Normal, as I've said in the past, is a setting on the dryer. What is normal to you is most likely not so normal for me. We are waiting with baited breath for the 21st of November. I get to finally see a neurologist and get a name put with whatever is going on with my body. Yea Team Me! After all I've only been waiting since 2004, so I figure I've put in the time, pain, frustration, tears, and embarrassment to get a diagnosis. Said diagnosis reared up last night and kept me frustratingly awake, only to knock me out at 6AM and wake up at 9AM to realize I was supposed to be up on the Island getting work done.
Instead I did something weird, I called, made apologies, and went and watched TV, then had just enough energy to bake. I've not had the oomph to bake in months, and it wasn't too bad. It was almostly kinda sorta normal. Who would have thunk it?
I can't believe we are already midway through Fall! Didn't it just get here a few days ago? The PNW has decided to go a bit wonky and the days here, although the light is shorter, have been incredibly warm. Because of that, and because it wasn't raining today, we decided to take a run up to The Island and drive around for a bit. We all needed out of the house into the fresh salty air. With both of us having a bit of a rough time as of late, we are both trying new coping methods as well as really relying on the dogs. Going back to basics, getting to The Island where our plans are being developed, and just being a part of this area is always a good for the soul.
The boundaries we individually set for our service dogs are not necessarily for the pubic to understand, they are for our health and welfare of our team. These dogs are not for the public's amusement, they are here to help us adapt and work in a normal world with abnormal situations. When you are asked, "Please do not pet, they are working," it's not that we don't want you to experience a bit of the joy that our dogs can bring. They are working, and the distraction will lead to our injury, which to be bluntly honest, we are really tired of being in pain.
We just left a nasty cluster of situations at the VA Puget Sound this morning. Boundaries were ignored by patients and staff. Comments such as, "Can you just make an exception?" just get to be too much. Ignorance from people who do not like dogs or are fearful of dogs compound the situation. We don't just get to go to the doctor. We run the gauntlet of people wanting attention of the dogs, not well trained pets being passed off as service dogs, medical biased misinformation, biased police, and scared staff. That's all before we sign in. We don't just get to go to the [doctor/grocery store/restaurant/hotel/game/life thing here]. We get to go through all of this before we can get on with our day. Please, if you see a service dog team, just ignore us or even better yet, smile at us! Or even wave hello! We get you all are huge supporters, but all we want to do is go to the doctors and get out, just like you all do. If you see someone trying to interrupt a service dog working, please be brave enough to step in and ask that person to leave the team alone. You will be our hero's. Seriously, we will totally give you a gold star sticker and possibly a cookie.
Plans on plans on plans. None of them will come out the way we think them to be, and we are both learning that that's an OK thing. As long as we are heading down the path we are aiming for, it will all be an adventure. One of our dreams is to live in our own home. Neither of us have ever owned a home. I've never lived in a house longer than 5 years before having to move out/transfer to another city. I would love nothing more than to finally have my very own home where there are no landlords or people who have the ability to tell me I have to leave because they no longer want to rent. More than anything we want the ability to just be who we are in a place that is just for us.
Today we headed out to Whidbey Island to scope out the west side of the island and get a better idea if this felt like it could be Home. After months/years of planing, talking, debating, and looking, we've been able to narrow down what we want our home to look like, feel like, and be like. I need the ocean, Steve needs the mountains, we both need evergreen trees. That's the "It would be great if we could" list. Reality is more like, is there a veterinarian near by? How close are we to the VA and/or the CBOC, and medical specialists we need? Is there mass transportation so I can get around if Steve can't drive me? Where are the grocery stores? GameStop? Hardware stores? Do the yards look big enough to allow the Boys to go running around in the back yards with a fence? Things like that.
The nice part is, I'm about 90% sure we found a spot. It's near the town of Oak Harbor, but on the west side of the island, so it faces the Sound. It's near a naval base, and the sounds of a military instillation make us both feel like are are home again. The next phase is digging in and researching the area both economically as well as geologically (storm patterns, fault lines, census information) things like that.
But, it sure was a beautiful way to end a long week. We both took a deep breath and realized we were in the right area.
