Archives for January 2010

Lies and Complaints

I wasn’t going to post about this until everything was said and done, but the more I think about it the more upset I get and the more I realize I shouldn’t have to stay quiet about it. A small handful of people are aware of all of this already and those who follow me on Twitter know a goodly amount as well, but here’s the scoop: I had a complaint reported to Fidelco about me.

Now many of you may note that this isn’t the first complaint I’ve received. Interesting fact, the person who sent this complaint begins by stating that she is the same person who originally reported me for having a dog in such an “emaciated condition.” And while she did give her name this time, she remains a complete stranger to me. The complainer goes on to question “why is this dog still serving this person if it is sick and if she is treating it like this?” The complaint outlines this questioned treatment by alleging that I have been observed to be mean and angry towards Yara on several occassions. She states that she has repeatedly seen me hit the dog. And on the particular date of the complaint — last Friday — she witnessed me being especially short with the dog for “crying” in the elevator and then not allowing her to relieve.

My own opinions on this are all over the map, but first I want to say that I reigned in my feelings about the initial complaint because I convinced myself they came from a good place, a place of concern for my dog. But that fact that she has the gaul to question whether Yara is healthy enough to work just infuriates me to no end. Granted I don’t know her, but even if she’s the most skilled vet in existence I’m positive that casual observation is not enough to confirm whether a dog is too sick to work in harness! I find it hard to not find the rest of the complaint hard to swallow because of this.

The response by those who have learned of this complaint, Fidelco included, has been unanimously on my side. Everyone believes it’s a bunch of lies. And for this I am thankful. Though, for argument’s sake I will admit that so far as the events of last Friday, she is not entirely inventing facts. Yara did whine on the elevator and I did reprimand her verbally to quiet. In the lobby, Yara started to drag me to the door and I gave her a leash correction to come to heel. As I was doing this, the complainer who was on the elevator with me came around from behind and sharply commented that I was “very rude to [my] dog.” I gaped at her for a beat, thinking how much I detest hearing from total strangers how to treat my dog, and then before I said something nasty, I went outside. Immediately upon exiting the front door I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and by the time I got to the corner with Yara I knew I wouldn’t be able to go the day without them. So I turned around and went back in, with a bit of protest from Yara who expected us to turn at the corner and not go back the way we came. When I came back out, with gloved hands, I just let Yara take her pee on a snowbank rather than our usual routine of walking around and/or through the park. And she did certainly have to pee quite a bit, even though she’d been out not even an hour and a half before, because she’s on steroids!

I’m beside myself about the whole thing. As I said, Fidelco was very firm in explaining that they had no worries about Yara’s health and well being. But in that same breath also stated that they will have to come out to investigate the matter. Rationally, I understand this. Especially given that the complainer also states that she expects action to be taken or she will contact other animal authorities about the issue. She goes so far as to throw Buster’s Law into the mix, which is absolutely not applicable to this situation. But still, I’m personally insulted. I can’t help but feel that I’m constantly defending my own skills as a handler. Throughout the working life of our dogs, handlers are constantly faced with the need to defend our competence with our guides. It’s a rare day that goes by that someone doesn’t make a passing remark that you are too harsh with your dog or that your dog should/shouldn’t be doing something or other. Many times these same people are those that catch you five seconds after your dog has walked you face first into a telephone pole; they see you hauling your dog’s front feet off the ground but they didn’t notice you nearly getting a concussion. I’m certainly used to that. In fact, before Fidelco had called me that evening, I thought last Friday’s encounter was just that: some stranger commenting on the correction of my dog. But as time has gone on I feel more and more personally attacked. Between certain members of my family to work and now some tenant in my building I couldn’t pick out of a crowd if I were paid to; when does it end?

