on my face.

The only medical concern I had today for Thane was to get an opinion on Thane's teeth. After all the previous symptoms over the years being treated with antibiotics (some inappropriately) and the 9 months of antibiotics for Lyme, Thane's teeth had become a concern of mine. Thankfully I learned that daily brushing is all that is necessary for us now. This was such a relief to me between budget needs and Thane's sensitivities that could mean a lengthy down time following anesthesia. 

For now, it looks like we do have a veterinarian for Thane. I am cautiously optimistic about him getting the care he really needs when he needs it, but not over-vetted either.

Hopefully through this relationship I will cease to be so gunshy and find trust again.

01 August 2013

A Treasured Moment

Thane is a Border Collie- a herding dog from championship herding and agility lines. The result of this has impacted a number of things in our life, but one of the funniest and also most aggravating at times has been how he relates to the ball when we play.

Met was a Border Collie mix and had herding instincts, but nothing like what I have experienced with Thane!

When I first got Thane, he really did not know how to play with me. I had to show him to spike his interest. Play was to be on his terms- meaning in his way.

Sometimes his way is with the ball placed beside or even under my chair, but more often than not, it is left in some conspicuous place followed by Thane herding me to its vicinity expecting me to collect it.

Training Thane to perform a working retrieve was difficult, but very successful in the end, but training him to do likewise with his ball-- get out of here! LOL

I never gave up though


every once in a while

Thane approaches me, ball in mouth

placing it in my hand.

28 July 2013

Review of Flush Doggy Poop Bags

I have been flushing Thane's poop since shortly after moving to this complex in December due to the difficult access for leaving my apartment and dealing with garbage. It just made more sense to me to just flush it. I still had to throw the collection bag away. I was thrilled when I read a blog entry about using flushable poop bags. It actually evaluated a number of them. I thought I had saved the link, but unfortunately, I can't seem to find it. GRRRR

I definitely had to try these out though. I researched a bit more on the various ones available thanks to google. Though my preference would be to use a product not made in China, I have had the opportunity thanks to Sharon at After Gadget blog to see both the positive and negatives of the entire process using flush doggy.

The first few times I used them, the poop bag went right down the toilet without any problems. After that, I began to encounter issues with the bag opening up and filling with air in the flush process which makes it act like a weight and thus unflushable without the use of a plunger and multiple flushes.

I searched the internet for a reason why this was happening hoping I would find a solution to this hiccup in the process. I stumbled upon a solution that works great if I can get the timing right. The solution was to wait to put it into the toilet until the water is actually going down the toilet and drop it directly over the hole. Being deafblind  I don't have such exactness in my timing. This is a great solution for the sighted, but for the blind it only works part of the time. Still, I think the flushable bags are worth it to me.

I've had Thane poop directly into a bag since a short while after I got him in 2007. For a time I used Dispoz-a-scoop that I got a pretty good price on through an online supplier. When the quality deteriorated significantly and I frequently got bags that the seams were not holding, I created my own frame to put veggie bags into and slip a couple of clips over the bag edge to hold the bag in place. It worked great to accommodate both my mobility and sight disabilities.

The flushable bags have a very small opening, not really designed with the concept of pooping directly into the bag. Thus far, however, we have managed to make them work with me just holding the bag open for him when we are at home.  If Thane were a larger dog, I don't think I would be able to do things this way. As it is, there are times when I wonder if its going to work.

If you are reading this and have MCS, I will say this much, the bags do have some smell to them due to materials required to make them disintegrate. As long as I wash my hands after I handle them (which should be done anyway), it has not been a problem for me, but I suspect they would be for some.

Even with these limitations, I will continue to use flushable poop bags for Thane.

26 July 2013

The Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

The Twelfth ADBC has concluded. I was excited to be hosting the July carnival. With July being such a special month for me with both my dogs transitioning to service dogs during this month, I just wanted this to be a great experience for me in sharing with you the partnerships I have had while also learning a little more about yours.

Though the outcome hasn't been what I anticipated probably due to the busy summer months, I hope you will all enjoy the submissions. Happy Reading!

L-Squared writes about the concept of being considered her guide's mom in her post Handler or Mom No matter which side of the coin you sway towards on this topic, it is a very thought provoking piece of writing by L-Squared.

I wrote two posts (one for each of my partnerships)

In Changing a Life, I write about just how dramatically my first combo service dog, Chimette (AKA Met) changed me as a person as we figured alternative ways to do basic foundation together-- bonding in the process, training, and working our tenure together until it was his time to go.

I changed a lot as a person, trainer, combo trained handler from the start of Met's life with me to the development of my partnership with Thane. In It's All About the Hard Traffic Check I share about the event that gave me the knowledge and confidence that we were no longer training, but a guide dog team.

I hope you enjoyed the posts. Next time it'll probably have a lot more variety when people are settled back into their normal routines.

23 July 2013

The Biggest Obstacle of All

I decided to go back through previous Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) topics and write what first comes to mind on them. This one on Obstacles had my mind going so I thought I'd put it all down here.