We did it. By we I mean Bentley and I (Keri) did it. We were given the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test by an independent group president, and we did it, we passed. There were ugly parts (still have a lot of work with the squeaks and squawks around dogs) but with the tester/trainer/president there, she could see that this was a trauma that had happened to Bentley and it was a fixable one. I now have access to names and emails people to contact in hopes of getting the problem resolved using positive reinforcement and no longer need the alpha rolling, or the harsher collars. Bentley has responded beautifully to his gear as well as his job in helping me move forward with our lives.
But, OMG we DID IT! After 3 years of training, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back and, unfortunately, a lot of negativity from people I no longer need or have involved in my life, we got through. This pup, whom I was told would not make a good service dog, was too rough, was too much, showed all of the nay sayers that what he needed was me...and I him. He's my snuggler, he's my grounding tool, he's my right hand man. These day's he's not only laying next to me as I sew or knit or type at home, he's helping me with the shopping, the doctors, and in a few months will be helping me at school.
What can we say, we've been waiting for this for what seems a long time. Fall is here in the PNW and life just can't get much better. The garden's have been put to bed, the house has been prepped for the upcoming cool months, and the rainy days have arrived. we see daily all of the trees turning from greens, to yellow, orange, and a few red's. When we do get our sunbreak's, the sky is a stunning shade of blue that frames the Cascades and Olympics and Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier show off with their snowcapped peaks.
Yup, life has gotten a little better. We consider this to be our Spring Season. Our soul's open up to the cool, damp winds, crane our necks to the foggy sky's and envelope yourselves in the misty rains. Observing the leaves changing, and when the fall storms wash up from the Pacific, cleaning the air and the trees from their summer shade.
Oh, and ordering peppermint hot chocolate or a raspberry mocha is kinda nice too.
One of the most precious gifts I received one Yule, was a Chamilia bracelet from Steve that I wear anytime I go out. Once I was diagnosed with multiple system problems, I knew I needed to look into a medic alert type of thing. I didn't want the typical old medic alert tag, so he plotted and schemed a way for me to have a bracelet that fit me and my love of all things sparklies! I then contacted our Amazing Metal Stamp Artist from Always There Designs that would stamp out two metal tags large enough for the EMT's to see with the necessary information. (Seriously, go see her jewelry. I have several pieces that I have worn for years and I love her elegant design.)
And then added yet, another sparkly in red because, SPARKLES ROCK!
Because, my medications cause my skin to be very dry and I need to use a moisturizer, my wedding rings and bracelet get skunky fast. The other day we were out with new friends and I noticed my favorite pieces were not all that pretty. That’s when I knew I needed to make up some of my Jewelry Cleaner to bring my bracelet and rings back to life!
Now before I go any further, I want to state right here: This solution is made for sterling silver jewelry, not silver-plated. If you have silver-plated jewelry this method is not going to work. That being said, I have had pretty good luck with cleaning my other fashion jewelry as well as my wedding set, which is made of white gold, and thus far, it's held up well. (I just heard every Jeweler freak out and scream at me.)
This solution you are making causes an electrochemical reaction. The aluminum foil which is oxidized, returns an electron to the silver and reduces the silver to its pure metal state. This then allows the oils and dirt to come off the metal, and is then grabbed by the dish detergent and pulled away. You will notice a sulphuric/rotten egg smell when you add the vinegar as the cleaning process is going on. Make sure you have a vent running, or open a window, it's not long lasting, but it can get kinda stinky.
Please, please, please do not use this solution on jewelry with pearls, abalones or softer/porous stones like turquoise, emeralds, or opals. If all else fails, take your presiouses over to a Jeweler and they will get you set up. If you know your stones and metals are up to a chemical cleaning, give this a try. If in doubt, don't.
Ingredients and Items Needed
The end results? Sparklies again!
