Saturday, December 31, 2011

Booklist for 2011

I read a total of 164 books this year. Mostly fantasy and fluffy Stephanie Plum mysteries. I read a lot of books about Deafblind people/culture. I really got into the Song of Ice and Fire series even though I found "game of thrones" kind of intimidating and confusing; I'm glad I came back to it.

The Chris Rose was by far, the very best book I read all year long and the very hardest. It was like ripping off all of the old scabs and I literally cried through 95% of the book. I don't think I can or will ever read it again. However because it was such a powerful read for me, I wanted to mention it. I think others will find it interesting but hopefully not as soul-shredding to read.
I do have one silly Urban Fantasy book on my list; the Molly Harper werewolf books. They are really excellent. Once again, Christopher Moore has two books on the list, because I read two of his books and they always make the list because he is wonderful.

My friend Doug, who took his own life in March was the first introduce me to them and I can't read them any more without my heart breaking a little. But I guess that's how life works. So here is my top fifteen best books for 2011. Note that a * means that the books are part of a larger series but I have read all of the series mentioned in this list.
Top 15 books for 2011
1. One Dead in Attic After Katrina by Chris Rose
2. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
3. Of Such Small Differences by Joanne Greenberg
4. Walking Free: The Nellie Zimmerman Story by Rosezelle Boggs-Qualls and Darryl C. Greene
5. Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore
6. The Story of Beautiful Girl By Rachel Simon
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins *
8. The Confession by John Grisham
9. The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth *
10. Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey *
11. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin *
12. Prime by Poppy Z. Brite *
13. Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing by Richard Kinney
14. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper *
15. Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Hero's Quest

Like the fearless explorers from years gone by, tomorrow I shall embark upon a great and noble quest; traveling to hostile and untamed lands in pursuit of a dream.

In layman's terms, this means that I'm going to the Apple Store, located in the m*ll to upgrade my iPhone. However, my initial description isn't far from the mark because doing this by myself (OK, with Laveau) will be epic, I can see it now.
I will have the following:
• Macbook so Apple Store employee can make sure the backup/restore from iTunes goes smoothly.
• USB braille display so I can read Macbook. My Macbook is still running Leopard which doesn't support bluetooth displays. I really need to fix this; it just hasn't happened yet.
• Easybraille braille display, which is connected to iPhone
• Braille Note with QWERTY keyboard and braille display so I can communicate with Apple Store staff.
• Old iPhone

This could get... well kind of tricky. I know I can read two displays at once; I do it all the time when working with both phone and Macbook. But add the 3rd one, the one for communication and it's going to be crazy; and yet again I will long to be transformed into an octopus so I can read more than two things at once. Also that ink thing would be cool, too. Also if I get lost in the mall, I'll need the Braille Note for communication so I can get directions. If I'm not out by Christmas; someone send a search party!
I'm very excited to get this new update to my much-beloved iPhone. Now hopefully Voiceover and my braille display will run much more smoothly than on my 3gs. Also Siri! I have about five million questions to ask her. like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

take my hand, or maybe not!

Friday was my birthday, and since I've been under a bit of stress lately, I decided to party it up and have some fun. We started out at a rotisserie place called Zea. I had some pesto-crusted trout and two Mojitos, which are my new favorite drink. After that, some friends and I went to a party at a lawyer's house. I don't know this person but my friend goes to law school and was invited.

So we get there, and I have some rum and coke. I was chatting with a lady I know who works at the Advocacy Center, and then turned around to chat with my friend. I put my hand atop hers and tapped it, which means that I wanted her attention. She just laid her hand there and didn't give me any response, so I thought she must be talking to a hearing person. So I just laid my hand atop hers and sat there and waited. ... and waited, and waited, and waited. Then I tapped her hand again this time she wiggled it back and forth, in that universal gesture hearing people do when they want to talk to me but don't know how. I didn't know what she was doing. Suddenly, my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said that she had quick left and gotten another drink but didn't tell me because I was talking to someone else. So Another person had taken my friend's place-- one that didn't know us. Lol! I had been touching a stranger. Her hands were the same type and shape as my friends, and I didn't notice! Talk about embarrassing! Gotta love those Deafblind moments!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Golden

Today Bristol turns 14 years old. Because this is also December 14th, it makes it her golden birthday. So I guess we could say that it's the Golden's Golden Birthday. She celebrated it by going to the park and chewing on a cow foot, and taking a nap on my shoes. She got a tug rope for her gift and I am assuming we'll break it in shortly. The old lady does love tug of war.

I don't really have anything to say about her that I haven't said before about a million times. Our relationship is so hard to quantify, and explain to people; especially people who don't have an assistance dog. Even though she's retired, she is still the center of everything I do. From my first half-awake fumble for her Thyroid medication in the morning, even before my feet hit the floor, until I do her eye drops and give her one last snuggle before falling asleep at night. She is always in the back of my mind, and even more now, that she is older.

When I first met her, I didn't want anything to do with her. My first guide dog had just died at age 3 from lymphoma. I wasn't ready to open my heart so fully to anyone. She didn't give me a choice about it. She was like a giant rock; waring down my hurt feelings and anger, and planting the seeds of great love in their place. She continued to be a rock, all through our working relationship, no matter what I threw at her. She handled everything with calm joy, and that sure-fire confidence that she could do anything that was asked of her. When I moved to New Orleans in 2003, I knew nobody. I had never been to the city before, so we spent days traveling the streets, getting lost, and then unlost together. No matter what happened, where I went, or what I had, or how I felt, she was always there. And that's the way it's always been.
I must confess, that a part of me wonders if this will be her last birthday. She can't live forever, I know this, but the wish is there just the same. The only thing I can do is to make sure that today, and the rest of her todays are all golden.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So this is my first Christmas without Christmas music. Ok, I should actually qualify that because I can still hear *some* music with my iPod and a device that hooks it up to my bluetooth hearing aid. But the funny thing about Christmas music-- at least for me-- was that its all-pervasiveness during the season is what really made it feel like the holiday.
I mean, how many people complain about that music in the grocery store, or the bathroom in the gas station, on the radio and in line at the post office. For a month, everywhere we go we are accompanied by St. Nick, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snow Man. Not to mention the Hippopotamus someone wants under their tree. It's a very quiet Christmas for me, and I really have to learn to appreciate the holidays in a new way.

I can smell evergreens when we walk toward the store. That smell immediately brings me back to my childhood, gathered around the tree with my sisters telling stories of each ornament we hung.

I love the smell of baking cookies, and cinnamon. The funny moving stuffed animal decorations, and the feeling of ribbon, garland and the hard cold metal ball of a bell in my hand.

When people express amazement that I have a real tree in my house, I smile. The tree is one of the few parts of the season which I can experience. I love the prickly branches, the scent of pine, and the tasks of every-day maintenance. And always there are the ornaments.

When I was a kid, my mother started giving me ornaments for the tree every year. When I moved out, I took the ornaments and hung them on many of my own trees. In August of 2005 they were lost, like so many things were, in the destruction brought on by hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levees.

Mister Pawpower and I had gone to Memphis and we had no ornaments. We decided to make our own and so we took a trip to a craft store for pipe cleaners, bulbs, buttons, and puff-paint.

We sat around our little table and created another chapter of our history. That was also the last Christmas I was able to hear any holiday music without amplification.

When we moved back here, we started collecting more ornaments. We still use the ones we made, because they remind me to persevere during the trying times. We have dog-statue ornaments, and many home-made ones from wonderful artist friends. We have funny ones shaped like Bigger (because he's a lot like Mill'E-Max), We have ones with big hearts (for Bristol), We have ones for Rudy, Gracy, and all the other dogs we have had in our lives. This year I believe we will have a striped ornament for our very special striped dog. As we decorate the tree, we tell the stories of how this particular bit of history came to us. So that by the time the tree is decorated, it is a story in its own right.

I have really been making an effort to find new ways to appreciate this time of year. However I can't seem to get away from the music! This morning, I was in Walmart with my SSP. I was surprised I could hear some kind of high pitched noise. I didn't know what it was and more and more, it sounded like someone moaning in pain, or a wounded farm animal. I asked my SSP if she could hear that moaning noise and she replied that that was not moaning, but that song "Angels We Have Heard on High." They were on the "glooooooooooooria" part, I guess. Only it didn't sound very glorious to me. We instead had a good laugh about barn yard animals singing Christmas music, because it really did sound like that! I've ruined Christmas music for her forever now!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tomboy Goes To Beauty School

So my friend texts me at work this morning and tells me that her friend, who works at a well known Beauty school here in New Orleans has invited us for facials and all of that stuff. I was kind of nonplused about this because I am a huge tomboy. For me, a clean pair of jeans and a shirt without Turmeric stains on it is good enough for anything I'm likely to encounter in my life. I do have long hair but I either wear it long or pull it back. I don't own any of that girl paint, or anything, and I've never had a facial in my life. Naturally I thought I should have the experience so I could know what all of the fuss was about.

We arrived and I had my nails done. I picked out dark purple polish and Kayla got right to work on my nails. Holding still for that was so, so hard. My hands are the world to me, and I know it probably seems obvious that it's this way for a deafblind person, I never really realized how disconnected with the world I become when I can not use my hands at will. I can't text or read, or talk, or listen, or reach down to pet my dog. It was very strange. I guess it helped me be mindful in the moment of having them done because I couldn't do anything else but relax and kind of space off into my own world.

