Go Figure

So, I bought a new tunnel/ tube for My cat, Brigid. She loves the wider tunnel I already had. This one’s entrance is more narrow and it’s longer. Brigid doesn’t Ike it. However, my ferrets thoroughly enjoy it. Brigid does enjoy watching the ferrets play in it and playing “whack a weasel” as they poke their heads out. Maybe she’ll discover the joys of playing in the tube eventually. It took awhile to like the wider tunnel.

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A Pet Adviser: Special Report

Lydia H:

This is an excellent set of articles about the problem of fake service dogs. It is sad that many people think it is their “right” to take their pets everywhere with them and lie to make it happen. Every time a poorly trained pet “service dog” misbehaves in public,it makes it harder for people partnered with a trained dog to work.

I support the requirement to show the dog is trained. However, the laws need to be written intelligently. For example, Riley is being trained by a certified professional trainer who is registered with Service Animal Registry of America. He has been in training since he was 49 days old. When he is through, he will have over 8 months of training and over 500 hours. He is being trained to exactly what I need him to do. Neither the military or the VA will recognize his training unless an Assistance Dogs International trainer is willing to certify him. He will EXCEED their standards of training. But, they are the only group recognized as trainers. And, there is no such thing as a free or low cost service dog. Most ADI programs require recipients to find raise at least half the cost of the dog. Some waive this requirement for veterans.

I chose to stay local and pay for my dog’s training for several reasons. One, the closest program is 175 miles one way from me. I don’t travel without assistance due to my disabilities. Two, I wouldn’t be able to be part of the training process. With staying local, I get to work with Riley several times a month. I am part of his training and we are already bonding. Three, he is being trained for exactly the tasks I need. Nothing I don’t need. Four, the ADI programs in my state have a 2-5 year waiting list. Five, my trainer and I got to choose the dog and the breed. No allergies with a standard poodle. And a very bright dog.

The laws will need to be written to be more inclusive of training options. As for Riley, at least most VAs aren’t enforcing the ADI only issue too strenuously. And,my trainer is looking into finding an ADI trainer to sign off on him.

Originally posted on Rally, My Service Dog:

I found this awesome article recently. It is definitely worth a read!

http://www.petsadviser.com/service-dog-report.pdf

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Mabon Blessings

It is autumn equinox, the start of waning light. Many of the fields stand empty, already gathered and stored for winter. Mabon is the half way point of the harvest cycle.

It is the balance of light and dark. The warmth of the sun fades to the cool fall nights and the coming winter. We celebrate the abundant harvest and prepare for the cold winter.

Balance between dark and light
Shorter the day, longer the night.

The goddess gives abundant harvest
And prepares for winter sleep

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Life Post TBI

It is hard to believe that the accident was over three years ago. While I have made a lot of progress from the days and weeks following the injury, I still struggle daily with issues caused by the injury. It is no longer a matter of therapies and diagnosis. Now, it is learning how to compensate for what has been permanently changed.

A vital step in the process is acceptance. Accepting does not mean I am giving up on continued improvement, no matter how slow or small. Acceptance means I recognize this is how I am, right now, today. I no longer look back with sadness over all I lost. I try to remain in the moment, not judging the moment. It allows me to look for solutions or work- arounds for what I no longer do well. I recognize that I need to stay on a schedule, plan ahead for shopping, rest when I’m tired. I also use ear plugs, sunglasses, and hates to help reduce sensory overload. I still run- not as far or fast- but I get to do what I love. I even went to the Gem and Mineral show last weekend. It was a short trip but I found a really sweet amethyst and quartz that is adding a bit of beauty in my office.

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Riley at three months old.

Riley is my service dog in training. He started his training at 49 days old. He is now six months old and doing well in training. This past weekend, he passed his Canine Good Citizen test. He also knows 4 tasks. This means he is moving on to the next phase in training: intensive task training and partnership. We will be spending much more time together.

Two weeks ago, I was working with Riley in a pet-friendly store. He performed his blocking task three times without prompting. At the end of the session, I was in line waiting to pay for something I found. His trainer was standing nearby watching us. I asked if it was possible to train Riley to block behind me. Sometimes, people crowd me in line. A friend drove me to Richland. She started crowding in behind, joking around. I gave Riley the block command and pointed behind me. I didn’t really expect him to understand, as he had not been trained in this variation. He performed it flawlessly. His trainer laughed and said she didn’t think it was going to be hard to teach. Riley also knows how to brace, open doors, and nudge when I’m overloaded.

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Riley last weekend- 6 months old

Riley has about 4 more months of training. When he comes home, he will be such a help in my daily life. Hopefully, with him, I can be more independent and less afraid.

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GoFundMe Campaign

As I write this blog, my ferrets are climbing up the back of my kitchen drawers in an attempt to get on the countertop. So far, they only succeed when I don’t have a drawer closed all the way. Neither one has learned Tosca’s trick of getting on her back and clawing the drawer open. Bobby and Kaliyah are always full of adventure. I bought a new tunnel for Brigid (the cat). She has yet to discover the joys of running through a tube. The ferrets immediately claimed it.

