Why Do I Do This To Myself?

This is a part two of sorts to last weeks post, speaking a bit on the consequences of doing too much in too short a time.

Tuesday, February 28th

I had an appointment that I could only attend if I took the bus alone with one transfer each way and just over an hour travel time. The first bus was on the full side towards the end, which is normal for that route as it is the only route that goes to and from our little corner. But I managed it pretty well considering it was my first time on a bus in little over a year. I barely had time to think between buses as by the time my bus arrived the second was ready and waiting. Then the only excitement was several crying children and the fact that the return bus was two minutes late making me miss my transfer forcing me to kill half an hour at the mall.

Friday, March 3rd

After having spent the days after Tuesday in quiet to help me return to ‘normal’, I had just gotten to a point that I could handle life again. Well, I had forgotten that there was birthday in my family that meant we would be going out for dinner to celebrate. So as has become the routine, I puppy proofed the house made sure Saria pooped before we left, leaving her behind. The restaurant was busy and we were seated in the same section as somebody’s Sweet 16 celebration. Adding the fact that a buffet had been chosen, which meant I had to somehow navigate the lines while getting food and not immediately throwing it on the floor. To say the least by the end of the hour or so we were their I was exhausted.

Saturday, March 4th

Quiet, and many naps. I lacked the energy to do really anything outside of exist, and technically I really did not have much energy Sunday either.

Sunday, March 5th

Lunch with friends, and several who I was just meeting then. I knew that I was still walking on thin ice when it came to my ability to handle life, but I had been looking forward to it for months and would not miss it for the world. Unfortunately for me the world conspired against me and placed three children’s birthday parties near us, with several of the children screaming. Regardless I had fun, but by the time I got home I felt like somebody killed me, revived me then killed me again.

Monday, March 6th

I did very little during the day, still feeling like a zombie. But I still went to Guides that night, which arguably was a mistake on my part. Regardless we still managed to pull a productive meeting out of it, even though half our girls were over tired after camp and the other two Guiders were also feeling the effects.

The Rest of the Week

Tuesday was literally sleep, allowing Saria to go potty and more sleep. Each day after became progressively less sleep and slowly more activity. Finally Friday I felt up to doing any significant work with Saria, which quickly turned into reading the books that I had ordered on dog training. So yes, a couple busy days can take me out of commission for a week or more depending on a number of factors.

 

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We Are Not Lucky To Have To Bring A Dog Everywhere

Sorry about missing a week, though it is not necessarily due to any fact of being busy or anything as I simply misplaced my password though you did not miss anything. I have just been feeling meh. I had Guides on Monday and then an appointment across the city on Tuesday, and then a trip to the library to trade books on Wednesday. Yesterday we went out for my step-dad’s  birthday. Wednesday and Thursday were calm enough that I could recover from pushing myself to hard on Monday and Tuesday. And then sushi lunch with friends tomorrow, it will be tiring but worth it. Despite having to work through my brain just wanting to die come Monday evening as I try for Guides again, fun….

Don’t I love being a spoonie? Having to plan my week around one or two activities, carefully taking into consideration the likely amount of noise and how bright the lights will be. The bus at half capacity being enough to cause my anxiety to rise to a point where I have trouble maintaining my balance, or not lashing out if somebody gets too close behind me. The dull murmurs of chatter and the rumble of the engine amplifying by about a hundred, as I try in vein to remain focused on getting off at the right stop. My eyes failing me so that I can no longer read the the sign at the front of the bus, only causing my anxiety to raise as I suddenly have no idea where I am or how much time has past. Then on top of that due to the nature of the places I travel I likely have to walk 5-10 minutes or catch another bus and if my transfer is at a terminal I have to fight with my air quality sensitivities. My brain numb from the experience yet spinning from somebody smoking a cigarette or the exhaust from 5-7 idling buses. Even just writing this exhausts me, and my Mom judges me for being irritated when parents bring screaming children onto the bus even during the quiet times. Here is the magical reasoning, it is because 99/100 I am holding onto my limit by a few fragile strands and that brat will send me hurtling to my demise so to speak. Ear plugs and a dark pair of sunglasses only do so much, failing me more times than not.

I hope that the work Saria is in training to provide will be enough to allow me to complete these outings without requiring days worth of recovery. Hopefully having her head on my lap will be enough to remind me that I am not alone on that bus, focusing my mind on her instead of the million other distractions. That having her as a physical barrier behind me will provide that extra little bit of space that will prevent the raise in anxiety. That DPT between buses will be enough to keep me in the moment, and allowing me to clear my head enough to continue.