Next was the facial. Only it was more like neck/shoulders/face. Complete with the wearing of these robe things which was awkward, and kind of cold. I laid in a bed and a lady did things to my face. And if I thought I was disconnected from the world when my nails were being done, it was nothing compared to how I felt up in a high bed, without even my feet touching. It was so bizarre.

First, the lady doing my face asked me a bunch of questions. It is during times like these when I wished to please have the multiple choice version of the test life throws you
It went something like this.
Face lady: "How does your skin feel today?"
Me: "well, I mean... it feels like skin, and I can't really say that my skin feels different from day-to-day; it's just... skin, and stuff."
F L: "Well is it dry? oily? a combination of both?"
Me: "uhh? I mean... It is just how it is. I don't have any idea."
F L: "What products do you use to clean your face?"
Me: *thinks to self that dog spit is not the answer they're looking for. *
"Well, water? soap?... yeah, soap and water 'bout covers it."

So after the questioning was over, the greasing and massage and stuff began.
I had this stuff sprayed on my face, and then removed. Rinse, repeat. At one point she wanted to do the same thing to my feet, but I put my foot down. Ok, ok, that was a bad line but I really did. No feet facialing for me, thankyouvery much. I did get a hand and arm massage.

She put this cream on me with a sort of brush thing. I told her that I felt like a giant cake someone was frosting. Then she and another lady put a lamp over my face and studied it which made me feel like a science experiment, and Inwardly apologized to all of the bacterium I ever put under a hot light.

Laveau watched everything and couldn't wait for me to get out of the bed. Eventually I was done and my face smelled like a veritable botanical cornucopia with mint, lavander, citrus, rose water, and at least five other herbs were used on my face.
And it's still the same as it always was. It was an interesting experience to have, though, that was for sure!

I think I'm probably going to trot into the great blue beyond singing the song about being a "beauty school drop-out."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pizza!

Don't get me wrong; I love to cook. However sometimes I'm feeling lazy and just want to order in and have dinner in my PJ's. Most of the time Mister Pawpower is around to call in our order, but when he is away, I go through what can only be described as phone hell to order dinner. It usually goes something like this.
I call the restaurant using Relay, and the person on the other end picks up:
Person: "Hello?"
Relay Operator: *explains relay*
P: "We don't want any"
*hang up*
Me: "redial number"
RO: *explains relay*
P: "I told you! I'm busy and don't want any!"
*hangs up*
Me: *gritting teeth and wondering if I should just suck it up and cook.
Eventually I get someone who isn't an idiot and I order dinner. Sometimes they won't listen so I send a nastygram to corporate, CC'ing the local manager. This usually results in shamed-face apology, as it should.

However, while perusing the iPhone App store, I found that Domino's has an app where you can order your pizza. It's very accessible with voiceover and a braille display. Better yet, I don't have to talk to ignorant people who don't listen to learn what relay is. Even better still, the app has a "pizza tracker" and it tells you where your pizza is in the making process, e.g. being made, cooking, out for delivery, etc. This was a liberating experience and their chocolate lava cakes are to die for. Now I have been spoiled by Domino's, I think all restaurants should have an app. Everyone accept the greek place who actually doesn't give me relay guff.

Pizza, anyone?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Festive Friday

Friday was the annual Holiday Party for work. For the past three or so years, they have chosen to hold it at this buffet place. Why upper management would pick a buffet to be the party place for a bunch of blind people is beyond me, but whatever. I asked my SSP to come with me and then do some holiday shopping afterward.

We arrived a bit late and found a table with my friend Laura, and another Deafblind coworker and his interpreter. We all chatted and hung out until the festivities started. We always have to pray before we eat-- a practice that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Religion, like politics, are things that should stay out of the workplace. Along with the prayer, there was some rambling about how "Jesus is the reason for the season." I'm sure the Jews and Pagans, and others in the audience didn't quite agree with that statement.

After all of that was finished it was time to go to the buffet. The line was in a very narrow space, and I was squeezed in with my SSP and Laveau. I wasn't very hungry, so got a little food and then went back to my seat. I always feel like I have to eat at rapid speed at this thing if I want to be a part of any lunch conversation. I have yet to grow that extra set of arms which will allow me to eat and talk at the same time. After the meal, we received hats with the number of years we've worked there printed on the back. We also got an end of year gift check which will come in handy.

After the festivities, my SSP and I went shopping. I can't list the places where we went, because I wouldn't want to give anything away. We eventually made our way to our vets to get flea and hart-worm medication for the girls, and to snag Laveau's Proin, which is the medication she takes for spay incontinence. Laveau got weighed and she's 60 lbs. She could gain a couple of pounds and still be fine. At 26 inches tall, her height is mostly leg, but I've noticed her looking a bit ribbie lately, so have taken to upping her food amounts. She is quite thrilled about this.

That night, I gave Gracy back to my friend across the river. We went to dinner first and since I still wasn't hungry, I mostly sat around and chatted which was nice. All in all, it was a pretty busy day!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Loster? More Lost?

If I had one of those little books which lists all of the obscure holidays, I would surely find that November 30th is International Get Lost Day. Next year I will know not to leave my house on this day.

Around 6 o'clock this evening, I realized that I was out of dog food for tomorrow. I feed a raw diet and thought I had purchased enough food, but my retired Boarder Collie guide, Gracy is here to visit so I miscalculated the number of mouthes to feed.. No problem, I'd just search the bus schedule, hop a bus and grab some marked-down turkey, and be back in an hour.

I Grabbed my phone and braille display, harnessed up the Dobermuffin, and off we went. We walked the seven or so blocks to the bus stop and only had to wait about two minutes when Laveau alerted me to the arrival of the bus. She guided me toward the door, and I waved at the driver so he knew we were going to ride. He responded by driving off in a cloud of fumes. I responded to his response by swearing... a lot... in a few languages.

I searched the bus company's website for the next bus' arrival. I waited. I texted with friends and Mister Pawpower. I practiced swearing some more.

Finally the buss pulled up again, and I got on. The driver was the same driver from before and he told me that he didn't see me standing there the first time. Which means that he was outright lying, or that he was very unobservant because I was waving at him and yelling for him to stop as he drove off. But whatever, I was on the bus and surely I was headed toward marked down turkey parts and by this point I was thinking seriously about a trip down the liquor section for medicinal reasons, of course.

We arrive at my stop, and the driver tells me that I should just go straight and I'd end up at the grocery store. Yes, fellow readers, my blog is like watching a horror movie where the ignorant heroin blithely ignores all of the signs of danger and continues onward. Why did I take directions from a driver who was so unobservant? I don't know, my best answer is that the cold slows down my thinking process. And I know to you yankees up in the frozen north are laughing at my version of cold, but really, 50 degrees is like, almost an ice-age.

Laveau and I get off the bus, and I tell her "forward!" And forward she goes. And goes, and goes, and goes... And that's when she walks me right over the train tracks. .....
Train tracks? Cue more swearing. Then Laveau alerts me to the noise, which signifies a train coming. We immediately turn around, and head the other direction. I tell Laveau to "find the inside." Eventually, she does! I thought we'd be wandering out there forever, in some kind of parking lot hell.

We go to the service counter, where we are assigned to someone who must have skipped high-school biology. When I asked her for turkey, she took me to the fish section. Who knows what they're doing in factory farms these days, but I am not remotely interested in seeing the cross breed of a turkey and a crawfish. Eventually the grocery lady figures out that turkey is in the section with the chickens, and we grab the required dog food. Thankfully my journey after that was pretty relaxed. However the cabby who took me home didn't have change for a twenty, so I gave him all of my ones instead, which didn't add up to the total cost of my trip. However twenty was way over-paying him. The cabby got grouchy with me, and I advised him to visit a bank before he started working.

I think I'm going to go to bed now, and not get up until tomorrow. Surely December 1st is International Pennies From Heaven Day, and my luck will have changed for the better.

ETA:
On another topic entirely, you know you're playing their music too loudly when the Deaf neighbor can feel the rhythmic vibrations coming through the floor, and when said vibrations set the Deaf neighbor's Deaf dog to barking! Now where'd I put that liquor?

I Once Was Lost but...

This morning we went to the field down the road that is a sort of dog park. In the afternoon, the children use the basketball hoop and baseball field, but the mornings-- especially in the fall and winter-- are for the dogs. The park is fenced in, and takes up an entire city block.

I took Bristol, Laveau, and Baylee, and instead of using her harness, Laveau just guided me using her leash (leash-guiding). We arrived and the dogs snuffed around and played with some other dogs. Laveau, of course, found a random tennis ball and I spent the next hour throwing it. I need to put one of those "chuck-it" things on my holiday list, or something, because after a while tennis balls get yucky. The dogs played some more, Bristol alternately begged for treats, flirted with people, and read/replied to the pee-mail. Soon it was time to leave.

Usually, I enter the park through the eastern gate. I walk in a straight line from the gate and always keep in mind where it is in relation to me. Well this morning, I obviously had not imbibed the required amounts of tea for my brain to be at optimum functioning level because I realized, about half-way through our romp that I had no idea where the gate was. I got the girls leashed up, ad told Laveau to "find the outside," which means for her to find the nearest exit. She found a gate, but it wasn't *our* gate. I had no idea where I was. I told Laveau to "find home" and in five minutes we were on the porch. All that without a harness, I'm proud of her.

Now I'm off to read more of my book, "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton. I love new books in much-beloved series.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I AM! the Inspiration! Baby!

