Monday, May 28, 2012


Lets face it, for many of us, Memorial Day isn't really about Memorials. It's about barbecues, swimming, and welcoming in the summer season. I'm no exception to this. Although I try to spend a little bit of time during the day reflecting on the sacrifices of our troops, I don't really do as much as I could.

This Memorial Day is a bit different for me. It is the first one without my Grandpa. He passed away from complications of cancer last month. I flew to Montana to attend his funeral and to be with my family. My Grandpa was many things to many people, but he took pride in his service in the Army during WWII. If you'd like to read more about his life, you can read his
The active Military part of his life was long over by the time I came along. I remember him best in his boat. When we would come to visit, he'd take us fishing. We'd get up at the crack of dawn and My sisters and I would climb into my Grandpa's old truck, smashed in the middle between my Grandpa and my Dad. My Grandpa always brought his thermos of coffee, and we'd stop at the gas station for juice and Oreo Cookies to take with us before heading on to the lake.

We would pull up to the dock and my sisters and I would wait, for what seemed like an eternity for my Dad and Grandpa to unhitch the boat from the back of the truck and get it into the water. Then we'd all climb aboard and watch the shoreline recede as my Grandpa drove us out into the middle of the lake.

One of my favorite memories of my Grandpa was the time he let me drive his boat. I remember my hand on the wheel, and my Grandpa standing over me, giving me direction. It was one of the only times I've ever gotten to drive. We didn't catch fish every time, but we always had fun.

It was hard for me to communicate with my family at some of the big dinners before the funeral. My Dad got me an interpreter for the service, for which I'm very thankful.

After the service, we drove to the Fort Harrison Cemetery where my Grandpa was buried with Military Honors.

The grass was brown, and it seemed to stretch on forever. The Montana big sky was cloudy and gray. The wind blew, and it really struck me-- when we left, we would be leaving him here, in this barren wintry place. He would not be waiting at his house, he would not be waiting around the next corner, or through another door. He was gone.

After the guns finished firing, the bugler played Taps. It is a very simple song, one most people probably don't appreciate much. But as I stood there, in the cold of our communal loss, I heard the bugle call across the lonely Montana land. I heard him play the song. And the lyrics sprung to my mind.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.
--Horace Lorenzo Trim

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confessions of a Dewclaw Killer

My porch looks like a crime scene, and if you were to ask Laveau, she'd tell you that this is exactly what it is. Laveau was growing herself some funktastic nail action. I mean she had some serious Drucilla nails. I had been meaning to cut them, but it seems like lately the moment I'd decide to cut them something else would need to be done and it would get pushed aside.

So today I decided that it had to be done and after lunch, I adjourned to the front porch. We started into reducing the nail-funk quotient by half. Everything was going along just fine. I had my nail clippers, and my styptic stuff, and the clicker with a big bag of treats. See, I'm a good trainer, or I'm mainly just imitating one and hope it rubs off on me!

It was going really well, until I got to her left dewclaw. I had done all her other nails by this point and was almost done. I put the nail through the hole, bent down to click and Laveau jumped, and then I cut.

What followed afterward was just repeated bouts of bleeding and stypticing (Laveau did the bleeding and I stypticed). And I swore a lot and felt really terrible and wanted to fall through the porch into the scary place under the house where the feral cats live. Ugh! I suck!

Eventually (PAH!) she stopped bleeding and then I let her go inside. I brought out Bristol, and out her clipped without issue. (Huge sigh of relief)!

It's thundering out and since Mill'E-Max has gotten kind of thunderphobic in her olden golden years, I really don't want to pick this time to clip her nails. Mister Pawpower has decided Baylee's claws are fine for now and that he and I would benefit from the judicious application of beverages which contain fermented grain products.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I'm trying to get used to this new commenting system for Blogspot, and I think I accidentally deleted some of y'all's comments. I think I've figured the commenting system out, but I don't know how to restore the deleted comments. My humble apologies to my readers! It's not you-- it's me! Promise! :D

You're doing it wrong!

