Inauguration Day and Miscellany

I’ve so much to talk about and hardly any of it is related to one or another, so pardon the random as this isn’t in any particular order.

I’m not really that into politics, but I readily admit today was an auspicious day. At work staff were able to watch the ceremony in the video conference room this afternoon and I was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout. Everyone was very enthusiastic and there was a rousing round of applause after President Obama’s oath and an even larger one at the conclusion of his speech. I think a lot of people find Obama supporters (especially those in my generation or younger) to be idealistic, but I really believe that if we truly strive for all the change that we profess we want then surely it could happen. Historically our country has shown we can do the impossible and I personally don’t think the point of the matter is “if” we can, but the simple fact that we need these dramatic changes! I was very pleased to see these points covered in Obama’s speech. (Which you should absolutely read if you missed the ceremony; it’s well worth it.) I’m very eager to see where we go from here. I was less pleased to see the rampant stupidity raging through my Twitter followers and blogroll. I respect others’ opinions that differ from my own and I don’t think it’s much to ask that you do the same even if you do feel Bush can walk on water or Obama’s going to send the country to Hell. But you don’t need to be nasty about it nor do you need to insult those who don’t think as you.

In part this may be why I decided to forego a bunch of social networks I hardly particpate on and deleted a bunch of accounts. If you’ve paid any attention to the sidebar, you clearly know the places I frequent anyway so it shouldn’t be any great loss. This mass exodus may also partially stem from the cleaning/organization spree I was on over the weekend. I feel quite accomplished. Strangely i don’t feel that my bedroom/office is in any better shape and my livingroom seems oddly empty, but these are hardly things upon which to stress. The organization did alert me to the fact I’d amassed rather a large queue of unwatched DVDs and so I also spent a good deal of time over the weekend working my way through an assortment of medicore to downright fantastic films. At the risk of embarrassing myself with a number either too large or small depending on your point of view, I won’t bother listing them all. Suffice it to say, I did venture out of doors and Yara had a nice romp in the park. From which I’m quite sure we managed to track into my freshly cleaned apartment about half of Albany’s mud. I’m nearly positive that I’m more bothered by this than she.

Yara had her follow up appointment at the vet’s today, where she weighed in at an even 61 lbs.! Dr. Gundersen was very pleased with how she looks, extreme shedding aside, and while she did note that Yara is “lean” and shouldn’t loose any substantial weight, she gave Yara a clean bill of health. We were quite seriously told not to come back before mid-May for Yara’s annual exam!1

I decided not to waste the effort of telephone tag to call Fidelco to update them on this. From what I’m hearing from staff and volunteers I can pretty much give up any hope of ever seeing a reimbursement from the school given their current financial situation. I’d say I’m annoyed or upset but I long since stopped caring to be quite honest. I’m more concerned about the news I’m hearing as it’s quite unsettling.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Dinner is calling my name. Ta for now!

  1. As any earlier visit would mean that Yara was ill and/or had regressed.

November 3, 2008

Dr. Gundersen called earlier to give me the results of Yara’s GI test and the good news is that we do have a concrete answer as to her weight loss.

The bad news is that she has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Which means she’ll need to be on an enzyme supplement. For the next month, she’ll be on antibiotics to kill the bacterial overgrowth and probiotics to rebuild the proper bacteria in her intestines, as well as weekly B12 shots for the next two months. The vet also suggested a prescription diet of Purina EN as it’s lowfat and low in fiber, but frankly so is the food she’s on and I think it’s better quality. Not to mention since I switched her to the reduced fat EVO, her stools went from kind of tan and mushy to completely normal. We’ll see on that.

Anyway, the enzyme supplement will probably be required for her entire life and is roughly $150 a month. The antibiotics, shots, and probiotics will hopefully only be necessary for the next month or two. But at this point nothing is certain. Will continue to keep everyone updated as I find out more.

EDIT: Spent over $350 at the vet’s yesterday getting all of Yara’s supplies and her B12 shot. We’ll be going back next week for a quick follow-up and to receive another shot; I’m planning to purchase the other six doses then and administer them myself. Two meals down and Yara seems completely unaffected by all this stuff added to her food, she very happily cleaned her bowl both times. She does seem very interested in all the fuss made over its preparation, she sits in the kitchen watching me aptly.