This post is for the November edition of the <"Disability Blog Carnival">

I sit with my ASL teacher in a coffee shop. Today's lesson is about drugs, alcohol, and swear words.
My teacher begins, and I rest my hands atop hers. With her right hand she spells out "cocaine" and then makes the sign. I repeat it back to her. My teacher pauses, and then tells me that someone has walked up to our table. My teacher then begins interpreting this lady's words. "I saw you sitting over here and I wanted to come and tell you how inspirational you are. I think it is so amazing that even though you are both deaf and blind, you can come here all by yourself, and get coffee all by yourself. It's wonderful that you have special friends who can talk to you. I love watching you, and I think you are so inspirational." Before I can begin to compose something sufficiently snarky, she walks away. My teacher laughs, I laugh, and we joke about cocaine being inspirational. Then she jokingly says that the ASL sign for "inspirational" should be my new name sign, because I AM! the inspiration, baby.


I am in the mall with my SSP, and we are waiting at the Apple Store for the Geniuses to fix my Mac. We are deep into a discussion of dog poop, when a young woman comes up to us and says: "I think sign language is so beautiful. I just love watching you guys signing to each other. That is so special, and wonderful. Tell her that she's inspirational." The young woman leaves, and we roll our eyes and make my new inspirational name sign, which has become a joke amongst all of my friends.

I have a staff meeting for work. The room we are using is full because another meeting was taking place in there and had run late. My interpreters arrive, and we sit down in the lobby and begin chatting while we wait for the room to empty. I am telling a funny story about a misadventure I'd had earlier in the week, and then I leave to check to see if the meeting room had emptied. a client of my agency says: "Wow, is she deaf or deaf and blind?" My interpreter tells her that I'm Deafblind. The lady's eyes widen and she says: "Wow! and you have the biggest smile on your face when you talk to her. That is so amazing, I'll bet it's like talking to an angel from heaven." My interpreter tries not to laugh, and replies that no, she is smiling because I was telling her a funny story. The client then tells my interpreter that it is such a blessing that she can still laugh even though she is deaf and blind, and that I am an inspiration. Upon my return, my interpreter repeats this entire conversation back to me, and we roll our eyes and make the sign.

Whenever my friends or family tell embarrassing stories about me, or tease me, or play practical jokes on me, I remind them that I am an angel from heaven, and an inspiration and that they'd best give me the proper reverence or I may stick a whoopee cushion under their chair the next time we're at a restaurant. Don't mess with me! I AM! the INSPIRATION, baby! And don't you forget it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stop and Go Laveau

It seems that the Pawpower Pack got together and decided that this week it was Laveau's turn to be led around by the nose... Well maybe not by the nose, exactly but...

Yesterday I was in the kitchen letting the dogs in from the yard when I realized that Laveau hadn't gone out at all. I let the other dogs in, and then called Laveau to go outside. Laveau has a great recall, so I was surprised when she didn't recall to my side right away. I called again, and again she didn't come to me, so I went searching for her. I found her, trying to walk toward me, but having an awfully hard time of it because Baylee had taken hold of Laveau's collar in her mouth and was trying to hold her back because she wanted Laveau to stay inside and play with her. I think Mister Pawpower is going to have his hands full with Miss Stripes!

Today we were getting all of the dogs ready to go for a walk. I decided that Laveau would guide me, and Mill'E-Max would walk on my right, with Mister Pawpower taking Bristol and Baylee. I got Laveau harnessed up, and clipped her leash to her collar. Then I turned to help the other dogs get ready. I turned around with Mill'E-Max's leash in hand, only to find her walking off, Laveau's leash in her mouth, so that Laveau had no choice but to go with her. I have no idea what was going through her mind when she decided to walk the dog herself. Maybe I could hire her out as a dog walker?


Although Mill'E-Max did somewhat redeem herself today by picking up a dropped hot dog from the floor and giving it back to me. Of course I no longer wanted it, since it was covered with dog spit and floor germs, so I gave it back to her as her reward for giving it to me to begin with. I will continue to wonder what people who don't have dogs do for entertainment.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Pawsuit of Happiness

Today we went to a festival, which is hardly newsworthy, seeing how New Orleans seems to be the festival capitol of the world. This was a festival which was different than most; it was for pets. They had different booths and activities. It was me, Laveau, Mister Pawpower, Baylee, and my SSP.

We arrived and my SSP laughed because as we were entering the festival grounds, Laveau had to walk by a large lake. The path was right next to the lake and at one point, she took me near the edge so she could stare with great longing at the water. I am blind, and can't read her facial expression, but even I could feel her mental wheels turning. She loves to swim. But this was not on our schedule for today. After she gazed her fill upon the forbidden water, we entered the festival area.

My SSP started describing to me all of the booths set up by different vendors. We stopped at a booth selling collars and got Baylee a new collar with "Who Dat!" written on it. The collar is black and gold which matches Baylee's coloring really well. She was also growing out of her puppy collar, which was pink and Mister Pawpower needed a more manly collar for his dog. Then we stopped by a booth set up by a local pet shop, and I bought Laveau a hard rubber ball which looks to have great bouncing potential. This should make Laveau quite happy as chasing the ball is tied with swimming for her favorite activity. We passed a bunch of other booths, and saw loads of dogs.

There was a giant bucket of water out for the dogs to drink. I let Laveau have some, but she surprised me by hopping into the bucket with all four legs and swishing around in it. Guess she was getting even with me for not letting her swim in the lake. Once I was able to stop laughing and talk, I told her to get out of the bucket, which she did, reluctantly.
We met a family who had an English Mastiff. That dog was HUGE! He weighed 220 lbs, and his owner said that he ate 45 lbs of food every week. You know you are a dog owner when your mind immediately runs to the amount of poop that dog must deliver to his humans every day. It's like having a horse, only one that sleeps in bed with you! We also met a little girl who was around 5 or so. She was learning some signs and wanted to talk to me, so was showing me all of her ASL. It was so cute, and she had such tiny hands.

We went to a kissing booth run by Boxer Rescue. They were doing the booth to raise money to help pay the vet bills for sick Boxers.. The dog they had today was so cute. She was brown and gave sweet little kisses. The kissing booth was kind of a table thing. The dog was at like chest height on me, and would give kisses. Well she saw Laveau who was being very good at keeping "four on the floor" but who really wanted her own Boxer kisses. So the Boxer leaned down, and Laveau leaned up, and it was like a scene from Romeo and Juliet when their noses finally touched.

We walked and walked and walked some more. Laveau flirted with some more dogs and eventually we ended up getting some lemonade because it was hot. I got water mellon lemonade which was very good. We finally left the festival around 3:30. both Baylee and Laveau are exhausted.
I think Mister Pawpower is cooking French Toast for dinner, with sausage and syrup. I am getting hungry, so shall go prod him in the general direction of the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Deaf is not a four-letter word

"You don't look blind!"
"You don't sound deaf."

People tell me those things on a weekly basis. I might be slow on the uptake, but what does "blind" look like? What does "deaf" sound like?

When you think of "deaf" or "blind," what are the images which pop into your mind? The man wearing sunglasses, stumbling along, white cane in hand, trying to find his way along city streets? The woman who doesn't voice, and instead uses an interpreter?
Stumbling? Not as intelligent as "normal" people? Unable to "speak?" Clueless? Dependent? Helpless? Uneducated?

This is how history, and the media defines people who are deaf or blind.

I'm not what you think I am, and because I don't fall into line with stereotypes, I am told that I don't look or sound the way someone thinks I should.

Blindness is a spectrum term. Deafness is a spectrum term as well. There are many faces of deafness and blindness, not to mention deafblindness. We are not just one type of person with many faces. We are a cross-section of society just like "normal" people. I walk confidently, and look at people when I speak to them. Unless people see my dog or my braille book or display, you would think I were sighted. I voice for myself because I'm post-lingually deafened. I don't have any kind of "speech impediment," because I'm post-lingually deafened. I'm not ignorant, nor am I any more special than the next person. Unless you see me signing, or talk to me over the phone via relay, you would never know I am deaf.

Because I don't conform to people's standards of what they think blindness, or deafness should be, some people seem to be afraid to use the terms "deaf" and "blind." This is especially true of the word "deaf."
"She's d-d-d-... d-d-d ... ... hearing challenged." This was spoken by someone who knows me quite well. Someone who interacts with me extensively every day. Why is it so hard for her, and for others to say it? DEAF! I'm deaf. If you look at my audiogram, I have a 105 decibel loss in my "good" ear, and a 135 decibel loss in the ear that is there strictly for decoration. That's pretty darned deaf. I wear a hearing aid because I have to, in order to work where I do. I don't wear it at home, or when I'm relaxing. I self-identify as deaf, and have always thought of myself this way. So why is it so hard for others to say the D-word? I think it's because I don't comply with the stereotype of deafness, whatever that is.
I am involved in the Deafblind community. I use American Sign Language, both at work and with friends. I self-identify as culturally Deafblind. If there was a "cure" for my deafness, or my blindness, I wouldn't take it because I am who I am, and I like myself this way.

