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.