There've been other obstacles in my partnerships, but for this post I am going to focus on the medical side of things. Its not so much the actual medical problems that are/ were the obstacles, but the ineffective vets/ vets who stood in the way of diagnosing and getting my dogs back on their feet. What do they teach these people in Veterinary School anyway? How to party? OK that was probably uncalled for, but really when you seem to know more than the vets ALL the time-- sigh

A good vet who not only puts their education to work effectively, but understands the need to take a service dog partnership seriously (the entire scope of it) can be a great fortune to have. Unfortunately more and more individuals partnered with service dogs are having to fight for their vets to take their dogs health seriously  (not just placating symptoms that they failed to diagnose the cause of).

I won't go into actual diagnoses of my dogs, but instead focus on how this ineffectiveness has impacted my independence and life.

I have never had a vet who really got the entire scope of a service dog partnership - ie how much their health impacts my independence (including the treatment plans). I've educated until I was blue in the face with some to no avail (even getting the DVD from IAADP for my last vet) For a while, she seemed to get it, but near the end it was clear that she was treating Thane even more like a pet than when he first began working for me. My needs were rarely considered. In fact, Thane was partially retired twice because of her inability to treat him (treated the labs instead)

Illness happens and we, partnered with service dogs, have to take the appropriate steps while it is present. This means using other modes to accommodate our disabilities. It does mean, in many cases, that independence is lost.

I have multiple disabilities that were dramatically impacted by Thane's inability to work, not once but twice in a period of two years. I had to navigate in public solo which was downright dangerous for an individual who is deafblind. I also had to  rely upon store employees for shopping help. This dramatically lengthened my outings, causing numerous health complications from exposure and oxygen deprivation due to much more lengthy use of my respirator mask. Not only was our partnership on the back burner so to speak, but my health was impacted so dramatically that it made it very difficult for me to take care of Thane's health requirements. Sometimes a vet will do everything right and still this happens, but that wasn't the case for us.

The first time I was able to excuse her due to the lower incidence of Lyme in our area. In hindsite though, I completely described the tick incident (not knowing it was a tick) so there really was no excuse for his mounting symptoms to be dismissed. From the ring formed rash after the tick fell off, to wandering lameness, to diarrhea, to skin infections, to visual and hearing deficits, eventually he developed seizures. Though I got the diagnosis and treatment, the stress and deterioration of our partnership and his inability to work, were astronomical.

Even when he was functional enough to work, he was not at the level of the dog I had before. Some skills were completely lost while others I felt like we were a green team once again. It wasn't just the public access assistance that I lost. I lost my home hearing dog as well as help in activities of daily living from dressing to transferring stability, to the ability to handle refrigerator needs, to help with the laundry- all of this was lost for various lengths of time.

When we were finally working part time again, it was very part time because Thane's eyes were impacted due to the delay in diagnosis. As long as it wasn't raining hard, he could work pared with my tactile mobility aid to *trust, but verify* his decisions. It made working with him difficult at best, but it also had an emotional toll, that of not knowing if it would ever get any better. Fortunately they did, but I will always have to be vigilante with him since his Lyme could relapse again due to the late stage diagnosis and cyst form that can survive through treatment.

I was fortunate, his vision did return so that we could work in any situation again. Finally we were working as a team again, but this wasn't the end of the story

Thane had hypothyroidism and had it for years. He does not appear to have autoimmune thyroiditis. It could have come about as a result of Lyme. It doesn't really matter though what the cause of his thyroid collapse is.

This is the second Border Collie I have had with it. The labs never agreed early on- in fact both dogs were severely hypothyroid (one nearly dying on me) before the labs concurred and I finally got them treatment. With Thane, his severe anxiety and lack of energy (amidst his other symptoms) sidelined him once again. It felt unbelievable. This wouldn't be the end of it though. At this point, I began to wonder if my independence would ever be what I had back in 2009. Thane had developed a lot of anxiety including being left home alone. I had to juggle grocery shopping, help from store personnel, my own health, and his mental and exercise needs. Emotionally and physically I was way beyond spent. At least this time around, he was still able to help with most in home tasks.

Still none of this should have risen to the level of  the loss of my independence or his skills. Perhaps instead of vacations, vets should be in education regarding just what happens to partnerships like ours when they fail us-- or better yet, some serious continuing education (or perhaps re-education) on diagnosis and how to use laboratory reports as the tools they were meant to be instead of placating symptoms until a partnership dies (even if temporarily).

22 July 2013

I am Different

I found this post in the drafts folder of my blog written back in 2011. I didn't even realize it was there and frankly don't recall writing it, but I think it is worth posting as it shares the stark difference between the me of before my service dogs and the me that all of you have come to know.

 There are so many things I could write about with the theme of *The Difference* but rather than focus on my two wonderful dogs themselves or my abilities as a trainer for each of them, I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and I'm not talking so much about the good memory lane, but the one of me- who I was before Chimette came into my life, before many of you even knew I existed.