Nothing about these struggles are new or unfamiliar, I have learned that there is no morality in surviving. That showing weakness draws attention to me and any crowding will likely draw a blindly violent reaction from me. I fancy myself a warrior in a war against my brain, the environment and all the other obstacles that stand in my way. I have sped through the hallways of my schools to get to class as fast as possible, knowing that in roughly two minutes my brain will start to fog and finding my way there will be all that more difficult. I had to stop hanging with my original group of friends at Lunch due to the cafeteria being too crowded/loud. I am not proud of what I have had to do, I have always just done what I need to do in an attempt to remain safe. Luckily for me I have friends who understand this and will give me the space I need, knowing that I will return to them when I can and will stand by them with the same ferocity.

The moral of this story is that if anybody tells me I am lucky to be allowed to bring my dog everywhere I go, don’t be surprised if I glare at you. I would not wish my disability on anyone ever. Saria will hopefully allow me to live a somewhat normal life and run my own errands on a consistent basis. I am growing tired of standing alone against my struggles, and need some assistance to continue to do so. I do not consider myself lucky to be likened to my 70 year old Great Grandma in habits and complaints. If I am lucky for any reason it is because I have such great friends who are patient with me and will work with me so that we all can be included.

 

A Very Good Week

A Very Good Week

This has been an exciting week for Saria and I with the promise of an exciting weekend. Which is a welcome change in pace to the drab and dreary weather that we have been having as of late, which the sun has also been showing itself. Additionally the weather for this weekend is calling for several days of positive 10 degree Celsius weather and plenty of sun. Which for you Americans out there means we will be getting a lot melting snow as the freezing point is zero.

First of all, after discovering that Saria fears Snowmen I went to work basically immediately to get her over it. As you can tell from the photo we managed to do so quicker than expected. This photo was taken on Valentine’s Day, and I keep telling everyone that the Snowman was her Valentine. I managed this by using our other dog to show her that the Snowman is not that bad, and too my surprise it worked wonders. In fact it worked so well that all she wanted to do was be beside the Snowman because I kept giving her treats for being near it. This second problem is now solved as well, and I am just so proud of her.

Secondly, I signed up for an American Sign Language course at the local college.Something that I will admit needed to be done as I have been growing complacent and bored. One of my favourite activities is to sit in a classroom learning something new. I don’t do well trying to learn from an online courses, as I need a designated time and place to learn effectively. The fact that  there is a teacher at the front of the room is a huge help to my learning experience. Either way the idea of attending a College that I have never gone to before, in a city I am not comfortable in is terrifying.  But I know that when the time comes to start that I can handle it, but the month before the first class will be an anxious wait.

Thirdly, Wednesday morning I woke up earlier than usual and as a result the garbage truck had yet to come. To my surprise there was a skunk rummaging through the garbage at 8:30am right by where cars were driving past. I can honestly say I strongly dislike this complex and 99% of its inhabitants. Some people don’t bother cleaning up afters their dogs, this one lady actively feeding the skunks and other wildlife, leaving their recycling out from about 7pm the night before to whenever the truck comes by to pick it up the following day. Either way the wildlife is getting bolder and it is causing issues with the dog owners who just want to take their dog’s out for an evening walk. Berkley now is a scratch and sniff card of skunk smell that has not gone away since he was sprayed in August. My dog likely got a worm from somebody not cleaning up after their dog. And all but maybe two household who have small breeds allow their dog to bark near constantly. I can’t wait to get out of this place.

Next, I have gotten the courage up to tell my Mom I want to hire a trainer to help Saria and I make the progress  I know we can. I do not know why the idea of telling her that I wanted to start searching for one made me anxious but it did. And now that I have told her, I just need to start the search.

Finally, this weekend is my brother’s birthday and to celebrate we are going out for Sushi with one of his best friends. This will be the first ‘real’ scenario where Saria will be home for that long alone. I am sure it will go well, but it is still stressful to think about. But I just love the California rolls.

 

 

The Evil Snowman

So this is a first, Saria has a fear of something and not just a confusion about it, but a proper fear. And if you guessed snowmen you are right and obviously read the title, gold star for you. Offer is only valid if you draw the star yourself as I am too broke to send one by male and do not know how to make one via a computer.

But up until this point some things have confused her like automatic doors and this one tree. Each time I allowed her to sniff it, gave her some treats for focusing on me and that was the end of that. This was full out barking and shaking at the sight of this snow figure, something I had not seen from her. Due to the fact I did not have treats to start working with her immediately, I ended up deciding to go a different way.

