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i guess i can talk about this now.

Every time I think things might be settling down, something else fucking happens to shove me back toward the bottom.

They took my dog away because I don't drive and couldn't get him to the vet for a general physical exam (no emergency, he wasn't sick or anything - I have the means for emergency transportation but I wasn't going to force someone to come home from work and pick me up or cancel their other responsibilities to take a perfectly healthy in because he stress pooped) within 72 hours of them requesting it and because I failed to keep up with liaison meetings, which were NOT in my contract and are also fucking stupid (I spoke to the program director almost every day, why the hell did I need to talk to some other person once a week to play middleman?) Hello, anxiety disorder. Randomly emailing a stranger is a bit of a trigger. Fuck.

I'm so tired of being fucked over every time I find some little semblance of goddamn stability.

More later I guess. Or not.

zoop boop life updates

The bad news: All the insanity that has comprised my life for, oh, the last year or so.

tl;dr version is my parents got divorced, we filed for bankruptcy, I lost my home, I had to rehome my dogs, my service dog in training failed out/was retired and rehomed as well, my neuro condition is progressing while my diagnosis was revoked, my mother was tested for cervical cancer and they found stuff so did a procedure and now we get to check up later to see if it worked the way it was supposed to, I almost died (ok not really but I ended up in the hospital for a smidge.)

The good news: I haven't died and life is settling down maybe for once!

I've narrowed down a fair number of episode triggers, which is win. Problem is, it knocks out so many things- no more soda, no artificial sweeteners, no food dyes AT ALL which is stupid hard to avoid. But, hey, last time I had something with food dye in it, it triggered a ten-day migraine that landed me in the ER, so best not fuck with it. I went to team training last month and brought home a rockin' 7 month old Labrador, who frustrates me sometimes but mostly he's just awesome. The last week I've been in a phase where I'm refusing to do anything but walk independently, which I'm capable of, in the same way that a baby is capable of talking, where it sort-of works. The business is all but defunct, because I don't have the money to get things going again, though I've got orders to ship out the last month or two have resulted in a slowdown of production but it's happening and they'll go out asap.

So yeah.

That's my life.

What did I miss?
Losing our home. I'll be scarce for the next few weeks or so while I move and scramble to get things settled. If it's an emergency, you can drop a comment and I'll get to it when I can, but for now, I'm disappearing.
McCoy went to his new home today.

We drove to the halfway point between here and Akron; I rolled out of bed at six (keep in mind, I'm battling a flu) and spent 3 and a half hours in my car, coughing and mostly laying on my side in the passenger's seat with the big lug's head on my shoulder.

It was... bittersweet. I held it together until I handed Troy the leash and McCoy's green squeaky spider and he climbed into the backseat of their car, which was set up for their Newf- the seats were folded down and there was a rug there instead, with a couple toys, and McCoy hopped right in to sniff around. Good, I thought, and my mom and I kissed and hugged him and I told him to promise to be good for them (he was in love the moment we got out of the car and he kept hamming it up, though he decided to make a fool of himself by jumping like a big beast.)

And then Troy shut the door and he started WAILING. Now granted, he does that for a lot of reasons. He does it when he's mad. He does it when he wants to get in someplace and the door is closed, and he does it when he's thirsty or sometimes he just doesn't want to walk up the stairs, so he sits at the bottom and screams bloody murder. I burst into tears like a big baby, cried for the first hour and a half of our drive home, and then the girls made me feel better when I got back here. <3 my girls.

Though I'll miss him, I know he's better off with them- he's going to be living with another Newfie so he'll have another big lug to play with, and they make frequent trips to a national park near their home, so he'll get lots of time to go splash around in the creek and play. Here... Boo's a snot and Schatzi tries to play, but let's be fair: a 9 year old, 60lb dog with brain damage isn't the best playmate for a 130lb 10 month old puppy.

In better news, I'll see Scotti either this week or the week after, so that's good.