I really am beginning to think that the average American has watched far too many specials on Animal Planet or PBS about service dogs. People seem to think that they are now equipped with the knowledge of how service dogs work, how they should be acting, what they can or cannot do, and how the dog must think or feel. And they just can't wait to educate me, because obviously... I'M DOING IT WRONG!

The other day, I was in an outdoor mall with Laveau. We were going at a pretty good clip when my arm brushed against a pipe at shoulder level. It was really a light brush which I hardly felt, however I guess it made quite a bit of noise. Upon hearing the sound, Laveau stopped and saw what had happened. I didn't say anything-- rather I chose to go back about six feet and let her have another go passed the pipe. I told her "forward" and the second time she walked by it and made sure I cleared it.

A man stopped us, and proceeded to tell me how I was too easy on my dog, and how if I don't "show her who's alpha" and "punish her mistakes" that she would "take the boss role in our relationship." and how "she must not be fully trained if she's still making mistakes like that."

I really and truly wanted to scream at this person and start hitting him about the head and neck with the very pipe on the wall. First of all, dogs are dogs. No matter how much training they have, no matter how hard a person works with them, they are still dogs and they make mistakes. Yes, even service dogs with a huge vocabulary and who perform complex behavior chains are still dogs and they have bad days sometimes. Expecting them to be perfect is unfair to the dog and is just completely unreasonable. Is anything else in this world perfect? I didn't think so. Why then is a service dog expected to be the exemption to that law of the universe?

Secondly, my dog, being a dog, made an honest mistake. She knew she made an honest mistake right after she made it. She did better the second time and she remembers about the pipe every time we pass that area and has never run me into it again. Bossing her around and tearing her down just because she made a mistake is cruel and unnecessary. I don't show leadership by being an asshole; I show leadership through compassionate understanding and through faith and pride in her work.

Then, on the other side of the spectrum, we have the lady I ran into last week. Laveau and I were walking to the store. Laveau works this rout frequently and was bored. She wasn't paying attention and was repeatedly making a lot of stupid little mistakes. Finally she brushed me off on one planter box too many and I stopped. I tapped the box, and asked her for targeting behaviors, and some obedience. I made her rework it and I stopped again and asked for more cued behaviors. The lady coming down the street thought I was "mean to make her do the same thing with her again" and that it was "only a little scratch," from running into the planter.

Dogs, like people, will never grow to improve if someone does not hold us accountable for our mistakes. She can do the work and if she is not working, I will find out why, and if it is simply out of boredom, well that's too bad. Life isn't always exciting, and while I try to keep work fun for her, sometimes it just isn't and she will be expected to put on her metaphorical big dog underpants and work anyway.

Then we have the fine example of the human idiot whom we met in the coffee shop this morning. Mister Pawpower and I, along with Baylee and Laveau, walked to the coffee shop for some tea. We were standing in line, when a lady started asking why our dogs weren't wagging their tails. She kept wanting to know why they weren't happy and what was wrong with them and was frankly, rather obnoxious about it.

I don't know about you all, but I hardly find waiting in lines to be the most exciting way to spend my time. My dog feels the same way, I'm sure. I don't know where people get these crazy ideas about the way dogs feel. No, service dogs don't wag their tails night and day. They are dogs and they wag about as much as the average dog. If this lady thought being in a coffee shop was that exciting, then she should wag her own tail!

By and large, my interactions with the public aren't this stressful and negative. I just really wish that people would realize that watching a program on television, doesn't make them an expert on service dogs. Just because you know someone with a service dog, and spend time with them, that does not make you an expert on service dogs. Volunteering your time as a puppy raiser for a program does not make you an expert on my service dog. The only expert on my relationship with my service dog is me. If I need assistance or if I want an opinion about a training issue, I will ask for it from someone I trust. The average person on the street should mind their own business.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Randomness on the half-shell

I wanted to mention that by popular demand I signed up for this service called Audio Boo. It's like... audio blogging! I know, strange thing to do if one is deaf, but no more strange than being blind and having a FlickR page! There are three entries up right now-- all dog related. To listen, go

I also wanted to remind my readers that Bayou Baylee, the youngest, and by far the sassiest, member of the Pawpower pack has her own blog. If you want to check it out she is
<"Over Here">

An essay from my blog has also been featured over at
<"The Vision Through Words Blog">
Go and enjoy all of the informative and wonderful articles on the blog, if you have a moment.