Everyone keeps telling me it’s really nothing — and I don’t deny that it is basically superficial — yet the more I think about it the more I feel that I’m drowning in a sea of faults that I can’t attempt to correct. I can’t help but feel that if so many people keep seeing things that are wrong how there can’t possibly be something I could be doing better or at least differently. Maybe it’s just my own shaky confidence after last week’s debacle at breakfast, I don’t know. I just keep reminding myself that I can’t be all that horrible if Yara is this happy and confident both in and out of harness.

I really just want to cry.

Currently

Woke up in the middle of the night yesterday with a stomach ache and ended up calling in which was nice since I was absolutely exhausted from my almost no sleep the night before thanks to Yara’s before dawn wake-ups. Seem to be fine today, but have no idea what the tummy pain was from.

Meanwhile, received my first bill from Verizon for my Internet service and nearly went through the roof. It was over $150 more than they quoted me when I set the service up. After being on hold for an hour, I found out that was because they charged me my installation fee in one lump sum — even though three separate people told me it would be in installments. The CSR told me I only had to pay half and that she’d be giving me a free month of service for the inconvenience. Somehow I see another long, aggravating call to Verizon about this.

Yara is being tapered off Prednisone, since she hasn’t been noticeably itchy in days, and I could not be happier! I’m relieved she’s feeling better, but I wish I knew what she had initially reacted to. She’s been eating a bit better. Well, at least for her. I’m still having to call her back to attempt to finish her food. It’s really the most frustrating thing.

Her one hot spot is nearly completely healed. The other, larger one, is also improving albeit at a much slower rate. She’s still on antibiotics for another few weeks, which seem to be giving her some pretty mushy bowel movements. But aside from that she seems to be just fine and her usual silly self. She was super happy to see Sharon on Wednesday and gladly showed off all her toys.

Frankly, though, it’s been a long week. I am seriously sleep deprived between my own stomach ache and Yara’s nightly steroid-induced antics. I’m sincerely hopeful that this is not an omen of the year to come because I highly doubt I can handle it. At least it’s finally Friday!

“Wheel never stops turning . . .”

Things at la casa del perro enfermo remain eventful as ever.

Yara’s hot spots are healing up pretty well. They are both scabbed up, as I mentioned before. The smaller one of the two has noticeably shrunk and the skin around it returned to a normal color. The larger one remains quite substantial in size and the skin is still obviously inflamed. That coupled with the fact that Yara’s been quite itchy led to the decision to put her on steroids. I was mildly prepared for how not fun this would be for me since Dolly was on steroids for awhile last year and I got a daily phone call of the ensuing crazy. Needless to say, Yara has definitely been reacting to the drugs. Basically, she’s annoying me to no end. She’s not just panting more and drinking more and peeing more, she’s begging for food and has woken me up in the wee hours of the morning for no apparent reason. Interestingly enough, she’s still doing her normal food refusal routine, though, not at the Monday extreme. Mostly she’s just doing the “take her sweet time, have to be called back into the kitchen twice” thing. And she’s specifically left about a mouthful in her bowl every meal. I should admit that I’ve been giving her about a cup extra at every meal since she dropped her weight, so I can’t really be too upset about this obstinant behavior.

On the EPI front, she’s been back on Viokase for about three weeks now and seems to be putting a bit of her weight back on. Her stool’s been a bit soft, but I can’t be sure if that’s not from the other meds she’s on. Or even if it’s just stress. She’s been shedding a lot, too, which was definitely a marker of an EPI flare up. I am a might concerned, though, because I discovered a rumor that Viokase has been discontinued. It’s not a dire thing since the enzyme is still readily available, but I’m not without worry because we just went through a huge ordeal when trying to put her on a different brand. Certainly a complication. For now, there’s not too much I can do and things are in the air as to what can and/or will be done.

Suffice it to say, 2010 is turning out to be a stressful year thus far.

Contest of Wills

A few people on Twitter — and any of my Facebook friends — may have seen a few crisis sounding updates this morning regarding me and a certain guide dog of mine. Frankly, I only feel marginally better about it all and I’m pretty sure my crying jag isn’t yet completely over. But I figure I maybe could use to get it all out there, especially since those that saw those concerning updates might be intensely curious as to what is going on.