I've asked people why they continue to stumble around, searching for terms to describe my hearing loss when a readily available one is at hand? A word which i, myself use? It certainly isn't in order to save my feelings, because if the word deaf bothered me, I wouldn't use it when referring to myself. The most common answer I get is this:
"I don't want people to get the wrong idea about you."
And what idea would that be? That I can't hear? Because I can't hear. That is the simple truth, right there; I can't hear. Or is it really because I don't fall into line with our society's pre-conceived notion of what "deaf" is. If other people are discomfited by my word choices, then they should get over it, because I am not changing. Since it is me I am talking about, I have the right to identify myself in the way most appropriate. And that is deaf. People are going to just have to swallow their resistance and say it; because I will keep correcting them, and I will continue calling them out on it.
I am not impaired, or challenged. I am deaf. I voice, I use ASL, I read braille. I have several methods of communication at my disposal, and I will use whichever meets my needs for that moment. I am not helpless, nor lacking in intellect. I have a work and social life, made up of friends and coworkers, deaf and hearing, blind and sighted. I am a wife, a teacher, a dog trainer, a herbalist. I love dirty limericks, ASL poetry, and long books. I am fond of dark chocolate and cold tea. And I am Deafblind.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Us Bitches

Mister Pawpower is in Colorado, visiting his family. Since Baylee dog is too young to fly, I have her in addition to the three big girls. So it's a house full of bitches. He has been gone since Thursday and I have spent time cooking with foods I like and Mister Pawpower does not, such as brie, smoked salmon, and asparagus. My SSP and I took all of the dogs to the dog park and that was very fun.

A lady showed up with a Komondor, and I got to run my hands through it's flocks! I want a dog with flocks! We also had a funny incident, where a police car drove close to me, and even though all of the girls were off leash, they saw it, and all came running, and stood as a barrier between me and the car. An off-leash traffic check.

Today I took Laveau and Baylee to the coffee shop. The handy man was working in my kitchen and I was hungry, so off we went. Since it was so lovely, we all sat outside and enjoyed the weather. Baylee had the hard chore of keeping her "down/stay" and not getting up to investigate her surroundings.

I have actually got to spend quite a bit of time reading since there is no other human in the house. Yes, it is possible to read and eat simultaneously.

Now that all of the dogs have had their last outside time for the day, I guess it's bed time for me. Dogs don't understand the meaning of changing the clocks back, and I'm spending my mornings trying to convince them that yes, they really can wait a little longer for breakfast. Whoever said that "fall back" gives a person an extra hour of sleep certainly did not have dogs!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bubba!

I have always loved this time of year, ever since I was a kid. One of my favorite fall activities is pumpkin carving. I remember making groceries with my Father. Come fall, we'd get out of the car, walk toward the store, and there they'd be; the heaps of orange pumpkins. Maybe I like pumpkins so much because that particular shade of orange is one which I can clearly see. We would go through the heaps of pumpkins, and each of us girls would pick out "the perfect" one.

Several hours later, we would cover the table with newspaper, and begin carving our pumpkins. My sisters were much better pumpkin artists than I was. I remember clearly, my father very patiently helping me to get it "just right." Come Halloween night, we'd put candles in our jack-o-lanterns and set them on our front porch.

Even now, when I'm supposedly a grown up, I still carve a pumpkin come Halloween. Well actually Mister Pawpower and I do it together. It started many years ago. Our first pumpkin was quite ugly. His eyes were narrow-set, and rather windswept. The nose was huge, the mouth rather lopsided. Once we had finished carving our first pumpkin, we went to put the top back on, only to discover that it was missing. We searched everywhere, and eventually began searching the dog's crates. Rule of paw at our house is that is something is missing, always check the crates. We found the top to our pumpkin, a bit the worse for wear, in Rudy's crate. Apparently he found the taste of pumpkin to be rather pleasant, and to that end, had taken a few nibbles from the edge. The top still fit, though. But it look like an in-bred hick had come out second-best with a shotgun. So we named our pumpkin Shotgun Bubba.

That started the tradition of naming all of our pumpkins Bubba. Usually with describers at the beginning of their names. Through the years, we've had Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown Bubba, Shit-Eating-Grin Bubba, and Back-Alley, Blind-Justice Bubba, just to name a few.

This year was no different. On Saturday I went with my SSP to pick out this year's Bubba. She showed me these cool pumpkins that looked like the ones from Cinderella. And here I thought that the pumpkins in Cinderella just looked like regular, normal pumpkins. Just goes to show what I know. I decided to pick just a regular old traditional pumpkin. I found a round one with a jaunty stem, and paid for it. Today Mister Pawpower and I commenced to carving up our Bubba.

Now Mister Pawpower is very good at making straight lines and carving recognizable shapes. Me...? not so much, as my Father can attest. So despite Mister Pawpower's careful carving, I always end up making it look crazy, because I can't carve anything right to save my life.

This year's pumpkin is <"Cave-Man, Me No Have Dental Insurance Bubba."> The dental insurance part is because I kind of messed up on the teeth. The cave man part, because he is noticeably lacking in a forehead.

We celebrated the successful carving of our Bubba with a barbecue, and will roast the seeds to snack on for later.

The dogs, as always, took great delight in eating the guts of the pumpkin. Tomorrow our Bubba will go out on the porch and will frighten the entire neighborhood, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Roundup

The universe has seen fit to have mercy upon us down here in "da swamp." We have officially entered into the season known as "not summer." This means that one can safely go outdoors without immediately becoming drenched. This new state allows for more frequent outside activities such as long walks and barbecuing, and long evenings spent on the porch with a six-pack.

Baylee is growing, but that is the nature of puppies so it shouldn't come as a surprise. But seeing as how this is my first ever dog to have from a puppy, I am surprised daily by her. It's like, one day her body will pick one part and will focus all of its growing might upon it. She is now 33 lbs and I can't pack her around with ease any more. Baylee is enjoying being bigger, and the more advantage her new-found size gives her in games of chase and tackle.

I have downloaded the new IOS on to my iPhone and have really enjoyed playing with all of the new features. I may actually get the iPhone 4s itself, once I have a chance to have a good long chat with the fine folks at AT&T. My old 3gs is over two years old and is beginning to show its age. If I do get the new phone, it will be very exciting because I'm a geek.

I am also getting a new braille display because my Braille Note has been broken more than it has been working lately. Human Ware, the manufacturer of this device is slow to repair the units and has recently broken mine even further in an attempt to "fix" it. This will be my last Braille Note. I have not had my unit in over two months and am very grateful for the loaner which allows me to use my iPhone and have independent communication. Because of all of these problems with Human Ware, it is necessary for me to get a new display for use with my Macbook and my iPhone. I am eagerly awaiting its arrival; see part above about geeks.
Miss Bristol is enjoying a bout of renewed vigor thanks to the cooler weather. She will be fourteen years young in December and we are enjoying every day we get with her.

I have just finished my 127th book of the year. I am currently engrossed in the universe of Stephanie Plum. Janet Evanovich's writing improves as the series progresses, and I highly recommend these books if you need some light reading. Once I finish my current book, I think I'll take a break from the Plum universe and read "Interview With a Vampire." It's either that or "Dracula." I haven't decided. Something scary and appropriate for the season

Oh and it is pumpkin-carving time. Our "bubba" will be carved some time this weekend or next week and I will post pictures of our... masterpiece.

That is the update from here, I need to take a dive into our huge dog freezer to search for tomorrow's canine breakfast. I'm always afraid I'll fall in there, head first one of these days.
So if you are looking for me, and I'm nowhere to be found, check the freezer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing

Yesterday I read a book called "Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing." It was written by Richard Kinney and was published in the 1970's. While reading this book, it really hit me how much technology has really changed the lives of deafblind people within the last thirty years.

In Mr. Kinney's day, there was no way for a person who was blind as well as deaf to use the phone. You couldn't access a TTY for sighted deaf if your couldn't read print. In his book he mentions a couple of devices for using the phone with someone who knew Morse Code. These devices were called the Tactaphone and the Sensicall. They were attached to a phone and the hearing caller could tap out messages in Morse Code which were felt as vibrations by the deafblind person on the other end. If the deafblind person could voice they could speak back. Reading about the lengths a person who was deafblind went through just to place a simple phone call, made me so thankful for my iPhone and braille display.

In the book he also mentioned that the
<"National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped">
had 10,000 braille books available for loan.
10,000 books sounds like a lot... at first... But if you really think about it, and compare it to what sighted/hearing people have, it is only a drop in the bucket. If you had special interests, such as growing carnivorous plants, you were basically out of luck. If you were Christian, there were several charities which would provide you with religious material in braille. There is even a Jewish Braille Institute which provided materials, however if you were another religion, you couldn't get any material easily available in braille.

Today we have
<"Bookshare">
which has, at last estimate, over 125,000 books. The content is largely user driven, so if you are interested in a particular title, or area of interest, you can scan books for the collection, or have a friend do it for you. There are books on almost every topic you can think of. There are sacred texts from many different religions from around the world. There are fiction books, cook books, self-help books, and text books for school. If you have a braille display and a computer or smartphone, or a note-taking device specially designed for the blind and deafblind, you can read. What's more, you can keep the books you like. Braille is three times the size of print. As an example, the first book in the Harry Potter series takes up four volumes in hardcopy braille. I think the book is somewhere in the range of 300 pages.

If I kept every book I loved and wanted to reread or own in hardcopy braille, I would need entire building devoted to housing my book collection. While something like this sounds like the closest thing to heaven on earth, to a bibliophile like myself, it is not financially feasible at this time.

Thanks to technology, I can keep copies of books on a jump drive to be read later. I can keep reference books, and cook books. My braille display weighs 2 pounds whether its hard drive is full of books or not.
Mr. Kinney's book also goes into great detail about the communication methods used by deafblind people during this time period. Although most DB people were using
<"The Rochester Method">
Which was made most famous by Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. It is the one-handed American Manual Alphabet-- the same one used today. This book does not discuss the use of ASL or other signed languages at all.