Baby steps.

Moving on and giving up.

Upon further review, that title makes things seem much worse than they are.

As some of you may or may not know, McCoy officially failed out of training at the very beginning of November.

It was a combination of things. Not only will I not be comfortable asking him to bear my weight, but to expect him to move at my quick pace day in and day out produced a limp that, subsequently, stressed him out. It wasn't fair. So he's officially no longer a service dog in training and, on the 18th, is being brought to his new home in Akron, Ohio, to live with a wonderful couple who already have a Newfoundland.

I'm upset, absolutely. But on the other hand, I know he'll be happier there than he is here. They're experienced with food allergies and already feed their Newf, Bear, a food that McCoy has doe well on; they've owned Newfs for years, so McCoy's puppy shenanigans won't be a problem. They're very much dog people, which is always a relief. I was seriously concerned when faced with the decision to rehome him that he'd go to someone who wouldn't treat him like I do... they have already started buying Christmas presents for him.

As I've discussed in the past, a large dog is an inconvenience and I will never, ever, ever do it again. I absolutely LOVE giant breed dogs and in a heartbeat I will have a Newfie or a Dane as a pet, without question, for the rest of my life. But as a service dog, no. I'm going to end up just relying on forearm crutches permanently (and a wheelchair when I need it) instead of looking for a balance dog. It's inconvenient, and impractical, and though some people are content to deal with the million and one problems that come with it (I had to get his gear custom made, for example, and he's been stepped on a bunch of times because he literally does not fit places) I'd sooner use a chair full time than try to work with a giant breed SD.

So...

That brings me to my next point.

I've been matched with a chocolate labrador puppy from Phoenix Assistance Dogs of Central PA. His name is Biscotti, and barring any crazy things that might pop up, I'll be paired with him sometime next year, putting us as a functioning (in training) team for Fall semester. He's a baby yet so he's just learning his manners in public and at home, CGC foundation work, and task training foundation work like nose targets and paw targets. I'll be heading down to the program every 2-4 weeks depending on finances to work with him and practice, so we'll have a bond before he comes home. In the meantime, I'm saving for his placement fee and trying to get by.

It's funny. I have worked with a SD for the last three years, and suddenly I don't have one anymore. It's this funny loss of independence... I can't do stupid crap most people take for granted. Most people open a door to go into a store without thinking about it- I have to make sure I'm steady enough to do so, tug the door open and catch myself on my crutches and the door with my foot at the same time, then try to get through it without getting hit by it or tangled up in my own body. I've been known to not pick things up just because it's hard. I get bumped even slightly and I go down like a tree... my dog would body block so I don't fall over and help me up if I did, instead of me struggling like a fish out of water on crutches.

Oh well.

Next year, indeed.

I'm never starting with a puppy again.



Once again, I'm facing the very real possibility that my dog might wash out, and it's killing me. This time it's his joints. I knew getting a giant breed was a risk. I knew that. But he's been limping on and off for months with no pinpointable cause by the vet other than a suggestion of "growing pains," when it's centered in his front half specifically, and it has now turned into mild-- fixable, but inappropriate for a Service Dog-- resource guarding when he's hurting. X rays are coming as soon as I can afford them, but thankfully the program's vet gives a steep discount to program puppies, so it'll probably only be like a hundred-something for xrays and neuter.

I hate this so much. It breaks my heart because if he washes out there's a good chance I'll have to rehome him. I am startlingly dependent on other people with a SD, because there's always that underlying danger that I'll collapse in public without help and I'll end up suffocating because my head is turned to one side because I didn't have a dog to roll me over, or I'll fall and hit my head and just have to hope someone will find me. I won't know if people are calling my name because there's no dog to alert me. I won't be able to navigate crowded hallways on campus if I'm disoriented, when I rely on my dog just to get me between classes every day.