First, a small explanation about a common occurrence with Yara. It’s not exactly a secret, but I haven’t shared it with many people outside of a few close friends and Yara’s vet. I’ve stated time and again that Yara is a finicky eater. It doesn’t matter what you try to entice her with, if she doesn’t want to eat no power on this earth is going to make her take one mouthful she doesn’t want to. This is not even a slight exaggeration; she’s turned down everything from a lone kibble in her bowl to her favorite treats to a piece of hamburger and every thing in between.

The less candid side of this is how she often reacts to this refusal to eat. My morning routine at home is generally to make her breakfast up and leave her to eat it while I shower. Normally she’ll be lounging on her bed when I’m done and her bowl is nearly always empty when I go into the kitchen to make my tea.1 When it’s not, one of two things happen. If the kitchen happens to be devoid of, well, evidence I’ll call Yara back in and almost always she’ll eat the rest of the food. However, more often than not there is evidence of this lack of eating and by that I mean that Yara herself is in the kitchen accompanied by some type of bodily excrement. Before her diagnosis — and very, very occasionally since — this was diarrhea and/or vomit and a good amount of either or both. But almost always since her diagnosis it’s piss.

Believe it or not, I understand the whole thing better than you’d think. See the thing is Yara’s a pretty smart cookie and she gets the routine of her meals quite well, even if she doesn’t necessarily feel like cooperating with it. The food goes down and if she doesn’t eat it, she doesn’t get a window much beyond me exiting the shower because we don’t have time to sit around all day until she decides she’s hungry or whatever. It was pretty obvious at first because these accidents would happen right in front of me, sometimes right after I’d set her food down. And she’d look at me like she was the guiltiest dog ever, knowing that she’d made a bad in both not eating when she should and by taking a crap inside. It was stressful. And it was more obvious after her diagnosis because the frequency of these accidents dropped dramatically. However, they haven’t stopped completely and in some ways they’ve gotten much worse because she won’t just have an accident in the kitchen she’ll instead bolt out of the kitchen when I enter and proceed to trail the evidence of her stress throughout my whole apartment.

It’s a no-win situation because I can’t punish her for it and yet she always reacts like I’m going to kill her.2 Yara has this strange thing in common with Dolly in that they both react like they’ll be bodily harmed when neither of them has ever had a rough hand laid on them. Today was one of the worst examples of this because after I finished cleaning up, I found my dog in my tub, hiding behind the shower curtain, shaking violently.

Probably the only thing that kept me from falling apart completely myself was that she didn’t shy away from me when I found her. But I have to admit I really and truly don’t know how much more of this I can handle. I spent a good hour this morning just crying hysterically about how rotten a handler I must be that I can’t keep this dog from having these gigantic issues. A not small part of me just wants to give up because it’s horribly stressful for me — not to mention her treatment isn’t cheap and does still leave me with a dog I can’t work now and then. And yet for a million and one other reasons I don’t want to give up — and there are a good number of these that seem terribly selfish to me. Frankly, I feel like a failure.

Anyway, I called her vet about the hot spots this morning — which are healing nicely — and talked with her about both the above and the fact that Yara still seems excessively itchy. For the itchy, we’ll be putting Yara on steroids for the next few weeks. But as for the whole eating thing, her vet feels that it’s basically what I’ve always presumed it to be: a contest of wills regarding her eating. I didn’t mention my whole lack of confidence as a dog owner and guide dog handler, since I’m sure she’s well aware of Yara’s lack of abuse at my hand I have to say I felt only slightly better, but hearing that unprompted conclusion from someone other than me was a nice thing.

Still, I really just don’t know.