First Time at the Vet

Yara standing in the aisle near my desk, chewing a massive bone

Yara has what I’ve come to think of as a chewing OCD. Behold the proof above wherein she is so focused on chewing a knuckle bone I’d given her one morning that she actually forgets to lie down. Eventually chasing the bone around became too much of a workout, but it took her a good twenty minutes before she clued into this.

In fact, that particular day at work she spent quite literally the entire day chewing on said bone. At one point she chewed it for three hours straight without one single break even. Luckily for me the coworkers near my area don’t seem to mind the pretty obvious sound of my dog gnawing a bone, even when she gets so involved in it she actually starts breathing heavily. Really, it’s quite amusing.

Yara lying on her bed using a pile of toys as a pillow

In other news, Yara had her first visit to the vet’s yesterday. You’ll all be happy to know she is in perfect health; although, she has lost an incredible twelve pounds since first arriving at my home! My vet, who has a long history with Fidelco dogs having grown up fostering a breeding bitch and several career change dogs, didn’t seem overly concerned. I did mention her irregular stomach issues, but they don’t seem to be at a point where she’s not getting enough nourishment. Dr. Gundersen said it’s quite possible Yara is just very lean, but she was quite amused to have the rare opportunity to tell someone to feed their dog more food. To be honest, I don’t really see that she’s lost weight, but I did have to ask Fidelco for a new chest strap since hers had gotten so loose. Anyway, I’m to add another cup of food daily to Yara’s meal and we’ve got another appointment on June 10th to weigh her again . . . and also get her AVID microchip1 implanted!

Yara lying on the floor, watching me from the kitchen doorway

This coming Friday, we’ll be taking the Amtrak to C.T. for Fidelco’s graduate dinner and walkathon fund raiser. So, please don’t be alarmed if there is a lack of posting or replying to comments here. Though, admittedly, my excitement over the trip has more to do with meeting Yara’s fosters, Patty and Tom, and spending the weekend with Raechel and James and their horde of dogs! But regardless, I’m sure we’ll have a grand time, even though the forecast looks like it’s going to be a pretty soggy weekend. I will do my best to both remember my camera and actually take some pictures to share. ;-)

  1. One of the many membership benefits of IAADP, to which I gratefully thank Wendy.

Training Recap

Busy last few days, been far too exhausted to even attempt meaningful posts. So I give you a quick rundown of the last few days.1

Monday was another “off” day for us and so the initial plan was to go back to Rotterdam Square Mall for a third time; however, I goofed when transferring buses and instead I just went to the local Price Chopper. Aside from not being used to me manhandling her for proper and safe positioning on the bus, Yara did amazingly well. And, as humorous as it may sound, I’m glad to say we survived our first experience of getting lost.

Tuesday, Megan and I took Yara to the SUNY Albany campus to work a bit inside and out. It’s a great place to kind of “test out” so to speak, since it’s not exactly guide dog friendly; especially when the fountains are off. The campus literally looks the same from every direction so there are very few landmarks and while a cane user can just follow the buildings along to find her way, a guide dog user is faced with many wide open spaces. There’s also a lot of random drop-offs right near stairs and some of them are fairly high and devoid of guard rails. We got to work with stairs for the first time and not surprisingly Fidelco’s method is slightly different than what I learned at GEB. Both are equally awkward, though, as you end up placing a foot on the first step before going forward. It’s a rather strange position to stand in with your hand on the harness. Yara was very good and for the most part wasn’t too distracted by all the people and the new surroundings. We worked with following again and it’s always so interesting to see her figure things out when she doesn’t quite give me enough clearance. I tripped over a stool in the library and afterwards she was extremely cautious when we would pass another one.

We’d planned to have Dolly and Yara meet that night, but as I was making dinner Keith called to bow out since the weather was getting pretty nasty near him. In the end, Megan came over anyway and we had the huge pasta dinner I’d whipped up without him. It was quite nice just chatting and having some good food. Megan was pretty shocked to see how calm Yara actually has been around here. She mentioned that she sees a lot of Yara’s brother, Yano, in her with the very mellow ability to just lie there and “crash out.” I have to admit I would never have expected it of her, judging from the first day she was here, but I’m glad she isn’t totally hyper and insane all the time. I think I’d be driven mad.