I'm hoping that somehow, some way, it will be possible if-- god forbid-- he washes out, to have four dogs and simply add the fourth to my household without finding anyone a new home. There are benefits to it. The guarding is fixable, Boo's reactivity is fixable and she adjusts very, very quickly to having a new dog in her home (it took her only a few days to settle in with McCoy.) Plus it'd give him someone his age and his size to play with so he won't harass the girls all the damn time, which would go a long way to decrease the chaos in my home since he harasses, they get mad, then bark at him, he barks back, it's loud and chaotic and generally terrible, but he's a big stupid puppy and he just wants to play. I will never start with a young puppy again, there's just too much risk. If he washes out, the program I'm with will go out of their way to ensure I'm starting with the most solid candidate possible; I don't work with them for training, I work with them for the experience with other dogs AND to get advice from others in the field. They'll make sure the adolescent dog that I end up with has been x-rayed to rule out joint problems as well as extensive temperament testing to ensure there is no aggression or shyness.

That's another thing. Even if he doesn't have a joint deformity, with the extent of the mobility work that he will be doing, based on OFA grades, they need to come out good or excellent. Fair, while fine for most service dog work-- hearing dogs, psych dogs, even some mobility dogs such as those partnered with people in chairs who won't be using the dog for brace assistance to transfer-- is not okay for a dog who will, literally, be constantly assisting me to not fall over as well as bracing to steady when changing positions or if I start to lose my balance. It sucks.

I wish service dog training wasn't so heartbreaking.

And I can't believe I'm considering actually training other people's dogs too. Fuck, it's painful enough to train my own if it doesn't work out.

reality show?

[23:22] linzeyz: Which are you looking for penn hip or Ida?
[23:22] linzeyz: Ofa
[23:22] linzeyz: Stupid iPhone
[23:22] andstagsays: doesn't matter
[23:22] andstagsays: lollll
[23:22] andstagsays: let ida look at his hips
[23:22] linzeyz: Lol
[23:22] andstagsays: i'm sure she'll do a good job
[23:22] linzeyz: "Ida certified@
[23:22] andstagsays: im picturing an old lady on a farm with an apron and a ladle
[23:22] linzeyz: Shit that dogs amazing - it's Ida certified excellent!!!!!
[23:22] andstagsays: i'm laughing so hard
[23:23] linzeyz: Hahaha
[23:23] linzeyz: Yet another amazing scene in service dog shore
[23:23] andstagsays: seriously, i will record that shit
[23:23] andstagsays: it'll be a web series
[23:24] linzeyz: Lol I'm telling you it'll be amazing
[23:24] linzeyz: I'll need to get a boob job first....
[23:24] andstagsays: HAHAHA
[23:25] linzeyz: And how perfect I already have the yappy chi to be in random shots!
[23:25] andstagsays: you should just like
[23:25] andstagsays: switch out the dog but not say anything
[23:25] linzeyz: Hahahaha
[23:25] andstagsays: so you have a different dog in every shot but nobody mentions it
[23:25] linzeyz: Omg
[23:25] linzeyz: Polo olio
[23:25] andstagsays: your dog just randomly changes
[23:25] linzeyz: Fuck u iPhone
[23:26] linzeyz: Lolololol is what I meant
[23:26] linzeyz: Yes!!! Same bling or sweater, different dog
[23:26] andstagsays: HAHA

HEH NEW GEAR YAY.

My harness is here! Custom fit to Le Beast, though I'm going to have to get a new chestplate made soon, I think; I already had to make it bigger. The maker also threw in a free leash to match that she made to the length we usually use, which was SO nice of her and a great surprise when I opened the box. This is now an obligatory gear post-- I'm going to talk about Boo's gear, too, because I have pictures of it.



Sorry, the images are beeg. :< Also my table has coffee on it, my bad.Collapse )
I was talking to a friend the other night who, after meeting my Newf puppy, declared quite firmly that she wanted a Newfoundland for a service dog; no mobility work, but psychiatric.

She was confused when I cringed.