  1. Yes, tea. Since I’m no longer allowed to have coffee due to the migraines I supposedly get from them. And while I do greatly enjoy tea, I have to admit I don’t think the lack of my morning cup of coffee has done a thing other than make me extra crankier when the whole Yara not eating her breakfast routine occurs.
  2. Not that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind which just makes me feel like the worst person ever.

Reading and Blogging

I haven’t paid much attention to the lists feature on Twitter since it was first introduced, but randomly the other day I took a quick peek at the ones that I’ve been included on by other tweeps. After getting over the initial bewilderment that accompanied the idea of people actually having any interest in the things which my keyboard produces, I couldn’t help but notice the rather eclectic nature of that grouping of lists. Maybe I’m blind to my own attributes, but while not necessarily inaccurate descriptions none of them are really things I’d personally have used to categorize myself.

With the exception, of course, of the “avid reader” because acceptance is good for the soul and I’m pretty sure I have an addiction. Seriously, though, I grew up with a firm appreciation of all things literary. My grandmother is a reader of epic proportions and she’s done her level best to impart this trait onto all of her offspring. Of all of her grandchildren, I’ve lucked out the most in this because my father is without a doubt her biggest success in the category of well read. Between both of their personal libraries I always had some book to fall back on if I ran out of a stash of my own and considering how often the library and used book store were visited that is saying something. I’m vaguely sure that my grandmother would attempt to provide me with a full year’s worth of reading each Christmas because it was never complete without the obligatory BAG of books. Once for my birthday she took me shopping to pick out books and I was so overwhelmed believing I should only pick out a handful or so and desperately trying to choose. Nanny was having none of that; she walked up to a shelf, stuck her arm behind the stack, knocked it all into my arms (well, mostly the floor) and announced that we were taking the whole lot to the clerk behind the counter.

So, it’s hardly surprising that decades later I’m still reading away. I admit, I spend a good deal of hard earned cash dollars American buying books and were it not for the local library, bookswap, and lending from friends I’d most assuredly spend even more. In fact, I have to limit my exposure to AbeBooks and eBay because cheap books are my kryptonite.

However, I have discovered that all this reading is really only fun if you can do more with it, which is why I’ve taken up two things that allow me to learn and grow, both as a reader and beyond. One was joining a new book group. I’ve had some very bad luck with book groups in the past. Mostly, they just don’t bother to really talk about a book. (Contrary to popular belief “it was good” is not a critique.) But this particular one was recommended my friend Grace, on whose opinion I sincerely trust in this regard, and she vehemently endorsed their willingness to discuss the books they read. I’m quite happy.

The second is probably more obvious to those of you who’ve happened upon this blog for any amount of time: blogging of book reviews. Or possibly more accurately “rambling about books on my blog.” Book blogging was the second big thing that I really focused on when I began blogging. (The first would be Dolly and guide dogs in general.) It kind of came about sort of randomly back when I was still a slave to LiveJournal. I saw a good portion of my friends’ list posting movie reviews or pontificating on a specific episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought: “I could do that!” And I did. But for as much as I enjoy me some good TV and the occasional flick, it very quickly began to feel like a chore. Then I happened across a book review website and voila! there was my niche. Not from lack of interest, blogging about books has become somewhat lax of late. No surprise considering my whole avoiding my to be read pile and other subsequent distractions (*ahem*). Whether others may have noticed the absence is irrelevant because it has been very obvious to me. And this is not only due to the growing number of ARCs and free giveaways that are begging to be rambled about.

I don’t really subscribe to the idea of New Year’s resolutions; I feel that self-evaluation and goal-setting can and should happen all year. Last year, I made the effort of whittling down my to be read pile be my resolution and goal. (Which was a fail/success depending on how you look at it — I go with success.) By extension this year my goal will be to more actively review and blog about those books which strike me as worthy of such. I’m not setting a specific number or frequency because that will surely kill all the fun. I’ll let the books and my mood decide for me.

By the way, you need not worry about Yara. She and I have an understanding; she’s really the star of this blog and I have been made fully aware of this.