Before I even considered a service dog, I had years of fighting for my life. Through these fights, I met Adam, a wonderful young man who had every reason to be bitter, but was not. We became soulmates- escaping the rigors of medical care and the changes to our abilities and physique to peaceful places together. In the end, Adam was unable to beat the disease ravaging his body- AIDS which he developed through the administration of tainted factor 8 for his Hemophilia. After his passing I felt there was truly no purpose in life. I was not the same person I had been before- I had disabilities that I could barely spell let alone accept. Everyone told me I should be grateful that I beat my disease yet, all I felt was guilt for doing so when a person so truly awesome as Adam could not beat his. I was no fun to be around. When I wrote my poetry, it was ALWAYS dark. It was not the kind of thing you read and wanted to read over and over again. Many of my friends turned away, leaving me at least for a time because frankly I was not the person they had become friends with any more. Many were concerned about me- concerned enough to call the cops.

Fast forward several years:

No one could have fathomed, least of all me, that all it would take to bring back the old me was a beautiful six month old tri-color Border Collie Shepherd cross pup coming into my life. There was something healing about the love of that thrown away puppy. Oh the aggravations were a-plenty as I tried to figure this boy out, but in the end he would draw me out of my shell- literally reviving me back into life itself.

I actually found my smile again, spent time outdoors again, and even laughed. This dog who I adopted to train as my hearing dog would become that and so much more. Though there would be much sadness in the roller-coaster ride of vaccinosis, which drew me to the internet, to learn all I could to help my seizing service dog. I would never look back to that period of survivor's guilt that took me down so low again.

17 July 2013

Changing a Life

This post is for the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival which I am hosting here on Through a Guide's Eyes. The topic is Partnership.

A single disability can be difficult, but multiple disabilities can leave one with unimaginable struggles- especially if these disabilities are of a  progressive nature. This is exactly where I found myself beginning in the mid 80's. My body was literally falling apart, leaving me with a very poor outlook on life and frankly not the best companionship for others to be around.

I could never have imagined the changes that were just around the corner when I adopted a beautiful 6 month old tricolor Border Collie/ GSD in 1997.

At first my life turned upside down- struggling to train and care for this little devil (just kidding) that I brought into my life while coping with significant disabilities. He was a bit of a disaster, but down the road living through those early months would all be worth it-- as this little disaster was about to change my life and show me the possibilities I still had when accommodated by a service dog.

I must have lost my marbles to think that I could train my own service dog back in the late 90's when everyone's mindset was that disabled people could never do what a program does, but it was the best undertaking I ever made- an investment into my own survival and functionality.

By the late 90's, everything I did first required a major uphill battle to accomplish with the ease that others do. With limited hearing, limited eyesight, limited hand function, limited balance- so much of my time was spent trying to just function; to get through the day that there was no time or energy to actually enjoy living any more.

I adopted Chimette to be a hearing dog, but he would soon prove to me what short expectations I had-- becoming a combo trained guide, hearing, medical alert, service dog. With Met, training was in phases as my disabilities progressed. His developing bond and intelligence often resulted in instinctive moves that simply required fine tuning into refined skills I could rely on.

As a dog owner, I wasn't entirely novice- having had dogs most of my childhood. I was a novice in realizing just what our folks did to provide us with such wonderful pets- and not just time, but money too (and lots of it!)

As a trainer I was a complete novice. Here I was as this novice trainer with a Border Collie! Go ahead and laugh- I know, I know, no one with sense gets a Border Collie as their test subject of their ability to train a dog as a pet, let alone as a service dog!

Here we were though- two individuals who needed each other, bonding together in what would inevitably become one of the best partnerships imaginable.

I won't say the training was straight forward or easy, because it wasn't. I had support from a couple of friends who had trained/ were training their own service dogs which definitely helped. When I was stuck, it was these service dogs who helped Met *get it* when we could not figure another approach for the task at hand. Now, I would backchain the entire process, but as a novice, I didn't have the skills necessary or access to such great trainers to provide me the support that we all can achieve now with the explosion that has occurred on the internet, not to mention the greater acceptance of owner training.

Don't get the wrong idea with all of this. Chimette was very smart. I was learning along with him-- not just in training techniques that worked with him, but in figuring how to work with my disabilities so that I could train him. I made many training mistakes along the way (not great when you are training a Border Collie who thinks if something is done one way, one time, it must ALWAYS be done that way), but in the end, the experiences and memories were worth every one of them.

Chimette taught me things I never conceived I would learn- he taught me the true meaning of independence-- on a realm I could never have even conceived beforehand. He helped me to become a stronger person, living with multiple disabilities instead of struggling through them.

To no longer fumble trying to keep grasp on a reacher or to have to ask a person for their assistance in retrieving items, closing the door, opening the fridge, being aware of household sounds, travelling safely around the community with limited vision- brought such a dramatic change in me. You could see the difference Met made for me in my eyes as they lit up with joy each time he performed the task or I safely travelled independently in my community. It was more than that though-- one could see what he did for me through the increased level of my independence, decreased frustration, and especially my improved attitude and outlook on life.

This was all really amazing but there was so much more to come as our bond and skill working together strengthened into a true service dog partnership where it often seemed Met knew what I needed without me uttering or signing a word.