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Bobby.

In short, my life is proceeding as smoothly as possible.

The anti seizure medication seems to be working well. I’ve had a couple of seizures on the higher dose. So it may go up again at the next neurologist appointment.

Never give up hope.

Update on Riley

It’s been a busy time lately. I am still working to raise funds for my service dog, Riley’s, training.
Big news on Riley! He passed his Canine Good Citizen test. Now that he passed that test and knows 4 tasks, he is ready to start more intensive task training on his remaining tasks I need. He is also allowed public access. Riley and I will now start working on partnership- training together more often.

This morning, Riley, Krysal (his trainer) and I were on KVEWTV morning news. On the way to the studio, we stopped for a caffeine run. This was the first time since I was medically retired that I was awake and working before dawn (4:30 am). I needed that caffeine! Riley accompanied me into the store and performed perfectly.

This time is so exciting! Riley issuing so well in his training and we are already starting to work well together. I’m really looking forward to the day he comes home with me as a fully trained Service Dog.

Here are links to the news story:
part one of Riley on the news

part Two of Riley on the News

I still need help paying for his training. Please donate if you can!
Riley’s Fundraising Page

And please share!

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Providing Support

My coworkers are wonderful people. They have supported me professionally and personally throughout my employment at the VA. They stood by me after I was injured, helping behind the scenes and directly. I work with some truly wonderful people.

Several months ago, I started the process to apply for medical retirement from my career. Ever since the injury, I struggle to complete simple tasks at work. I am exhausted by the end of a shortened work day. Being in public is being in a world traveling 70 MPH, when I am plodding along at 45 MPH. The world is too bright, too noisy, too fast for me to comfortably be present. Spidey super senses are not fun when it makes even being at work tiring and anxiety- provoking never mind actually getting tasks done. I made the decision to retire and explore other options to remain part of the community and produce something.

I mentioned the decision to my coworkers and supervisor, not wanting this to catch them off guard in the future. Their response shows the caring, “How can we help make it possible for you to stay?” Offers of lowered hours, fewer patients, etc followed.

One concern I have is my lowered production. I only work half time and in the time I am in the office, my patient load is already light. I’m not really providing the services effectively and my coworkers are taking up my lack. It’s a busy place. They really need three full time social workers. Instead, they point out how my injury gives me insight to the struggles of the Vets, how helpful I can be to others with TBI, how seeing me back at work after a debilitating injury shows the Vets it is possible, etc. I know I do these things, for the few Vets I see. The cost I pay is in pain, anxiety, and exhaustion.

I appreciate the support and encouragement my friends at work provide. However, right now, I think I need a different type of support- that allows me to make the choice to leave rather than fighting to survive every day. It seems whatever choice I make “lets down” the team. If I stay, they continue to cover my brokenness. If I leave, I let down a lot of people in my life. Part of me sees leaving as “failure,” just as I failed my Army unit by not deploying. The Army found another qualified social worker to take my place. I’m fairly certain the VA will as well.

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Robin Williams

Since Robin Williams completed suicide last Monday, I have been reflecting on the profound impact depression had on people’s lives. Robin was an incredibly gifted man- he could do anything from a tragic role to a genie. He had a talent for improve. He brought laughter, joy, and tears to millions of people worldwide. Yet, he struggled with the monster of depression. Ultimately, he lost the war. His legacy will live on, continuing to challenge, entertain, and inspire generations in the future.

Depression effects roughly 25 million Americans annually. I am one of them. My first bout with depression was while I was active duty in the Marines. Due in part to stigma, it went undiagnosed and untreated. I first got help three years after completing my service in the Corps.

Depression is misunderstood. It’s not a temporary sadness that everyone experiences in life. It’s not something you can just “snap out of” by doing something or thinking happy thoughts. It’s a crushing change to your brain’s chemistry. Depression robs you of laughter, joy, and hope. It is living under a dark storm cloud while everyone around you is basking in bright sunlight. It impacts how you think, your emotions, and what you do. At times, getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Depression is a family disease, a social disease. It effects the family and friends of the person. Often, they are confused, frustrated, and feel helpless to ease the pain of their friend or family member. At times, a person may be surrounded by friends and family, yet feel utterly alone. That is the ugly face of depression.

There are effective treatment options. If you have depression, seek out a qualified therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy does help. It teaches you how to identify the interactions between thoughts, emotions, and behavior. If you change one, you frequently change the others. There are also several effective antidepressant medications. Dialectical Behavior Therapy may also help. Talk to your doctor and rule out medical issues that can mimic depression: hypothyroid, low vitamin D, and low iron may all cause depression-like symptoms or make your depression worse.

It took me five days to write this blog. I never thought the death of a stranger I never met would impact me so deeply. I mourn for the loss of a bright, shining star in our world. Robin Williams made me smile in some of the darkest times of my life. But his legacy lives on.

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