It does discuss the use of morse code and the British Two-Handed Manual Alphabet. This Alphabet is still in use today around the world, by deafblind people from Canada to Scotland. The books gives very detailed descriptions of all three types of communication. I have always wanted to learn the British Two-Handed Manual Alphabet so that I may more easily chat with DB people from other parts of the world. I already know the One-Handed Manual Alphabet but I don't know Morse code and I think it might be interesting to learn so I have it in my "communication tool box."
Although much of the information is out-dated, this book was still a fascinating read. It really brought home to me how blessed I am to be a DB person living in this current time. I have access to information at my fingertips and on demand. I can call a taxi, read a recipe for curry chicken, or place an order for new shoes by myself. I have frequently heard some people say that technology cuts people off from one another. This may be true to some extent. However for a deafblind person, I believe the opposite is true.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Because of Steve

I'm not really one to be interested in the goings-on of celebrities. However there is one person whom most would consider a "celeb" that changed my life. When the smartphone craze started happening, I was largely left out due to my increasing hearing loss. I canceled my contract with Verizon in 2006, because I was no longer able to use the phone. From that period until 2009, I didn't have one. For most people, a cell phone is a nice thing to have. However for a deafblind person it's a necessity.

I got my first iPhone in 2009. I was able to place relay calls, use GPS, text, and use many other apps right from my phone. For a person who can see and hear, this isn't probably such a big deal. You can read street signs, use a pay phone, if you had to, or read the ingredients on a box of crackers. I can do all of these things with my iPhone.
It has literally opened up an entirely new world for me, and many other deafblind people. It levels the communication playing field and gives us equal access to information which is something we have never experienced. My life-changing ability to have this device which supports braille displays and third-party applications is a large result of the work of Steve Jobs. No matter what you may think of Apple, or its products, or of Mr. Jobs personally, it cannot be disputed that he has changed lives. He has changed my life.

My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. They have lost more than just an innovative thinker-- they have lost a husband, a father, a friend. Steve will very much be missed.

Thank you, Steve for everything. Rest in peace.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love Letter To A Puppy

When you were new, your paws so soft, and untried.
Your toenails miniscule, and me afraid to cut them.
I carry you from room to room, with your head tucked under my chin-- feeling your sweet puppy breaths on my neck.
You are sleeping-- your head in the crook of my elbow, your tail draped over my wrist.
I watch you breathe, and for a little while I know what it is like to feel complete.

Days pass, weeks pass, and you shoot upward.
Your long legs have not learned the art of moving in concert.
I watch as you stumble, fall, and rise again.
We lengthen your collar, and shorten your leash.
I stand with you balanced on my hip-- now your head is above mine.

Yet more, outward, upward, ever changing, moving on, learning more.
I think if I just held still, and didn't blink, I could watch you growing-- see your brain expanding with each new experience.
A year from now, you'll be someone's eyes.
You will stand between him and the very big world
with cars, and shards of glass, and angry people all around you.
This is your purpose, this is the plan.
But as you sleep next to me, curled into a ball of striped legs and ears, and that very long tail, I watch you dream.
The selfish part, that protective part of myself which I didn't even know I had until you came along, wishes that you could stay a puppy forever.
I wish that I could still carry you in the crook of my elbow, and feel your soft paws on my face.
When I was young, they told me that growing up was over-rated. I never understood what they meant until today.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Final Act of Service

A guide dog has many jobs. Stopping at changes of elevation, taking its handler around partial or total barricades on the path of travel, and finding entrances and exits are the most familiar jobs that guide dogs are asked to perform. However there is another task-- one that we don't really think about much. That job is to pull the handler out of the path of on-coming traffic, either by pulling their person back, or getting in front of them and body blocking them. This part of being a guide dog has cost many dogs their lives. Yesterday it happened again.

Our friend has been hospitalized with broken bones and is recovering from surgery. His dog-- who saved his life-- was euthanized because her injuries were too severe, and the only thing that could be done was to end her suffering.

I can't even describe my feelings when I heard this news. Shock, quickly followed by horror and sadness. And the knowledge that my dog, who is currently sleeping next to me on my pillow could be asked, one day, to pay this final price.

I will hold all of mine extra close tonight and will remember the ones we have lost.

I would also ask my sighted readers who drive to pay attention. When you make the choice to get behind the wheel of your car, you are taking on a huge responsibility. This responsibility means that you need to pay attention when you are on the road. Using the phone or flipping through your stack of CDs for "just one second" could end up costing someone their life. Pay attention!

... and hug your dogs tonight, and if you have any extra juju, or energy, send some to a friend who was the victim of someone's random act of carelessness, and who is grieving the loss of his partner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

She's Too Purdy!

I arrived home from Massachusetts on Saturday. I was actually supposed to arrive home Friday night, but that is another tail for another day. Suffice it to say that the plane I was scheduled to take out of Albany couldn't fly out, so the airlines put me up in a hotel for the night.

In my experience, airport personnel are, by and large, the most ignorant people when it comes to knowing the laws which apply to assistance animals and their handlers. The problem is, that most of these people don't believe that they are ignorant-- on the contrary, they tend to misquote the law to me at least once every trip, and when I argue with them and tell them to point out the applicable section of the law to me, they get miffed and can become downright nasty. This trip was sadly no exception.

Saturday morning, I showed up to the Albany airport, bright and early. Laveau was with me, naturally. We made our way to the counter so I could check my luggage, when the woman behind the counter demanded "certification" for my dog. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is the law which gives persons with disabilities the right to travel on aircraft in the United States with assistance animals. Certification is not required. In fact the law states that if the dog is wearing an identifying harness or vest, or if the handler gives "credible verbal assurance" that certification shouldn't be an issue. Laveau was wearing both harness and vest. She walked me up to the counter and was obviously guiding me. But this lady wants certification. So I very politely inform her that certification is not necessary as a condition of access. And then she says that my dog's harness is different than most dogs and it looks "too pretty" so she must not be a guide dog.

Juuuuuust when I thought I'd heard everything, some moron comes along, and opens their mouth thereby proving that the horizons of idiocy are boundless. I inform this woman that the ACAA does not define what equipment an assistance dog may wear. That would be like your car insurance carrier telling you which color of car you may own. Laveau's harness is zebra striped, black and white. Her cape is purple with zebra striped trim and large letters which say "PAWPOWER SERVICE DOG." So we've got the "identifying harness and vest" section of the law covered, no?

I tell this lady that my dog's gear is of no concern to her and that yes she is an assistance dog. The lady then says "So are you blind, or what?" I wanted to reply with "or what?" But I held my tongue and informed her, ever so kindly, that it is not required by law for me to disclose the nature of my particular disability/s. I will gladly tell anyone the tasks my dog performs which mitigate my disability/s but my disability/s are my own and they are personal. This person had not obviously read the law. I told her what tasks Laveau performs which mitigate my disability/s and went on my way with my dog in her pretty gear.

Then I got selected for a random search and the TSA agent managed to turn my carefully packed and organized bag into a jumble of stuff in under two minutes. Now I remember why I stick to riding the train!
With idiotic airport staff aside, it was a wonderful trip and Laveau had so much fun, and played so hard, that she slept for two days once we got home.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rocket Rox!

Laveau and I made it to Massachusetts without incident. On Saturday morning, we went to a garlic festival held in Vermont. It was really neat. There were many different tables set up and you could try all kinds of different things with garlic in them. We had garlic cheeses and dips, garlic mustard and pesto, salsas, and infused oils. I ended up buying a few things to bring home. We also got an order of fried garlic cloves and fried pickles to share. It was a lot of fun.

Yesterday we stayed around home in the morning, but in the afternoon we drove to Saratoga Springs, New York with our friend Lynn. We went to an Irish pub for dinner and I had some lovely Irish cider with my dinner. After we had eaten, we went to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to see Elton John in concert.

I would like to publicly thank John Huff and Kevin Appler of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Live Nation tours for finding me two very skilled tactile ASL interpreters for the show. The entire staff at the SPAC were very professional and courteous, and they helped make this evening an unforgettable time for me.

We were supposed to sit on the lawn, but we were moved to an area directly in front of the stage so we could be close to the interpreters. My two interpreters were really great and we spent time chatting before the show.

The opening act were cellos, and apparently they played popular music by Michael Jackson and Guns and Roses. My friends said it was quite odd.

Elton then came on and he was wearing a suit with roses embroidered on the sleeves and across the back. The pinstripes on his pants were diamonds.

He had a full band and a chorus. I couldn't really hear much at all. His piano was a full grand, and I could feel it in my chest when he played it. My interpreters were great at describing his playing. At one point he was sitting on his piano and playing it, another time he sat on the bench like you'd sit a horse.

He played many old favorites-- Daniel, Benny and the Jets, and Your song to name a few. My favorite by far was Rocket Man. We all stood up and were dancing. My interpreter had her hands up over our heads for the rockets and we were basically doing an ASL dance. The energy in the room at that moment was really amazing. He also played Crocodile Rock and that is very fun in ASL.

Elton walked through the audience shaking hands and making autographs. My interpreter got his autograph for me which is so exciting! It is my first ever autograph.

Laveau and my friend's dog, Yancy, both did really well. Laveau laid with my friends Lynn and Nancy because it was more out of the way. I had to sit facing my interpreters and there was not a place for her where she wasn't in the way, so I sent her back to lay with them and she did fine.