After a decade spent with Met at my side (1997-2007), it is still difficult to put into words how things changed for me other than to say, this partnership with Chimette saved my life! 

It's All About The Hard Traffic Check

This post is for the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival which I am hosting here on Through a Guide's Eyes. The topic for this carnival is Partnership

My experiences with my two partnerships have been very different. Some of this stems from my skill as a trainer and thus my confidence, but a lot of it also stems from the differences in the skillset early on. With Met, the skillset was all encompassing with a change from in-training to service dog based on the quantity of tasks and level at which he accommodated my multiple progressing disabilities.

Thane, however, was a bit more precise as well as dramatic. My disabilities were much more pronounced at this juncture so it was essential that I set priorities in the training regimen. Above all else, Met's passing left me desperate for a guide dog so this is where I focused initially with Thane's training.

Owner trainer's have various ways for defining when their candidate has passed from the in-training phase to trained dog of whatever specialty-- guide, hearing, service. As only my second owner trained dog (and an increased level of blindness), I was still a bit uncertain beyond the minimum training standards (which I greatly exceeded with Thane), when I would know that Thane was ready to graduate from in training status to guide dog.

I taught him all the commands, practiced  in every conceivable situation we would encounter together, but in the end, it all came down to a very dramatic hard traffic check. Sometimes I really believe licenses are found as freebies in cracker jacks boxes! As we began exiting the curbcut at a 4-way stop, it happened- Thane threw himself at an angle across my path preventing me from continuing forward, just as a very old man failed to stop (another pedestrian filled in that detail) flooring into the path we were headed. There were no longer any questions in my mind-- we had arrived as a guide team.

For those who are not as familiar with guide dog lingo, traffic checks are used to prevent the handler from being harmed by oncoming cars. Often times this is a result of cars who do not yield (as required by law) for pedestrians/ yellow yield arrows, driveway entrances that intersect sidewalks and the like.

Traffic checks are part of guide training, but it is the hard traffic check- the life or death situation that points to successful training and the partnership that has developed.

Since that beautiful July day in  2008, there have been many other hard traffic checks (one being such a close call that it resulted in harness friction issues), but none will ever be as exhilarating as that first one-- when Thane became my guide dog.

02 July 2013

Announcing the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Through a Guide's Eyes, invites you to participate in the Twelfth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

 It's hard to believe we have hit a dozen carnivals!  I may be under the weather, but with your help, I aim to pull this off since both the month (July) and the topic are very close to my heart for both of my boys smile

If you are unfamiliar with the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, you can visit Sharon's  blog entry About the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival to learn more about it.

You do not have to be partnered with an assistance dog to participate. Perhaps you've been a puppy raiser, watched a friends' or siblings partnership blossom, maybe you are currently on a waiting list, or became a home for a retired assistance dog- all of you are invited to participate.

And the topic is:


There are many things one can write about regarding this topic. Just a few examples to get you all going (use your imaginations grin)

What does the term Partnership mean to you? What has made/ broken a partnership? When did you know you truly had a partnership (not just a green dog or trainee)?  What equipment helped to change/ save your partnership?

As you can see by these examples, there are many ways to look at Partnership.

This is a very special month for me, being that both my trainees became service dogs in the month of July. I hope that this carnival, will as well, be a very special one.

Due to my present health limitations, I request those who are able to submit your entries early rather than waiting until the last minute. Late submissions would be difficult for me. Submitting your entries early will allow me the time needed to read your entries and finalize the carnival.

You can help all participating (especially me) if you take a look at your blogs for these accessibility factors:

Have you turned captcha off so everyone can comment on your posts

Have you checked your blogs for flashing  imagery (some hosts add these seasonally without the bloggers' knowledge) by turning these off, you make your blog accessible to me and others with seizure and vision disorders

Are you using background and text colors that are easy to read

If you have included photos, did you add alternative text?

If you are using videos (prefer you do not), are they clear, or could they be a trigger for individuals with seizure disorders, vertigo/ nausea issues ? Have you included a transcript of the video?

These are just some areas where you can make your blogs more accessible

You can submit your entries by adding a  comment to this entry or by emailing them to me bcpaws4me at gmail dot com

Submissions due: July 25, 2013

Happy blogging everyone 

20 May 2013

Change in Comments Availability for My Blog

I have had to come to a frustrating decision regarding my blog comments thanks to the new blogger. The old blogger I never once received spam comments, but since the change spam has become quite an ordeal to have to handle.

I have made a change to the settings so that those posting anonymous comments will no longer be able to post their comments. Its a sad decision for me because I know some friends have not been able to post their comments through open ID or gmail IDs I have been spending way too much time clearing out spam on a daily basis to this blog though. If the posts had a registered user, I could block them but they are all coming through the anonymous commentor feature.

I am truly sorry to those this will impact.

14 May 2013

Help Wanted: ADBC for July

I signed up to do the July ADBC before I moved. I have some concerns about being able to handle this independently in my current situation with the increased EMFS issues. I DO NOT want to relinquish this carnival to someone else.