I love to quilt. I have for many, many years. Lately, or at least after the effects of the my TBI kicked in a few years ago, it's become difficult for me to just sit and quilt or piece tops, or even design something. I had grand hopes for my original business, The Quilted Valkyrie, to be one of the quilting businesses that would make it. For years, blood, sweat, tears, and many sleepless nights I poured my heart and soul in my art. Unfortunately, I no longer can, and that fact alone is killing me. I can't even begin to tell you just how upset I became not being able to enjoy sewing at my machine. Between critiques form other quilters who feel it is in my best interest to just give up, or the cycle of my mind racing with horrible thoughts from past experiences that come at me with the racing of the needle. My blood pressure goes up, I make a mistake, I get mad, more bad thoughts, a migraine hits, and the band plays on. I put my self in a situation where the client is the harshest critic and what if? What if they don't like this? I've no extra cash to start this over. It's terrifying try and create art when you can't see the forest from the trees, thanks in part to my brain what tells me that teach needle of each tree must be perfect or there will be a flaw. What used to take me only a few days now take me a week or more. I literally have to do this in bits and chunks. A block here, a row there. Quilting has to be done in one time or it becomes a threaded mess, which means I have to take my meds, sit quietly for a few moments, and attack each piece as if it were a life line. I shouldn't have to attack anything, but my brain tells me I have to. I've talked with doctors and therpists over this, and they've all tried in their own ways to help me with various degrees of success. However, underneath it all, there was an answer I just didn't want to admit. Maybe I just needed to stop. Maybe I will be able to find joy in my art again if I just stopped offering the one thing I could do to help bring money into my family and let it go. I. Hated. That. Thought. When we moved back home to Washington a few months ago, I wasn't in a position to sew much so I was put into a forced break. You know what? All of the sudden I had a few flourishes of ideas start to break the surface. I even managed to get a few of them onto paper! Then, one by one, I set aside patterns, and fabrics, and enjoyed the planning process of the possibilities of each pattern, and my brain didn't give me a fit. As a matter of fact, I relaxed and almost got back to my zen state I used to get to years before. So while this quilt will be my last commissioned quilt, I've learned it doesn't need to be my LAST quilt. It just means I have set up my boundaries, I know when I need to step away and how long I can go before my brain starts acting up, and still enjoy the beauty that are needle, threads, and fabrics.
Commissioned Baby Quilt
31" x 39"
Pattern adapted from Noodlehead's Ten-Square Quilt Mini Tutorial
Fabrics: "Cuzco" by Kate Spain for Moda Fabric
"Zen Gray" Bella Solids for Moda fabrics
Backing: "Jacks in Natural" from the Playful collection by Melody Miller for Cotton + Steel
"You don’t look sick. What’s wrong with you?"
These are just a few of the statements that both Steve and myself have heard over the past few years with our service dogs, Charlie and Bentley. One of the things neither of us were prepared for when we trained with the dogs, where the comments made by others who feel the need to over communicate with us on things they learned through social media, TV, or misconceptions about how they think we are supposed to be handling our dogs. Confession time, in the beginning of my training with Bentley, people did say things to me, and I would go home and sob for hours; part of my disability and it sucked dead weasels backwards. So after a few years of trial and error, finding a good service dog group to be a part of, and a lot of self reflection, we were able to move forward with the knowledge of what was appropriate and what wasn’t and learn about the dark sides of having a service dog.
Costs of a service dog either through a program or self training.
One of the first things I learned when researching service dogs for both Steve and myself are the costs that the programs vs. self training of the dogs. You have the training, veterinarian services, food, medications, training gear; the list goes on. These costs can go for $1000 to $35,000 per dog as well as fine tuning the training per the disability. It will take a longer time to train a Guide Dog than it will a Service Dog. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other, it just means each dog is performing a very different set of tasks. Going through a service dog group, some, not all, will ask for a minimal amount to help support and upkeep the dog while it is in training. Some ask for nothing as they have special grants or donations that help cover those costs. If you are going do the service dog training yourself, you will need to look into books, trainer, classes and the costs of various certifications such as the Canine Good Citizen test. There is no cheeper way, only different ways to approach the training, and you will need to figure out the best one for your needs.
Costs of care and upkeep.