Wednesday, we worked traffic; Des came up from Fidelco to do the driving for us. I really, really love how thorough Fidelco handles traffic checks! We had pretty much any scenario you could imagine with a car, from turning in on us as we crossed a street to starting up in a driveway as we approached. As I predicted, Yara did amazingly well. She’s very cautious, her stops are very well defined. Des went so far as to really solidify the point of the car being a threat by pushing her back a few times. I was so incredibly proud of her. And not just about the traffic, either; she makes a point to try and walk me around ice and snow patches if she can and she’s very good about slowing down if we have to walk over ice. Actually, we hit a patch of black ice that neither Yara or Megan caught and we all nearly fell down, which just made Yara that much more cautious to avoid anything in the path. When we finished, Des took us aside and took some photographs.2 I’m not so sure how well they turned out given I had a hat on right before and it was quite windy. Still, once I get my copies, I’ll be sure to share them. Next up, we took a quick trip to my vet, to start a file for Yara, and City Hall, for her license.

Today we did some “country travel,” which is to say we walked around where there are no defined curbs or sidewalks. I’m glad we did get it in, since it is slightly different than the way Guiding Eyes taught me with the indenting at crossings. But I always find country work to be exceedingly slow and tedious. Yara spent most of it sort of distracted by the new place and I was practically frozen by the time we got back to the van.

Then, we did some more familiar routes in downtown. It was even more cold at this point, so we decided to not make it a terribly long walk since the forecast called for some snow in the afternoon. Yara did awesome with her curb stops and didn’t need much prodding to get right up to the edge for once. Megan told me later that she’s very impressed with how Yara avoids even the smallest little ice patch or toe trip that we pass. I really only noticed the bigger things we avoided like some parked cars and a bunch of pedestrians. In fact, I kind of scared Yara at one point because we were walking through a narrow part of the sidewalk when a bunch of people passed us on the left and Yara moved over to the right to avoid the ice and people and I got my foot stuck between the side of a low wall as we squished over. I always feel bad when I startle her by faltering because she reacts so much, but then she recovers so fast and gets right back on task that it’s hardly an issue. Megan and I both think it’ll just take her a bit of time to not freak out about that kind of stuff.

Anyway, we stopped off at a small diner and warmed up some. The elderly woman running it was very pleasant, she gave us the standard question routine and then told us about her blind sister and her pet dog. As we sat there drinking our coffee, the weather changed really quick and started to snow quite hard! Not long after it had started, we left to head home and the streets were already covered in a wet, slippery snow. By the time we got back to the van, there was already a good two or three inches covering everything.

Rather than head straight home, though, we decided that it might be fun to take Yara and Megan’s puppy, Stella, to the park. Stella was definitely in need of some exercise, having been cooped up in the van all morning and Yara was due for some unwinding since we didn’t work as long or walk as far as usual. The park was already covered in snow, and underlying was very slick since a lot of the snow and ice from before had melted in the warmer weather the last few days. Megan and I both took a spill in the parking lot before we even got the dogs out! Stella and Yara had a grand time chasing each other around the fenced-in ball park. Yara kept getting all fierce with Stella, who despite being about a quarter in size, was dishing it right back. They’d race around the perimeter of the fence and then wipe out completely when they’d hit a slick patch. It was pretty funny. We let them have their fill for about twenty minutes or so until Stella literally knocked me right over when she ran headfirst into my knee! I’m glad she didn’t end up hurting me, but I think it shocked Megan quite a bit!

We plowed our way through the snow back to my house and worked a bit with Yara on recalls, as well as positioning her properly for public transit rides. It’s hard to believe we’re basically done with the obedience stuff. And now we only have two more days of training; it’s gone so quickly!

  1. More like, long-winded and rambly rundown, but whatever.
  2. Four separate photos were taken. One for my guide dog handler’s identification card, another of Megan, Yara and I, one of just Yara and myself, and the last of Yara alone for her foster family.