I plan to post the carnival much earlier so that I can do as much as possible independently; however, there are still some blogs, that I can not read for various reasons. One of the biggest is my photosensitivity. As hard as bloggers try to make it accessible for all when doing their posts for the ADBC, some are still inaccessible to me.

Because of these issues, I am looking for an assistant who has participated in the carnival before. My hope is that I will be able to do it independently, but should I need help, having someone who can read blogs inaccessible to me, providing a synopsis of the topic would be just awesome pawsome!

Anyone interested, can post a comment to this blog entry

Disability and the Senses

Those who are deafblind rely on their other senses in ways most of the public are unaware. For those who have lost a single sense, adapting to life without it, is a lot simpler than the life I live.
I am a deafblind incomplete quad in the world of MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities). This poses a lot of limitations on my senses. My sense of touch for instance, limits my ability to read braille or feel sign language accurately.

In the early stages of MCS, an individual may not wear a mask at all so the sense of smell can give feedback about the environment aiding in their ability to safely navigate and receive input about their surroundings. For instance, if you smell fries or other food associated with McDonald's and know that you need to turn at the street right beyond their location, it would alert you to the need to turn soon. If you smell exhaust practically on top of you, backing up out of harms way would be the only thing to do!

When my MCS hit hard, I wore a cotton mask with carbon filter. It helped a lot, but not near enough. I was still getting quite ill every time I went out in public, but I also had feedback about my surroundings through the smells I encountered.

Eventually I came to the decision that I wanted my health back. I did not care what others thought any more about me wearing a respiratory mask (AKA gas mask) I knew for my health, that this was what I needed.

What I did not anticipate though was the loss of an additional sense! What a shock to have so much more about my environment ripped out from underneath me. Granted, I could go back to the cotton mask, or not fasten the respiratory mask as securely to let some smell through, but what good was that going to be for my health? My world went from precarious to down right dangerous!

With my service dog at my side, my world is a lot safer again. My service dog is a crucial tool in my ability to safely navigate and be aware of my surroundings. When he was so ill and it looked likely that he may not work in public again, I was forced to take life in public solo. I lived in a small town and limited my outings to the essential errands, but it was still very tumultuous. I could not just use paratransit because the toxicity, lengthy rides, and diesel played havoc with my health and skin. Frankly there were times when I wondered if life would ever really be safe for me again. Thankfully his health has returned and he is back at my side helping me navigate through life.

My service dog, is an essential tool in my ability to live an independent life. I can't imagine life without my sidekick. He, not only makes my life rich, but safe.

01 May 2013

Essential Creativity

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. This Resources and Tools ADBC is hosted by Frida Writes. At first, I was not going to enter this carnival. In my new home, I have much more severe issues with EMFS (electro-magnetic frequency sensitivity) The less time on the computer, the better in this situation. When the deadline was extended, I could not help myself. grin

I could write on so many things within the Resources and Tools topic, but I decided to leave some of the topics that will be well covered by other bloggers and write about the topic that truly is an essential part of what allows/ allowed me to have so much success partnered with my Border Collies.

From the start with Chimette, it was clear that if we were going to be successful, something was going to have to happen in the area of gear. At the time everything I could find on the market was difficult with my hand limitations, not comfortable for Met, or it rotated when he performed his guide duties. Lets face it, gear was created around the mindset and structures of the typical service dog breeds of Golden and Labrador Retrievers. The only differences in the gear are in the size. They didn't and many still don't take into consideration the structural differences- especially that of smaller chests, and differences in natural gaits of the various breeds which can in some circumstances set these dogs up for structural problems after working in the inappropriate gear.

Anytime I bought gear for Met, I found myself having to change it, sometimes significantly. It all began with changing clasps on leashes and collars so that I could do them independently. These simple adaptations led to those of more significant gear.

I've always been a creative person. As a child I sewed a lot. I made clothes for my dolls, made dolls, stuffed animals, and other things my mind conjured up. It was just natural for me to use my creativity to eliminate the obstacle of poor fitting gear that was essential in making this partnership work.

At first, I would buy gear sold on the market and adapt it so that it worked better for Met and I, but eventually I realized how ridiculous that was. I was paying sometimes twice as much as necessary by following this approach. What was realistic was to find resources for the materials I needed and build the gear myself.

This wasn't a time when there were a lot of gear providers as it was, especially for guide dog gear. The internet did not have the abundance of providers for gear let alone materials in those days. I was fortunate to have both manufacturers and friends who provided me with some valuable resources. Today, I still use some of those resources when trying to find the essential hardware I need to make reliable gear that fits and enables Thane and I to work effortlessly with it.

The first gear I made for Met  I did by hand, but with my hand limitations, I soon picked up a sewing machine to allow me to create more rugged gear.

One of my favorite parts of making my own gear is the experimentation phase: trying out my creations for fit and function on their part as well as how it works for them to provide me with the guide skills they have been trained to provide. Now-a-days most of my gear is functional, but in the earlier days I learned a lot by my failures about the structure and natural movement of not just my dogs, but the two of us as a team as well.