Gear, grooming, toys, food, and medical both yearly and emergency. Again, these are things to think about when considering a service dog. Are you going to need a cape or a MOLLI vest or a special harness to help you brace? If you get a dog that sheds, the cost of brushes and daily bath wipes, or a Doodle who doesn’t shed but needs to be professionally groomed every month to maintain a healthy coat. What about food? We don’t exactly feed the lowest 1-star brand listed on the Dog Food Advisor, so it’s not cheap so where is the happy medium? One cost that most teams don’t think about is the medical side. Yearly exams and shots are needed to be certain that your service dog is healthy and able to perform at their optimal level. Many service dog groups require a yearly check in with a doctors write up of the health of the dog. What happens if the worse should happen and you need to get your dog into an emergency vet? We take our dogs all over with us, and unfortunately sickness and accidents happen. You must be prepared for this; it is your responsibility as a service dog team to ensure their health and safety, and unfortunately that costs a lot of money. Don’t be caught off guard.
Are you prepared to always be the center of attention?
When you are in public with a service dog, it tends to increase the attention you get from strangers, including the frequency of interactions with them, even if you are just wanting to run in and grab a carton of milk and head home. Kids are curious, the elderly are even more so. Those we usually don’t have too much of a problem with. The biggest issues arise from the 20 - 50 year olds who just don’t know how to interact with us. If you think having a service dog is going to let you disappear into the wood work, think again! You will be standing front and center with a spot light on you instead.
Service dogs aren’t perfect, don’t expect them to be all the time.
Service dogs are not robots, they are going to have bad days. You must be willing to put in the practice time and training to ensure your Service Dog won’t fall back on bad behaviors in their training, public access, or level of socialization, no matter how bad you feel that day. When they do have a bad day, don’t take it too hard and don’t blame them or yourself. You mess up too, so swallow your pride and move forward. Seriously, this was the hardest lesson for me to learn. If Bentley barked at a squirrel at the dog park, unvested, I would freak out because of the pressure I had from being watched by others who thought a service dog should play perfectly. Uh…nope. He’s just a dog at that point, and the squirrel had it coming.
Are you prepared to deal with conflict?
I am extremely self-conscious. I feel people look at me and judge me. When I am with Bentley, I feel like they are looking at him, not me, and in many cases it’s true. Most folks like to talk to me though Bentley, thinking it’s cute or funny. Trust me, it’s not. This also opens me up for opinions from people ranging from what collar I use to having a dog in the grocery store to someone being deathly allergic to dogs and remove them from the premises immediately. Know your rights, know your local laws, and be ready to stand your ground if needed. Also be willing to bend as needed as well. Is it worth the drama to get into it with an uninformed lady who hates dogs and doesn’t want one in her shop? You have to decide that yourself. If you can’t handle the conflict, then you should not consider getting a service dog.
At the end of the day, you are the one who’s going to have to accept responsibility for your choices that you have made with your dog. Service dogs can give you independence, security, and pure joy in your life. If you are willing to not only see the good times, but embrace the bad ones too, then you should be more than prepared.
So it’s time we had “The Talk.” No, not about that. The talk about the care and feeding of your Service Dog Team. You know at least two people who are, and if you are reading this, well, then there ya go.
This talk is one that we, as a family, need to have with all of our friends and family members about life with our Service Dogs. Our lives has done an amazing 180 because of these amazingly great new Helpers. To get to this point was years of blood, sweat, and many tears. These dogs are tailor trained to meet the specific needs of our disabilities. Yet many still do not know how to properly interact with this fascinatingly fun furry helper. “What is a Service Dog?” “What am I allowed to do around a Service Dog?” and “How do I treat the person using the Service Dog?” needs to be addressed so we are all on the same page here. These tips are ones that we have discussed, but are about 99% the same for other Service Dog/Guide Dog users as well. You will be more comfortable, the service dog handler is comfortable, and the dog is able to complete their tasks trained to help that person. Nope, it’s not going to be dry reading material. Nope, there won’t be a quiz because you either will get it or you’ll get corrected, it’s just that simple. This has become our life, and you will LOVE it. Trust me when I say, some of these things maybe a “Well, DUH!” but you’d be surprised what the general public has done/asked already. Reading these and following these around those using Service/Guide Dog will not only help, you will be a rockstar to the folks working the dogs.