Before the concert started, we got a great deal of rain, complete with thunder and lightning. I was glad we weren't sitting on the lawn, let me tell you! The drive home was quiet; we stopped for caffeine and doughnuts and for the first time ever, Laveau slept in the car she was so tired.

We got home around two in the morning and I went right to bed and slept until eleven. I am still tired believe it or not! Tonight my friend's husband is making his special lamb recipe. It is my favorite ever lamb dish, and I am looking forward to it. Her husband is a very skilled cook and we have had everything from blackberry pancakes to hot wings.

Today we are going to just relax around the house. It is rainy and gray outside and we could all use a day of chillaxing. I think there will be Scrabble and Uno games later in the day.

Happy Labor Day y'all!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Celebrating the Orange Dog

Eight years ago today, the orange dog became a part of our pack. We celebrated this momentous occasion with giant perfect bones from the butchers. I thought I'd celebrate her anniversary on the blog by doing
Eight factoids about Mill'E-Max
1. Her name is actually Miele (said like me ay lay). It is italian for honey, since she is kind of that same color.
2. When she was a puppy she ate an entire pealed grapefruit, and a bag of Twizzlers. To this day she will beg like crazy if she sees me eating either one of those things.
3. Mill'E-Max has been on two cruises with me and has been to Mexico, Grand Caiman and Jamaica.
4. She can, and has retrieved something the size of a small pill, and as large as a gallon of milk. She has also retrieved my hearing aid several times without even getting it wet.
5. She loves helping with laundry. Emptying the dryer is her favorite job, and after she is done, she enjoys crawling into the warm dryer and taking a nap.
6. She talks more than any other dog I've ever had. She enjoys having conversations, and if I grrr, grrr, grrrr! at her she will do it right back. I can't hear it any more but I can feel it. She really likes wrapping paper tubes because they amplify her grrr! She has been known, on multiple occasions to spend minutes at a time parading through the house with said tube listening to herself gggrrrrrr! It is not a "I'm going to bite you grrr, it is a talking sound and I will have to make a recording of it.
7. She knows how to lead other dogs around by holding the leash in her mouth. I have trained her to go find Bristol and bring her back to me via a traffic lead attach to Bristol's collar.
8. It is one of her "jobs" to wake me up in the morning. She will at first lay on me and lick my face. If this does not work, she will resort to removal of pillows and blankets. She also will lay on her side and literally use her four feet to push me out of bed if I continue to resist. She does not have a snooze button, most unfortunately.

Happy eight years together Mill'E-Max Weatherwax! May we be so lucky to have at least eight more.






That'll Do
Lyrics by Randy Newman

A kind and steady heart
can make a grey sky blue;
And a task that seems impossible
is quite possible for you.
A kind and steady heart
is sure to see you through.
It may not seem like very much right now but it'll do, it'll do.

When you find yourself in the middle of a storm
And you're tired and cold and wet,
And you're looking for a place that's cozy and warm
You'll make it if you never forget:

A kind and steady heart
can conquer doubt and fear.
A little courage goes a long long way,
Gets you little bit further down the road each day,
And before you know it
you'll here someone say:
That'll do, Babe, that'll do.

A kind and steady heart
is sure to see you through.
A little courage goes a long, long way,
Gets you little bit further down the road each day,
And before you know it you'll hear someone say:
That'll do, that'll do,
That'll do, Babe, that'll do.





Preparing to vacate!

Things have been very busy in Pawpower Land. Tomorrow I am traveling to Massachusetts to visit some friends whom I have not seen in many years. This, of course, necessitates all of those fun pre-trip activities such as laundry, packing, and shopping for goodies. Being from New Orleans means that you are obligated, by an as yet undiscovered law of the universe, to come with baggage loaded down with everything from pralines to olive salad. Shopping for goodies is one of my favorite pre-trip activities. I like trying to pick out what I think people will like.

I am still in the "laundry" portion of things, and I have prudently purchased very large bones from the butchers so that I may effectively keep all of the dogs out of my suitcase while I'm trying to pack. I am hoping that the dogs will be occupied with the bones long enough to get all of my packing finished and the suitcase stowed in a corner.

We have several activities planned for my time in New England. There is a garlic festival on Saturday, where we get to sample the wide variety of gustatory delights all containing that most magical of all botanicals-- garlic! I am told they even have garlic ice-cream. On Sunday we are traveling to Saratoga, New York to see Elton John in concert. I think I have interpreters for this event. My parents were very fond of his music, so I was exposed to quite a lot of his stuff while growing up. I am super excited to go! The venue is outside and it sounds lovely. We are hoping to go to my favorite diner in Vermont for the obligatory Cajun Omelet. Funny that my favorite Cajun dish is prepared in Vermont! We are also going to the mall and just spending time chillaxing and playing with dogs.

One of my friends has three dogs-- a working guide, a retired guide and a pet golden. My other friend has a working guide. Laveau will not lack for companionship, that's for sure!

Tomorrow my SSP is picking me up to do the afore-mentioned goodie shopping and to go to the airport. I leave around 4 in the afternoon so I can go to work for a little while in the morning which will be nice.

I hope all of my readers have a wonderful and safe Labor Day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I want to be like Durga!

Durga is a Hindu Goddess frequently pictured with eighteen arms. As a Deafblind person, I frequently feel like I should be given more arms than a sighted/hearing person. I'll give you a prime example.

Last week I needed to re-certify for CPR and first aid at work. It was a six hour class for which I had two tactile ASL interpreters. Yes, my arms were really, really stiff after it was all over. The CPR instructor played a video which described the CPR procedures and the members of the class were supposed to "practice" along with the video. We were given a dummy to practice with and the video began. Only how do I "watch" my interpreters interpreting the video and perform CPR on the dummy at the same time. Also the entire thing became so ridiculous that both of my interpreters, and myself could not stop laughing.

I "watched" the video, and then began my work on the dummy. One interpreter tapped me on the arm to mark chest compression, and the other breathed on me to indicate when it was time to give rescue breaths, otherwise known as mouth-to-mouth.

I really could have used some extra arms then, that's for sure. So if anyone has connections with Durga, please kindly ask her to lend me some of her arms!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dogpark Picspam!

Because I still don't know how to put them in here directly you have to go to
<"My FlickR page">
Enjoy!

Edit: We may have figured out how to insert photos directly into the posts..see below.


Bayou Barkers; Laveau rolling in the grass, covered in mud; Baylee chilling in the grass.







Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hands

When folks think about someone who is deaf and blind, most people's immediate response would be to think about how much that individual is missing. They can't see, they can't hear, so what else is there?
...

There are hands. I have never realized how widely people's hands differ from one another until I became deafblind. One of my interpreters has large hands. He has a chunky ring on his left ring finger. It has engravings on it and I think it is beautiful. His hands move confidently, sketching the words in the air. I would know him anywhere by those hands.

My friend has small hands. They are the hands of an older woman-- hands which have seen many years. They are graceful and gentle. They flutter softly against my own, but will then suddenly become emphatic. She tells funny stories with her hands-- has given me so much encouragement with her beautiful old hands.

I talked to a man who had more hair on his hands than most men have on their faces. I felt like I was having a conversation with Bilbo Baggins because of all the hair. For years I couldn't remember his name. I continued to think of him as "Bilbo."

Her hands are long and slender. She usually does musical interpretation for me. She is the song made flesh. She brings the music to me once again through her hands.

I never knew I could learn so much about a person by their hands. Their mood, their body type, their taste in jewelry,or fancy nail polish. I met a lady once who had a ring on every finger. Talking to her was very distracting. I imagine it's the same for a hearing person with food in their mouth, only less gross!

Hands guide, they communicate and teach. They read and answer questions. When I became deafblind, it never occurred to me how hands would open my world.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Three Things

I've been thinking back over my life, and how I have become the person I am today. What things have influenced my life the most? What were the choices I've made which improved my life and overall well-being? And I came up with three things that I think have made me who I am today and which have changed the way I see myself, and the way others see, and interact with me, and how I look at the world. I can't put them in order of importance because to me, it is my independence and my life rests on these three things equally. So in no particular order...
1. Partnering with an assistance dog.
When my only disability was blindness, having a guide dog was nice, and it made traveling easier and much more pleasant, but it wasn't a necessity. Now that I'm deaf and blind, and have a balance and vestibular disorder, my dog is literally my independence. She guides me around obstacles, retrieves items I drop, leads me out of buildings when the fire alarm is activated, gets my medications when I literally can't move from vertigo. She stands between me and moving vehicles. She helps me up when I fall, and lets me know when to wake up in the morning. She is my eyes, ears, hands and vestibular system. It would be extremely difficult to be without her.

2. Learning Braille.
It may surprise you to learn how few blind people learn or use braille. I didn't until I was an older adult and started having trouble with my hearing. Today I use braille for everything. To interact with my computer, and my cell phone. I can read books, keep informed about the news, look up phone numbers, make relay calls, use a GPS, read and respond to emails, and label the poisons herbs in my herb cupboard. I am able to interact with the written word in a hands-on way. Because of the marvels of modern technology, I am able to do use a computer and a phone because I can read braille. Computers and smart phones open up so many doors to people, and level the information playing-field.