As my vision deteriorated to the level that I felt an American Style guide harness would be more appropriate for Thane and I, I felt unsure as to whether or not I could create such a harness while keeping the same loop back fastening girth strap as I was using at the time. There were some great friends and owner trainers who I spoke to during this strategizing phase, including Julie who used to own On the Go making guide dog gear. I got some good feedback on the loops themselves as well as ideas on how to test them before sewing them down more securely that really helped. It took a while for me to strategize a harness I thought would work. In the end it took about three or four designs before I finally had a design that really worked.

I used that harness design for a little over two years with great effectiveness before a number of hard traffic checks sent me back to the drawing board for a different front chest design. My move from a small country-like town to the fast paced city brought with it drivers who seem to have the skill level of someone getting a license out of a cracker jacks box. That was made even more difficult by the curb cuts in this city that make me feel like we have been thrown into the wayback machine back to the 80's! The result of all this can be more torque placed on the harness and thus chest of the dog when it is guiding a handler in a wheelchair down steep and/or awkward curb cuts or doing hard traffic checks because a driver did not stop when they should have. I am hopeful that his new harness which is an adaptation of the EZYDOG convert harness I bought online (before I was able to set up my sewing machine for effective work here) will work for just as long as the previous design.

Over the years I have made a myriad of leash designs for each dog (wide webbing multi-clasp adjustable, narrow webbing multi-clasp adjustable, wide velcro adjustable, narrow webbing with O ring design for use in normal working conditions as well as narrower paths of travel, etc; vests, small velcro backpacks to work with harnesses I made, harnesses of multiple designs as my vision deteriorated, rain coats that can be worn over the harness, guide handles of multiple designs from more flexible in the early years to rigid offset today; boots, a guide handle brace thanks to support from Mardi who I met on a training list for guide and service dogs- frankly I guess you can say I have made it all though I still occasionally buy an item here and there that requires no to minimal adaptation (mostly collars and leashes).

My favorite item that I finally figured a way to adapt so I can use when Thane is in harness is the Clicker Leash. I have a lot of limitations when it comes to activating clickers. Until I got this leash, I could only activate the tiny party clickers so this was quite a surprise for me to be able to activate it. I did not care for the leash fabric/ width so I replaced that part right away with a tape nylon webbing. Since then I have added an additional length to allow for a connection to my chair while I am able to hold the handle for its use. I generally use this lead when I need to work on something with Thane- mostly related to these *after thought* curb cuts we have to deal with in our city.

The bottom line here though is this- I love that I have the creativity and skill to adapt and create the gear that I need. It not only gives me a sense of accomplishment, but I am able to get gear designed the way I want, with the options we both need to make this work for us. I can't imagine how much money I have saved over the years if this simple EZY DOG convert harness I recently adapted further to use as a guide harness cost $50 bucks! I love that harness btw but to use as a guide harness there was some difficult aspects to overcome to adapt it.

Its never easy dealing with gear when you have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) Even when I make my own gear, the detox process can be quite lengthy (sometimes years and sometimes never accomplished). I've worked hard to find resources where the detox is as minimal as possible. Below are some of my favorite resources for materials. Maybe others out there who have the creative *bug* can make use of these.

Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics
They recently changed their website for the negative, but their customer service is usually really good. Their prices are great and fabrics such as cordura and packcloth are often less toxic purchased from them. They sell hardware as well, but usually I opt for strapworks for all but velcro which I generally purchase by the roll. They do not do online ordering, but will accept orders by fax with follow up emails if you request them when you send the fax.

Seattle Fabrics
This company is on the pricey side for both the items they sell and the shipping, but on occasion I use them as they sell some hard to find hardware items that have been beneficial for me over the years.

Old Trail Fabric
I have got some really neat cordura colors from this company. That said, the detox time was longer than I had planned for. At the time, however, cordura was a brand new item for them so it was probably no different than if my regular source above got a new supply.

Beacon Fabric and Notions
I like this company for untreated cotton duck and cotton webbing. There are probably cheaper sources, but this company is quick and has reasonable shipping charges.

This company is a superb resource for hardware. Caution is warranted with their website for individuals prone to seizures. Keeping up with their website changes, to block flashing ads is a full time job sometimes, but it is worth it for the wonderful hardware and webbing options.

I have a number of other sources, some of which I have not tried yet, but the above are my favorite places for buying materials.

I have not received any payment for my reviews of the gear I wrote about in this entry. 

02 February 2013

Laundry Helper

Since before I got Thane to train as my successor, I have used a small wonder washer to do my laundry. I have not been able to use a washer and dryer in years due to MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities). With my recent move; however, I have a washer and dryer in my apartment. The detox process was easier than anticipated.

Today I did a small load of towels and decided this was a great time to begin training Thane to unload the dryer. There are times when I wish I had a more operant dog, but today was not one of those.