On a totally random note, I got a wand blender from Amazon. It is this long skinny stick with a blade at the end and you can use it to make all kinds of things like pie fillings, or smoothies or whatever. I have been making tea smoothies! I take a 12 ounce container, fill it half way with iced tea and half way with fruit, and give it a spin. I use Ceylon tea brewed with herbs from my little plant garden. I also add the juice of a lemon or lime.

It is very yummy and healthy. I don't add any extra sugar, although Mister Pawpower has been known to add some. I'm searching for another excuse to use my new toy, so any recipe ideas will be much appreciated.

As you know from reading the paragraph above, you see that my plants are still alive and kicking. Well they have not started to kick as of yet and truthfully I hope they don't! But they have grown and spread and I have used the mints and the lemon balm in teas. I am also thinking of adding to my collection-- my next purchases will be a dill weed, some cilantro, and oregano. See, you can teach an old dog new tricks after all!

Don't Panic!

I think every deafblind person needs a manual. A sort of "how to" of deafblind life. I'd call it the Hitchhiker's Guide to your crazy new DEAFBLIND Adventure! And it would have all kinds of helpful sections in it, explaining everything from how to make a relay call to the best way to find an interpreter at an event in another state. This book would be overflowing with informational tidbits, and it would come with a bonus section for deafblind professionals and our particular situations. Don't Panic!

I really could have used this book today when I was asked to attend a lunch meeting. The concept of a lunch meeting is pretty smart-- if you're hearing, or sighted and can gather the information being presented with either eyes or ears, and can use your hands to eat. Since I have yet to grow the additional pair of arms I have been requesting, I don't do lunch meetings very well. I've found my best strategy is to arrive early, try to be first for food, go off to my corner and eat as much as I can before it starts. Even better than that would be to eat ahead of time, but usually the mornings on the days of lunch meetings are jam packed and I don't have time to eat. Such was the case for today.

I arrived early, get in line and grab my plate. Lunch for today is salad, chicken breast, and fruit. This is not good because meals where I have to use my fork and knife like a civilized adult take longer to eat than a sandwich which is also easier to save should I be unable to have any before the meeting starts. My interpreter finds me a corner where I sit down and begin to eat. I get about half way done with my salad, and am about two bites into my chicken which is actually good-- unlike most of the stuff that is served at meetings of this nature, no matter your location. I go to take another bite when my interpreter taps me on the arm, indicating we are about to start. No more eating for me, my 2.5 minutes are up and it's time to participate in the meeting and secretly regret that Santa did not see fit to bless me with even one more arm because I did not eat breakfast and would like to have some fruit.

But business waits for no man, or woman and so we are off! ... until my interpreter-- in an over-exuberant use of elbows- knocks my glass of tea into my chicken and in one swift motion, unites the two, in a fit of tea-flavored chicken goodness. The interpreters switch out, and another one takes the place of the one I had while he runs for napkins to clean up the mess. There went my lunch! Oh well, I didn't have time to eat it anyway! And at least this time it wasn't me who did it!

I was really hungry when I finally arrived home! Good thing Mister Pawpower made me pork enchiladas! They were better than chicken any old day!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To Read

When I was in first grade, my class took a field trip to the Public Library. I remember that library smell-- dust, and paper, mixed with the aroma of focused silence. We trooped around, looking at the brightly colored books. I don't remember anything of what the teacher or the librarian said, but I do remember how I felt. After the talk, explaining the library and probably the Dewey Decimal System (something I still do not understand to this day), all of my classmates broke up into small groups to explore. I sat, on a hard wooden chair and waited to go home. It's the only time in my life I've ever wished to be sighted.