I absolutely respect anyone's choice to have whatever breed they please, but I feel like a lot of SD handlers don't take into account all the negatives of the breeds they choose. Absolutely, Newfies are fantastic temperamentally-- they're lovable, friendly, and wonderfully caring animals. I will never deny that. But, even as someone who is a seasoned service dog handler, working a Newf is something unlike anything I've ever done before in my whole life, and I genuinely wish that I didn't need the mobility work that I do so I could work a smaller dog but for me, it's impractical; I fall hard, frequently, and quickly, can't use a rigid handle harness because I'll fall backwards and the torque force on the dog's spine is incredibly damaging. I risk hurting a dog or simply not asking him/her to do the work that I need. I would kill to work a Lab or a Golden.

The attention.
I have been approached more times in three months of public training with McCoy than in 2.5 years of working with Boo, the white dog in my icon who looks essentially like a traditional breed and is a standard size. I wish I was kidding, actually, but I'm not. Fortunately I don't mind talking to people, I actually like talking dogs and educating the public... but it once took me, I shit you not, TWENTY MINUTES to make it from the door of Target to where the carts are. Twenty minutes. Because someone would stop, want to pet him, ask how old he is and what he's being trained for, then someone else would step up to the plate. Repeatedly. He's very large, very cute, and a nontraditional breed, and I cannot IMAGINE how much worse this would have made my anxiety when I was partnered with my first dog. I can handle it now, but I know a lot of people who can't deal with the constant bombardment of people, which brings me to my next thing...

The public reaction.
I tend to get one of two responses when I'm out with him. Either people glom onto him, before I can react, and are grabbing his face or manhandling his body and cooing about how fluuuuuffy he is, or they take one look at him, scream bloody murder, and run the other direction. Yes, there are absolutely polite people, but I have had shop owners not wish to let me in the store BECAUSE he is big and black and therefore scary. Again, in 2.5 years of working with Boo, this did not happen once.

And the space.
I was at Target the other day, waiting on french fries, and I went to go find a table. I picked the one with the most space by the wall, lay him down... frowned, stood up, moved to a different place, tried to pull my chair in and realized I was crushing his head, moved again, realized after his tail got rolled over that he was in the way, then finally hauled the table away from the wall and put him there. During a trip to TGI Fridays, we had to sit outside, because there was genuinely not a single open table inside that he could fit underneath. He is 120 pounds and will probably put on another 40-50 before he's full grown, so this problem will only get worse.

And I love him, I do. He's an incredible dog and a wonderful partner, but he's also horribly inconvenient. I'm planning a trip to Disney next year, and am facing the very real possibility that well over half the rides, though service dogs are permitted to ride, he will not be able to fit on them so I'll have to use the rider swap anyway. A smaller dog would have no problem. I have difficulty moving between the close-set racks of clothes in many stores, and he can't work for me there because he must walk behind or in front of me, instead of next to me so I can hold his harness (if I try, his head is in the clothing.) I have to take extra care to move him when I stop to look at something in the store, either to put him in a sit and tuck his tail (which means no balance assistance) or position him to stand in front of me (thus blocking my view of the items) or behind me (which opens him up to people manhandling him.)

This is not to say that I don't love him and that I'm not thankful for him. He's a natural at what he does, from balance to retrieves to medical response work, going so far as to catch my head on his shoulders and roll me over of his own accord when I went down... which is something he has never been trained to do. He loves everyone and everything and is rock-solid temperamentally; nothing fazes him. I do not think, however, that I would choose another Newfie (or Dane, or giant breed) if a smaller dog would do just as well.

Sep. 25th, 2011

Kicking someone's service dog in the face hard enough to BREAK ITS TEETH because its nose touched you while standing in line in a very crowded fairground, then getting pissy and refusing to pay the vet bills, including pulling a lawyer into it because you think the handler "wasn't in control of the dog?"

Stay classy, stupidpetowners.