His first decision was to try and close the dryer door- afterall it does look much like a cupboard door so therefore I must want him to close it right grin

Next, he decided the dryer door should be nudged back open

Next, he reached forward to look at investigate the dryer opening

Finally he peered inside at which point the words Inside, Mommy Needs worked great! One by one, *Inside, Mommy Needs* and I had the entire load of towels in my lap vbg

When I first learned I would have a washer and dryer here, I thought teaching Thane to unload it would be a complicated thing. Our partnership has been hampered for at least three years from multiple medical problems and a moldy environment which impacted Thane's ability to be the operant dog he is proving to be today.

Now if I could just get him to walk on the tile entrance floors correctly  instead of walking on his nails r sliding all over the place. Why can't he be operant about that!

28 January 2013

Six is Beautiful!

Happy Woofday baby boy! Today you are six beautiful years old and HEALTHY! I can't remember the last time Thane was healthy like this, albeit still a bit scruffy looking with coat growth. It is indeed a day of Celebration! I don't know what the future holds for us or how long this will last, but today I am very happy- happy indeed!

The rain outside which often dampens spirits this time of year, can't dampen my spirits today.

When you came into my life, it was for a healthy start- a healthy partnership, but instead I got one to continue teaching me lessons. Thank you baby boy for the lessons. As hard as they have been to learn; as hard as the journeys have been to travel; I have grown through the experiences.

Just in the last year, you have taught me that sticking to my gut feelings is the right call. Of course, the smarter call would be to move on to someone who will listen! Next time, I'll do just that!

You helped my own health, not just yours when the gluten intolerance surfaced (thanks to miss incompetence) I never realized I was fighting for me, when I was fighting for you. Because of you, I sit here with a clear brain- able to think and process my thoughts without fighting the cloud of dulled transmission. Thank you for that

Your silliness is what gets me through each day- all those unexpected antics that you do, but when it really counts, I know you will light my way

I won't ever forget getting disoriented coming home from the Dollar Tree shortly after our move; letting you take over was hilarious. You would take me the back route we had never travelled before, now wouldn't you? I guess you needed a bit more adventure huh? LOL

I guess the bottomline is, I don't know how I would have made it through this move without you here at my side. I am so grateful that your public access retirement was so short lived. I truly missed you at my side, but knew I had to put your needs first (until the treatment you needed was provided)

Today, though, it is all about fun and games! Lets get the Celebration started!

27 January 2013


I thought I would share some of the unexpected occurrences that followed our move. I will share more about the move another time.

I've always known Thane was a creature of routine. If something was done a certain way more than once, it was as if it was written in stone that was the only way it could ever be done.

The day we moved was so hectic, but the Thane funnies began once we got off max at our new home. It was dark when we arrived, with my wheelchair in low power. We were heading towards the complex when I said to Thane (out of habit) *take us home*. Instantaneously, Thane did a turn about heading back to max WHOOPS!

When we headed to bed that night, we had set up the bed in the opposite direction it had been in before. I climbed into bed, slipped to the other side to make room for Thane on the outer side of bed, as we had always done before. What happened next made me laugh hard. I was laying there expecting Thane to curl up beside me; instead I received a lap of very confused Border Collie. I was on his side, in his mind. It did not matter where the outside edge was, to him, I was in his spot. I compromised on this and scootched myself over to what was now the outside edge of the bed. He curled up and was out like a light in no time at all.

It took a number of days for me to venture out with Thane as it was all I could do just to move following the severe overuse of the packing, move, and unpacking. Once more, Thane was very hung up on the *norms* directionally. He had a hard time for instance with our return home from New Seasons since we still were able to use the same stop as before (just way closer to home now). To him, I was all confused and had to be told how wrong I was on which side of the tracks (thus which direction of travel) we should go to wait for the max train arrival. It was sorta funny, but not unexpected. I took to returning to some of the early partnership directional commands to help him adjust to the changes.

*Not now* has had to come into play a lot as he heads to a bus stop that heads to our old home. Of course during our lengthy down time with communication, we had to take some trips to our old home town. It was both good and confusing for him. He kept trying to take us to our old home. It was good for us both, but especially good for Thane to see that we can still go there.

It's been a little over a month now. The really firm (AKA stubborn) stance about what stops we should be taking are slowly easing up. This new home is becoming home to him with a little incentive/ direction from me. grin

The Ugly Face of Mold

From the time I moved, I have felt like I went from a bad situation and jumped into the frying pan due to a complex that misled and even outright lied about what the situation would be like for me here. There is one change amidst this chaos though that I had not anticipated; a change for the better.

Since 2009, Thane has been a self mutilator. There were untreated health problems in the midst of this, but once diagnosed and treated at my insistence, you'd think things would go back to the way they were pre-mutilation. This never happened though other than during an interval when he was on long term antibiotics for Lyme.

Out in public, Thane was one dog; at home, he was another. It was very stressful for me to have to be on guard all the time. Eventually I had to resort to e-collars for Thane to reduce the level of stress for me. I hated doing so, but it was essential for skin healing, coat growth, and my sanity.

I learned of the renovation which forced my recent move in with just ten days notice right before Thanksgiving. While everyone else was enjoying their holiday feasts, I was packing like a mad woman before the renovation work left me too ill to do so.