3. Learning American Sign Language.
When A blind person loses their hearing, it is so catastrophic. For so long I was isolated. I lived in uncertainty and outright fear. It wasn't even the social aspects which had me so upset, but how could I go to doctors, manage my own shopping, or go to meetings at work if I couldn't hear or see? I qualify for a cochlear implant, but for many reasons it is not an option I'll take. I didn't want to be "fixed." I wanted to be independent. And yes, I wanted to have a social life. I will be forever grateful to the strong Deaf and Deafblind role-models in my life. I am thankful for their patience, for taking me to Deaf and Deafblind events, for helping me, for encouraging me. I am thankful for a fantastic teacher who manages to challenge me while making me laugh. I am thankful to all of the SSPs I've ever had, both in New Orleans and at Deafblind conferences and camps around the country. I am thankful for the gift of language which allows me to make independent medical decisions, to have informed choice when I shop, and which allows me to participate in company meetings and training sessions on an equal footing with my hearing coworkers.
I can honestly say, without those three things I'd be a totally different person than I am today. And with all of that navel gazing out of the way, I think I'll go read a book with my dog!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sausage Wrangler extraordinaire

Yesterday was Mister Pawpower's turn to make groceries. He was bringing in the bags when one of them burst. Naturally it was individually wrapped chubs of sausage which landed, and because my floor is old, and slanted, they rolled everywhere.
All of the dogs were out in the yard, and I decided to put the rest of the groceries away and then let Mill'E-Max in for her to deal with the sausages. And that is what I did.

I let the dogs in and immediately Mill'E-Max went to work, bringing back little chubs of sausage which had rolled behind my table and some chairs. She didn't even break the package with her teeth! I am super proud of her! It also makes me realize how much I depend upon her every day, and how thankful I am that I can have such a fantastic helper.

Today I'm going shopping with my SSP because my old faithful backpack is about to die,. Backpack shopping is a huge deal for me. I keep my life on my back! It has to be waterproof (because I live in the swamp, after-all), and comfortable, and hopefully purple! Because everything I own (almost) is purple, or it has zebra stripes.

As you can see, that's a tall order. Which means a lot of browsing through various stores (which I hate), in search of the perfect waterproof, comfortable, multi-pocketed, and hopefully purple with zebra stripes, backpack of my dreams! My SSP may just kill me before it's over.

Actually, for that matter, I hope Laveau doesn't kill me. She hates waiting patiently for me to look at item after item. But then again, she's enough of a show-off that working in crowded stores and malls is her favorite. And there will be so much to watch! She may not kill me after all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Post-Prandial pondering

We had dinner, it was yummy, but so, so hot!
And while eating, I thought I wondered if I could teach myself to put pictures in blog posts themselves, so this is my attempt. Obviously, I won't be able to tell if this works or not, thus your input is appreciated!




Thos should be two different pictures of a much younger Bristol at her first Barkus (dog Mardi Gras Parade), in 2004. She's dressed as a sun flower with beads around her neck. In one of the pics she is holding a can of Coke in her mouth.

The Tail of the Funny Onion, and other randomness!

I stayed home quite a bit this week because of vestibular shenanigans. This made lots of time for book-reading (Yay George R. R. Martin for writing such long juicy books) and cooking (chicken salad to die for) and dog wrangling.
Yesterday morning all of Laveau's tennis balls had gone missing. Laveau's very favorite toy is the tennis ball and this was a crisis of mammoth proportions! Laveau searched and searched, but nothing-doing. Eventually she decided that if the tennis balls weren't to be found that she needed a substitute. She did not pick any of the numerous other toys we have, oh no. Instead, she picked ....

AN ONION!!!!

I'll grant you, it was a tennis-ball sized onion, but that's where the resemblance stopped. Onions, unlike tennis balls, do not bounce, and I'd imagine the flavor was markedly different! She didn't eat it, just tried to play with it. However the puppy did think to sample the gustatory delight of the onion, and that is where it stopped.

The tennis ball was found in the back yard, and the onion was tossed into the trash.

It has been very, very hot so we haven't walked much at all. Instead we've been playing games of ball and tug inside. I am really ready for October!

Mister Pawpower moved Baylee's blog due to some accessibility issues. You can now read it
<"Here">
There will be new content up soon!

As for the other dogs, they are all good. Laveau is now officially in charge of tiring the puppy out enough so that we can get other activities/training done. Laveau is really good at this new job, like she is good at everything else! Bristol is still pretending Baylee doesn't exist, but has been pretty full of piss and vinegar these last few days, wanting to play tug and in the middle of everything. It's good to see. Mill'E-Max is my big helper, as usual. Today I dropped a glucosamine pill of hers, and I asked her to pick it up and hand it to me so I could put cream cheese on it, because she won't swallow it any other way. So she did that, and was very pleased with herself.
Whoop, the puppy is awake! My blogging time is over for today! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Puppy Prattle

We've been ultra busy here in Pawpower land.  If we're not playing with the puppy, training with the puppy, or taking the puppy out to do her business, we are usually dead asleep! Having Baylee in my life really shows me how much maturing Laveau has done. I adopted her as this young, eager, slightly nervous dog. I sometimes forget that she's really a grown-up now.

On Saturday we took the pack to the dog park. Well OK, Mill'E-Max stayed behind because there wasn't enough room! Bristol and Laveau were off-leash and Baylee was on a long line. We didn't actually see any dogs while we were there, surprisingly. Laveau thought it was funny to run with Baylee and keep on for about five feet passed where Baylee's leash ended. Then Laveau would stop, turn around and taunt Baylee. It was like doggie keep-away. Bristol is still ignoring Baylee so she spent her dog park time checking her Pee-Mail and sending numerous replies.

Mister Pawpower has made Baylee's first "in training" cape. I'm getting it embroidered this week. Only a dog nerd like me would find this super exciting! And OMG her cape is so cute! and tiny! And I imagine that one day, when Baylee is all grown up that we will look at this tiny cape and marvel that Baylee was ever that small.

My dogs are all very vocal when they play. They sound like they are tearing each other's head off, but really it's just fun. Today, Baylee has discovered that she can also make noise-- a lot of noise! I can hear it!
I have a raging ear infection from wearing my hearing aid too much. These infections also produce an increase in vertigo symptoms. This results in a lack of balance, and the inability to distinguish direction. Today, while on the way to meet my ASL teacher, I crossed a small road a block from the coffee shop. It felt to me, like Mill'E-Max had crossed the road on a right diagonal. When we got to the curb, I told her to go left. What I didn't know was that Mill'E-Max had actually crossed straight, and by asking her to turn left, I was asking her to take me directly into on-coming traffic. Because I can't hear, I didn't register this fact. Thankfully, she body-blocked me and pushed me back. Thereby telling me that I needed to think again, and take a closer look at my environment. I finally figured out where I was and she carried on. It's experiences like this which make me so grateful for my dogs and their willingness to have such a crazy partner who is deaf, blind, and with a really crappy vestibular system. I can say for a certainty that I would not be anywhere as independent without a dog.
So Mill'E-Max gets extra praise, treats and love today for being an awesome dog!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun with Puppy

I finally have Baylee pics! But I am a super blog moron and do not know how to put them in my post itself, so go
<"here">
to see 'em!
Baylee also has a
<"Blog of her own!">

Things have been interesting around here. And by "interesting" I mean exhausting, fun, and educational all at once!
On Tuesday, Baylee went to the eyevet so he could examine her eyes to make sure she doesn't have impaired vision. We can't have the blind leading the blind after all!
Thankfully Baylee did great at the eyevets, and so did Bristol!
Today we went for a walk and poor Laveau was the one left at home. Mister Pawpower took Baylee, while I took Bristol and Mill'E-Max guided. We went into the pet-friendly little mini-mart and then walked up to the doughnut shop. I stayed outside with the girls while Mister Pawpower went in with his cane to get doughnuts. Now we are home and the dogs have had a crazy play session, so it's nap time for them! I'm jealous!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bayou Baylee

Today we met Baylee, a Boxer Lab cross. She is five months old, black and gold (because she cheers for the Saints!) and is seriously adorable. She loves to explore new things, isn't afraid of much, and loves everyone; dogs and people alike.
She is Mr. Pawpower's new guide dog in training! I'm trying to get her in with Bristol at the Eyevet tomorrow for a prelim exam and then she'll see our regular vet on Thursday once her records are shipped over.

The other dogs like her pretty well, although Laveau is not happy about her crate getting taken over by the striped upstart!
I need to get her a small service vest or have Mr. Pawpower make her one. The serious guide part of her training won't start for many months but we look forward to obedience training and fun socializing with her.
I am going to try to get pictures tomorrow when I'm with sighted people who know where to point the camera!

WAGS!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Would you like me to open that, Sir?

Mill'E-Max is the brains of the household; paws down. She taught herself to unscrew the caps off of bottles about six years ago. Mister Pawpower really likes wine, but I prefer beer. So he found these small bottles of wine which were only one serving. We were in a post-Katrina house at the time, which didn't have much furniture. Mr. Pawpower sat on the floor-- bottle in hand-- and became distracted by the phone. Mill'E-Max picked up the bottle and started manipulating it. She figured out that she could unscrew the bottle with her back teeth. Mister Pawpower ended his phone conversation just in time to see Mill'E-Max tilting her head to the side, while the now cap-less bottle was tipped with her forepaws aimed right for her mouth. I am not kidding.

Ever since then, Mill'E-Max will take any chance she gets to screw the lids off of bottles. She won't pick them up at random, but if I direct her to pick it up, she then thinks of it as "her bottle." And if i set her bottle down on the floor or a chair or the bed, She will then begin the task of unscrewing the lid.
Today I asked for a water in the fridge. She brought it, and gave it to me. I set it down on the bed to go play tug with Bristol, and three minutes later, I find her on the bed, front paws wrapped around the bottle, back teeth clenched on the lid, and a shit-eating grin on her face, as well as a wagging tail and that set to her ears which meant she was thinking. She had been sitting there, waiting for me to notice that she had the bottle. I did get it away from her before the first turn of the lid.