There are a few definitions you might want to know, so you can understand the differences. Some of this is a no brainer, but it’s still good to know this stuff and refresh your memory.
The person working the dog and the dog together are called a Service Dog Team.
The person working the dog is the Service Dog Team Handler.
The dog is the Service Dog.
A dog performing tasks for a visually impaired person is called a Guide Dog.
A dog who goes to hospitals, assists with trauma after an accident, or goes to court rooms is called a Therapy Dog.
A dog who performs search and rescue or works with the police is called a Working Dog.
When the dog wears a vest and when he/she does, it’s called “working” or “under vest.”
So, here is one of the more serious things going on that we really, really need for you all to understand:
“Service Dogs are for the disabled, period. The laws are made for the disabled, claiming to be disabled is a crime in most states. Claiming a pet dog, trained or untrained, as a ‘Service Dog’ is a crime in most states. A valid, ADA Public Access Service Dog, is well trained [and well behaved] and the handler is legally disabled. The pair can appear before a judge and prove both training and disability.” From Service Dogs of Florida, Inc.
We have been diagnosed by the VA with a service connected disability and/or by a civilian physician with a disability that would benefit from the help of a service dog. It is in our medical records, and it has been documented. If a judge at any court level asks for the documents, they will be able to see that yes, we are "broken." I can’t even begin to impress upon you all how vitally important is it that we all recognize this. Fakers not only make it hard on themselves, but they make valid Service Dog Teams lives a living hell. They are the one bad apple that makes it just that much harder and it’s already hard enough. I’ve seen the damage they have caused and honestly, I don’t think the laws are tough enough on them, but that is another story.
Rule One: The Super Cool Vest Or Cape
In theory, the ADA states we do not need a special cape or harness, or any identification showing that these are service dog. In reality, it's begging to pick a fight with the establishment. Our rule of thumb is as long as the service dog is wearing their vest, they are allowed to go anywhere the public is allowed (not anywhere period, but where we, as the public, are allowed to go). Restaurants, hotels, businesses, places like that. Obviously, they won’t be able to go into a clean room, or a kitchen, or places like that, but then again we aren't either! Judges and military base commanders have the desecration as to whether or not the service dog is allowed in their court room or military base, but other than that, where we go, the service dogs go. Being allergic to or scared of dogs is not a legitimate reason from the shop to deny access to the Service Dog Team. Our training includes working with shop owners to help educate them on the rights as listed by the ADA. We have been given a card with the rules on it that we have probably pulled out to show the owner. Please allow the us the opportunity to educate before you jump in to help. Our knee jerk reaction is to jump in, help, and save the day. This is our job and we will let you know when we need your help. You should always be our back up, our support, take the higher ground and educate; Never under any circumstances should you be confrontational. We are a representative of training groups, service dog training and education, for the VA, for the branch of service we were in and most of all for ourselves and our family. Unfortunately, if it turns ugly, we have a list of things we will need to do and folks we need contact. Immediately leave the building and give us a few moments to collect ourselves and allow us to start a series of phone calls. Hopefully this will never happen. Educate, not escalate.
Rule Two: Service Dog vs. Pet
Until they are retired, under no circumstances is a service dog ever considered a “pet.” Calling him/her that will get the Glare of Stupid Human from the Service Dog Handler. If the dog is not under harness/vest they are just “a dog” and to be treated as such.
Rule Three: No Pets Allowed
What about those places that say, “No pets allowed.” Re-read the first two paragraphs! Service dogs are not pets and by law where the Handler goes the Service Dog goes.