Once we settled in somewhat in the new location and I began to pull the e-collar off in the morning, I realized that Thane was no longer chewing himself! At first I thought it was mostly me spending more time with him after Frontiers incompetence hooking up my phone and internet (eventually FIRED and me going to Comcast to get service), but when it continued in the improved state once my internet was connected again, I came upon a realization.

When your home is falling apart along the seams (and then some), with siding so soft when it rains that it will crumble off in your hands, moldy walls, loss of belongings to mold, it's pretty guaranteed that the carpets are moldy too.

The part of all this that is hard for me, is just how much suffering we endured because the management company did not budget their funding appropriately or pursue a grant until the complex was at the state where it would have to be either condemned or fixed . Those with a history of/ currently having a compromised immune system are much more susceptible to the effects of mold (this includes both Thane and I)

Once I realized the key here was environmental mold (especially since we both have had improved health after the move), I began to do some reading on the impacts of sustained mold exposure. The picture was not pretty

Wikipedia has a good general article on Mold Health Issues Beyond the more common impacts to the respiratory system. Another resource, Department of Health and Human Services, Mold and Human Health: Health Effects of Indoor Mold, confirms the impacts of mold. One form of mold, releases mycotoxins which can have devastating effects, especially when one is literally laying in mold.

Everyone knows when mold presents, it should be cleaned up right away. We all clean our showers, use de-humidifiers in moist areas especially in wetter climates like the pacific northwest, but what happens when the mold is obscured- present in the dark carpet flooring we walk, wheel, or lay upon?

The results can be nasty health complications and suffering. Though all of this can apply to the humans in your household, this post is about the hard lesson I have had to learn (at Met's and Thane's expenses). My hope is that it will prevent your four legged family members from the same perils.

20 January 2013

A Decade of Love

It's Carnival Time Again!

When I heard the topic for this tenth edition of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Sharon at After Gadget, Perfect Ten (or Perfect or Ten), I tried hard to come up with something fitting to my present partnership with Thane or even one that could address both my wonderful boys, but try as I might, all that entered my mind were topics fitting for my first partnership with Chimette (AKA Met). I figured this time, maybe it was just Met's turn to shine through.

When I adopted Chimette, I had no real expectations of either of us. I had hope, but I also had the echoing words from a service dog program, You can not do this yourself. With the encouragement of a friend, I said goodbye to that program and learned what it meant to be a service dog owner trainer.

Rolling out of the rescue center with my tri-color six month old Border Collie/ GSD pup I had chosen to train as a hearing dog,  I had no idea the role he would play in my life over the next decade as he taught me to love life in spite of the severe progressive nature my disabilities would take on. Most envision service dogs from a limited skill perspective. Either they are hearing dogs or guide dogs or mobility service skilled dogs or psychiatric dogs. I had those same limited views when I adopted Met put into my mind by a program that was incapable of making the dream a reality for most of the multi-disabled. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined a dog doing as much for me as Met and I learned to do together over our decade long partnership.

Training though was truly fun. With each little step, our bond developed and strengthened, enabling us both to trust in the other. At first trust was difficult for Met as a rescued, most likely abused, vaccinosis pup. I was patient and accepted the reality that he probably would not be fit for more than an in home hearing dog. Though he had already proven himself by eight months of age when he saved my life from a smoking alert system signaler that did not turn off, he had issues with some social skills that needed to be addressed before public access could be considered.

Time had a way of healing wounds (for both of us). Instead of a timid dog partnered with a person who had a negative outlook on life after nearly dying and severe disability set in, this team wound up as a bold guide, hearing, service, medical alert dog who turned me into someone who loved life regardless of the obstacles it presented me with.

The journey wasn't always smooth. Between my progressive disabilities, our health, and my novice level of training and dog handling, if any partnership was destined to fail before it even got out the door, this one was the one.

At times the support was minimal in the service dog community, not to mention the community in which I lived. It was still a time when it was a fairly new concept to train one's own service dog. I often got responses from trainers or individuals pointing me to one program or another where I could obtain a service dog. By that time, responses like that were so laughable. I had my service dog. Why would I want to go to a program that would tell me what I had done was unachievable without them!

The smoke detector blares and Met is at my side in full alert mode. I drop items where I can't reach and he snatches them up before I can finish saying *mommy needs*. I need to do one of the many transfers each day and he lays at my feet preventing them from sliding forward. I need to get across the street or to the store and he is in full guide dog mode. When I developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (AKA MCS), he would go into medical alert mode when we got into areas of bad toxicity all as a means to protect me from a life threatening emergency. As each disability compounded, the two of us trained together to develop skills that kept me independent and the two of us safe in the community.

In the last year, there was more medical than good memories (for both of us). That does not change how I think of the decade that he was at my side. When I think of us, I think of the day the picture below was taken; how carefree and happy I felt while learning to trust him. I think of the freedom he provided for me to be myself, independently functioning in the world despite being a deafblind incomplete quad with severe multiple chemical sensitivities. I think of how fortunate I was to have my first partnership be such a successful one. Above all the feelings I have about Met in my life, I think about how fortunate I was to be the one who adopted Met. I was so lucky to have him working at my side for a decade.