If anyone ever tells you that dogs don't have senses of humor, don't listen. Or I'll set Mill'E-Max on you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Even Dozen

Today is Bristol's and my twelfth anniversary as a guide dog team. Ok, she's retired, but she is still my partner. I've been thinking quite a bit about everything we've done together, and it is really amazing that one little dog can have such a big impact on a person's life. I got Bristol six days after losing my first dog, Rhoda, to lymphoma at age 3 and a half. To be honest, when I first met her, I couldn't imagine myself ever meshing well with this goofy and very demonstrative little red dog. I was used to Rhoda's aloof mannerisms and high-drive nature.

Our first year together was mostly about me getting over the loss of Rhoda, and trying to figure out what, exactly was wrong with Bristol. If she wasn't having ear infections, her skin was infected. If she wasn't vomiting-- usually in public-- she was having diarrhea, thankfully always in the grass! It was scary and frustrating. Some how, in the midst of all of the sadness and fear for her health, I handed my total trust and my heart over to her, and we've never looked back since.
I couldn't even begin to describe all of the places we've gone together, the changes she has brought to my life, and the deep bond we share. So to take a leaf from two of my favorite bloggers, Brook and Jess, I give you....
Twelve Facts About Bristol:

1. She only weighed 37 lbs and was 16.5 inches tall when I got her from the guide dog program.
2. Bristol was supposed to be a breeder dog for said guide dog program, but thankfully didn't pass the tests for breeders!
3. Bristol's favorite treat is jelly beans. Because of her tendency toward yeast, she can't have many, but she had some today!
4. Bristol has ridden in a boat, a horse-drawn carriage, airplanes, trains, buses, and streetcars. But her favorite form of transportation remains the gulf carts at the airport.
5. Bristol loves to swim. She will swim for an hour or more if you let her.
6. Bristol has helped with the training of at least 5 other guide dogs.
7. Bristol used to go deer hunting with me, and when we shot one, she would try and drag the entire carcass back to the truck by the leg. Needless to say, that wasn't happening.

8. When I first introduced Bristol to raw meaty bones and organ meats, she hated them and went on a hunger strike. Now she eats them with gusto-- even the liver!
9. Bristol is largely deaf now and apparently her bark has changed since she can no longer hear herself barking. She now has a Deaf Accent!
10. Bristol's favorite game is tug of war, and she will win almost every time because she never gives up!.
11. Bristol gave me away at my wedding but my honeymoon cruise was the first time I ever left her behind; I took Mill'E-Max instead. I had to call my friend who was watching her when I made port in Jamaica just to make sure she was alright.
12. Whenever we get new dog gear, Bristol has to be the one to try it on first. She stacks herself and grunts at the person holding the new harness, leash, or vest until they put it on her and let her parade around wearing it. And of course all of the people have to mention, frequently and loudly, how beautiful they think she is wearing the new gear.


I honestly don't know if we'll make it to thirteen years. So today we will celebrate enough for a long time, and then live each day as if it were the only one we had.
Thank you Bristol, for everything. You are the very best!


He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds;
my other ears that hear above the winds.
He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea.

He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason
for being

by the way he rests against my leg;
by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile;
by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.
(I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not
along to care for me.)

When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.

When I am a fool, he ignores it.
When I succeed, he brags.

Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful.

He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion.

With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace.
He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.

His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.
His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and
unknown things.

He has promised to wait for me...whenever...wherever--
in case I need him.
And I expect I will--as I always have.

He is just my dog.
-- Gene Hill

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Access rights; they're not just for people anymore!

Hello people! This is Bristol and I've decided that it is well time I put my paw to paper and write on this blog.
I know that the "Big Bitch" comes in here to write about access and stuff, so in order not to disrupt her flow; I'll stick to this topic.

Did you know that dogs have access challenges too? Not just the kind where you are in the harness and working and some no brained idiot doesn't want to let me into their store, either! You see, dear reader, I am getting older. Like fine wine, I improve with age, but some parts of me just don't work as well as they could. This means that sometimes I have trouble going down steps or on to high places.

So my Uncle Kelly, who is very smart and handy, built me a set of steps to help me get up on the human bed. I like the human bed for snuggle time but the new bed is just too tall for me to jump onto, so Uncle Kelly made me steps. I love them very much, but there is just one problem.

Certain Dobermans and dogs of an orange hue keep laying on the part of the bed next to the steps! Because these dogs refuse to move, I cannot use the steps to get on to the bed! Sometimes The Big Bitch and Bigpops will lift me on to the bed, using the "elevator," but this is not what I want. I need to wait for the people to leave what they are doing to "elevate" me. Whereas, if I use the steps, I can get on and off the bed when ever I want. Laveau and Mill'E-Max are therefore, blocking my access to a place of public accommodation! Well not really public, but it's as close as I can come!

I think us old dogs need to form a PAC; draft a law laying out our access rights! Like, other dogs cannot block the steps on to the bed! We may be able to tack some "Pork Barrel" into this legislation which dictates an increase in our food amounts. I don't know about y'all, but I could use a barrel of pork!


Any other Senior Citizens want to join me?
Wags&Licks®,
Bristol

Friday, July 22, 2011

Uhh, that's not in the brochure!

I'm talking about the brochures put out by the service dog programs. They don't talk about the "real live" stuff of having a service dog. I mean; it's all about "freedom" and "independence", but they don't tell you about the moments (hopefully few and far between) which make you want to crawl under a rug and hide. Moments like I had today... When Laveau, with neither rhyme nor reason vomited in spectacular fashion during my beginning braille class.

Whoops, I should have put a food warning on this. Oh well; I've never been one for rules and lord knows us dog people talk about it without a second thought... So anyway; where was I? Oh yes-- vomit.

See the thing is, all of my dogs have done the deed in public, and I'm kind of an old hand at this. Mill'E and Bristol both are Theatrical Pukers. They had to go through all the motions, gag, heave, etc. It was a huge production. Which, although embarrassing, gave me ample warning of the impending gastric onslaught. I got really good at rushing my dog/s outside, or to a garbage can.
The difference is that Laveau is not a Theatrical Puker; she's one of those rare breeds-- the Stealth Puker®. I swear, one moment she'll be fine, and the next she's just horked her breakfast onto her toes. It's like that song, "Whoop, there it is!" So I was mid-way through my class when I smelled it, and selfishly wanted to hide under the rug.

I am an expert cleaner of these kinds of messes, so I quickly got back to teaching. Laveau is fine; she does this once a year or so-- will just sort of throw up (usually in public) and just be fine.

And can I just say that it will continue to amaze me when people are shocked to see my dog throwing up. One lady once said "I thought they were trained not to do that."

So yes, surprisingly enough, Service Dogs; being that they are *dogs* do all that unpleasant stuff just as we do. And you can train a dog to do many wonderful and helpful things, but they are still dogs and puke happens.

Maybe I'll print up hats for service dog handlers that say "Puke Happens." And when you are cleaning up the mess in the middle of a Wal*Mart, you can put the hat on your head and give people something else to stare at.



Bristol has been quite playful today. She really loves this squeaker chicken I bought for her in Virginia. Isn't that the way it is though-- you spend all this money on expensive toys, and it's the cheap ones you pick up without a thought that they really love.

And just not to leave her out, Mill'E-Max decided that when I asked her to hold Laveau's leash for a second, I really meant that I wanted her to take Laveau for a walk. So Mill'E-Max trotted away-- leash in mouth-- and behind her, there is Laveau, being haplessly led along by a very exuberant Mill'E-Max who thought this was brilliant.

I love dogs!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Observing the Observers

I find it interesting to watch people who are watching Laveau working. People seem to love to interpret her various movements and facial expressions. Most of the time they are wrong about what she is doing, but it's interesting none the less.

One of the main emotions people say Laveau displays frequently is fearfulness. If she backs me away from a car, people are more apt to assume she is afraid, not that she's protecting me from a large vehicle I can neither see nor hear. The same reaction is seen when Laveau approaches steps or uneven surfaces. She will stop, put her body in front of me, and then advance with caution if I cue her. Once again this is seen as fearful. People tend not to realize that she is being very careful with me because I have terrible balance, and have been known-- on more than one occasion-- to just randomly fall over and then not be able to get up without a huge production.

I frequently wonder why so many people have this assumption of "fear" on the dog's part? Is it because that is what they are used to from their pet dogs? Does Laveau really look fearful. Or are people just not used to seeing a dog take control of a situation and make a deliberate decision?
Laveau is very sensitive, and does not like it when I fall, so has learned to be very cautious and careful, and to not listen too me without a keen observation of the environment, because for me, the world is not holding still and I am clueless as to which end is up. But she is not "afraid" of cars, nor steps in and of themselves.

I think it would be very interesting to let a sighted/hearing person with normal balance take her for a walk on leash, and see what she does. Mister Pawpower has worked her several times and once she figured out Mister Pawpower wasn't such a stumbling klutz with crappy balance, she was not nearly so protective and watchful with him. Not that she is unsafe, but I would say that the level of watchfulness Laveau displays with me is abnormally high for most guide dogs. However when she is with him, she's pretty average in watchfulness.

I'm very thankful that Laveau is so watchful. she is never allowed to retire!