I could read using a closed-circuit television (CCTV) which magnified the text of a book onto a screen. While I managed to get my school work done using this device, it left little time, nor inclination, to read for pleasure, so I didn't. But I always wanted to read, just like the other kids in my class, I wanted to look at the different books, pick out a few, and take them home.

The reading opportunities for people with print-related disabilities have expanded a great deal in the last twenty years. We have
<"The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped">
<"Book Share">
As well as other options.

We can get books on tape or CD, in Daisy format, either audio or print, in specially formatted files for braille displays, and in MP3 format to put on an iPod or one of the small special-made reading devices for hearing blind people. We could even buy a regular print book, and scan it with a flat-bed scanner if we had one, or had the time to do that.

It's only been very recently that we have had truly instant access to books equal with our sighted peers.

A few months ago, I started a series of fiction books. I read about ten in this series before I got to a stopping point. The next book in the series was not available. I searched, I asked friends if they knew where I could get this particular book. I have more than enough books to stop reading this series and wait for the book, and read something else in the meantime. But I wanted this particular book and I wanted it right then! In the old days I wouldn't have had a choice. I'd just have had to wait until someone scanned a copy or until the Library for the Blind got a braille copy. I would have been waiting a while because this book was of a subject matter not of mainstream interest.
Thank goodness for technology! Since nobody had this book, I went to the store, got the book, and read it. It was the first time in my whole life, I've ever been able to do that. The store was the iBookstore run by Apple, and the book was some kind of text file. I used my iPhone and braille display to read it. Because of Apple's commitment across the board to people with disabilities, I was able to do something I've wanted to do since I was six years old.

The book won't find itself on to my annual list of "Top Fifteen Best Reads" for the year. But it will always stand out in my mind as the first book I've ever bought to read just like anybody else. Now that I've had that experience, there is no stopping me!

Happy reading, y'all!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Catchup post #1: Jazzfest 2012!

I've been a busy Zebra these last weeks so here come a bunch of "catch up posts!

Last weekend was the second week of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, or as we call it-- Jazzfest. Yes, I'm deaf and blind, and yes, I look forward to this festival every year. You can read about some of reasons Many PWD enjoy attending the fest, and you might see a familiar face in the article
People always ask me, why a person who is both deaf and blind wants to go to a music festival? And it's really hard to explain.

First of all, I do get tactual ASL interpreters for the performances I attend. And even if I didn't, I'd probably still go. I love walking around the race track with my friends, scoping out all of the food options, visiting with other friends in the access tent and just taking it all in. Oh and watching my dog work it all! I mean, literally thousands of people-- traveling the pathways, standing in groups talking, standing in lines, or just dancing. She guides me around them all, and then takes a nap during the concerts or when I stop to eat. I am amazed by her flawless work at this festival every year.

This year was no exception. I started picking the acts I wanted to see in January and only came to a decision in early April. In the morning, I saw Big Sam's funky nation. It was a great deal of fun. They are a local band, but I try to see one local group every year since I never usually get to see them with an interpreter.

The second group I saw was the Eagles. Yes, those Eagles, and yes, they are old but still rocking their guitars, even Joe Walsh, who has no teeth, by now. When they came on stage, my interpreter told me how old they looked, but that they were sounding great. You can go to Youtube and see some of the songs they did, such as
<"Life In The Fast Lane">
<"Hotel California">


<"Peaceful Easy Feeling">

I sat right next to the stage, and Laveau *slept* or at least laid down and chilled in the wooden box which is set up for the platform interpreters who sign for the sighted deaf during the performance. One of the sides of this box is open and Laveau spent this performance-- as she has the past four years of performances-- chillin in the box. As one Jazz Fest worker put it: "Oh, there's the dog who sleeps through rock concerts!"

This was an amazing show, brought to life for me through the combined talents of the band and of my interpreters! The weather was beautiful, with enough sun to keep it from raining, enough wind to keep the air moving, and enough clouds, to keep from baking.

Now I have to wait a whole year until my next Jazzfest! I think my arms will be rested by then!