Rule Four: Team Training- The Good, The Bad, and the Correction
It takes months for a team to jell and work super tight together. That means you will see the us “correcting” the dog by popping the leash and firmly telling them, “No!” A correction does not mean we are hurting the dog, so please, do not ever think or tell the us that is a mean/horrible/harsh person for doing this! We are using the minimum amount of force necessary to ensure the undesired behavior will come to a screeching stand still. Under no circumstances would we ever, ever, ever harm their dog. Ever. We spent weeks/months with professional trainers to learn exactly how to handle our dogs and multiple tests: written, oral and performance just to be able to walk out the door with them. Plus, many teams will need to pass the Canine Good Citizen and ADI Public Access test just to walk out the door with them. This is not an easy thing to do! The service dog is also a highly intelligent dog. In some cases they will be testing us to see just how far they can go, so at times we must be on alert with the dog until they know their boundaries. This means if you see the service dog doing something you think they shouldn’t, let the us know immediately so we can do the correcting, not you. This has been a very hard thing for family members to learn even while the dog is home “as a dog.” Most have had to sit on their hands, but again, in the end it will make the dog and the handler a stronger team and we need you to give us the opportunity do that. If in doubt, ask! It will never be a bad thing to ever!
Rule Five: So What's Wrong With You?
This is most likely another no brainer, but, asking the handler about their disability is impolite and an intrusion of our privacy. Never, ever, never assume that if you see someone working a service dog that if you don't “see the ouchie” there isn’t one there. Not all disabilities are visual.
Rule Six: Hey Buddy, Look Up Here!
Should you want to approach a working service dog team, please speak to the handler first. Speaking, touching, or making rude noises to the dog will only distract the dog and cause a bigger problem. While working, a service dog is a tool, like a hammer. You don’t talk to the hammer when you have a question to the carpenter, right? Besides, it has a tendency to really tick us off, and after awhile it just hurts our feelings.
Rule Seven: NO TOUCHY!
Our family's service dogs are drop dead gorgeous dogs. Their fur is soft and squishy and you just want to run your hands through it. Honestly, we both make for a striking team, and we were paired together for a reason. This being said, NO TOUCHY! It’s very tempting to pet or touch a service dog, but only do so after receiving permission from the service dog's handler. Please don't be insulted if your request is denied. Releasing the dog in order to greet you may distract their attentiveness on us and in our case it’s a big deal. That’s when we need the service dogs to do their work. Children see a dog and really want to go and pet. Please do not be afraid to come up and ask, just be respectful of boundaries. Just like us, folks just don’t have the time, or are tired or really just want to get home. It’s not you, it’s just life.
Rule Eight: Trust Me, They Eats Better Than Us.
Under no circumstances should you ever offer a service dog food or dog treats. Even though service dogs are trained to ignore food on the ground and not beg for treats, your offerings may serve as a distraction for the dog or make the dog very ill. We have our “Scooby Snack Sacks” that we can wear on our hip filled with treats that we use while working. Only the handler may give the treats to the service dog. Only the handler can put food in the service dog’s bowl and feed them. You are not allowed to do it. Under no circumstances should you give a service dog “human” food (short of a direct order from the veterinarian). These service dog’s are on a very regimented, working dog diet. Shoot, those dogs eats better than us! But that is something between the handler, the veterinarian, the trainers, and the service dog to know and work on. Offering any food to them can inadvertently cause the dog to become sick and take time away from the handler. It can also cost our family thousands of dollars that honestly we don’t have to get the dogs back up to par, or even worse yet, the dog could die. It’s not an option, so please, just don’t even to it.
Rule Nine: Doggy IFF (Identify Friend/Foe)
If you have your pet dog with you, please do not let them approach a service dog under vest without first consulting with the handler. This can distract the service dog and, despite his or her training, may lead to an unwanted altercation between the animals. When we are all at the dog park and “dogs are dogs” let them play, it’s all part of being a dog, but under vest, a service dog is a working dog and learned bad behaviors while under vest takes time, money and resources to remove that problem.
Rule Ten: Here, Let Me Help....
This holds true for anyone you see as a Working Team: If you think a service dog team needs help, ASK before acting. Never just grab the service dog's leash or harness from the handler without permission. It will cause the dog and the handler to become confused and upset. Do not take it personally if the service dog handler rejects your offer of help. It's for a good reason.
HUSBAND + WIFE + SERVICE DOGS + KAT
We are Steve and Keri, Everett-dwelling Washington natives living our life with various disabilities, with the help of service dogs, cooking, gaming, Sci-fi, audiobook, and hunting for great coffee, kinda people!