I will be going out in a few hours to work some on it, but for now I need a nap. But I could not let this go unwritten, as my dog whom I had frequently joked does not even have the capability of fear has a fear of Snowmen. Not electric wheel chairs, the vacuum or anything else that most dogs will avoid. She is scared of snow rolled into three large balls, stacked on top of one another, with various objects stuck to it to create arms and a face. What a goof. But I love her enough to post the embarrassing stories online, but that is what parents are for.

The Good and the Bad

I am sure I am not the only one who has those days where no matter what you do you are not going to have a good day. Well for me, yesterday was one of those days. My mood was soured to some extent by the fact that my step dad had his poker buddies over the night before, and I am not one to take to strangers being in the house. I generally try to not allow it to get to me, however I was not completely successful.

Either way, due to the fact that I had gone to bed early to try and counter act the fact that there were strange to me people in the house, Saria got me up an hour and a half before I am used to so that she could go potty. Me being me, means I cannot just go back to bed and fall asleep due to me now being up. So instead of sleeping until 9am and missing all of the people walking their dogs before school/work, I now had to struggle to keep Saria from barking like an idiot at all the other dogs while I am still too groggy to function. Whatever, it could have gone better but it could have gone worse at the same time.

Once inside, I grabbed a blanket and curled up with Saria and allowed Berkley to sit wherever he was comfortable. I ended up deciding to ignore the cat as he humped my leg from under the animal’s blanket, as he was doing no actual harm. In the end this quiet time with the animals and the television was pleasant. Oh I forgot to say that I made chocolate chip pancakes, which also aided in the pleasantness of the time. Which was destroyed when Mom called and asked me to look for something, and was enough to distract me into leaving the last few bites of pancake on the coffee table. Well Saria, ate them. Whatever, it was not enough to do any harm and I was done either way.

I then decided to try a training session with Saria outside in front of the drive way, and this is when life really spat in my face. I never managed to do it, as cars and other dogs kept disturbing us. Just as I started setting the pylons down to start the session, a car came and of course I had to move them so that the car could get past. Fine whatever I only had to go pick up the last one I had placed as that was the only one in the way. Just as I am placing the third out of the four pylons my neighbor and her demon spawn of a shih zhu came out and started yapping at us. Fine whatever, I thought she was at work considering it is a week day and her car was not in the drive way. So I head inside, thoroughly annoyed at this point though it might be due to the fact that the very sight of that woman ticks me right off. We sat inside for a good 10 minutes waiting for this woman to return safely to her house so that we can train undisturbed. However the last straw was when this other lady with her young cocker spaniel came out, I do actually love this lady and her dog but I was just not in the mood to be happy anymore and wanted to go back inside so I could cuss the world out without anybody hearing me. Ok, I would have been fine with the neighbor lady hearing as I would love to have some words with her about her dog.

Either way,  I came back inside ready to cry from frustration, deciding to instead eat then shower. The food went fine, it was the shower I managed to mess up. I had secured the rest of the house and as usual fell back on my parent’s bedroom door to make sure it was closed as I usually did, except I missed and had thought I did. So while I was in the shower, Saria had gotten and eaten half a package of lindor chocolate. Thoroughly done with the day I napped until my Mom got home and take Saria while I just tried to salvage the rest of the day. With some success.

On the bright side today is much better, Saria is behaving, I had some poptarts. We even managed to do a training session that went quite well if I say so myself. Attached will be a video of the session as I remember that this dog is capable of being a very good dog. I played some Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and had a long mid-day nap. In the end, some days are not meant to be enjoyed rather survived with as few war wounds as possible. But those days make you appreciate the simple joys, like a training session going off without a hitch.

Saria’s training

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on Autism Service Dogs for Children

I was originally going to broaden this topic to the lack of fairness how I see programs deciding qualifying factors. But I have enough to say about the programs training dogs for children with Autism to make it a standalone post.

First off, let me start on the things I agree with. Dogs can be beneficial to people of all walks of life, autism or otherwise. Dogs do this by just being themselves, they do not judge, they love unconditionally and their antic bring smiles to people’s faces. I am never going to deny the emotional benefit of a dog. I have stumbled across a study done on the effects of dogs on Autistic children and the conclusions are very positive. It also touched on the benefits of pairing children on the spectrum with service dogs, they also recorded positive findings and this is where my opinion starts to disagree with the whole scenario.

Let me take a moment to quickly explain a few key points surrounding service dogs. A service dog is a dog that is trained to mitigate their disabled handler through the use of work or tasks. A service dog is not there to make the job of parenting easier. Tasks or work are trained and proofed behaviours that the dog does to mitigate their handler’s disability. It is not consider a task or work to tie a dog to a child, to comfort a child by just being there or to work as a point to help the child interact with other children or people, these are things the dog can do without training.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Most if not all the programs I looked at that train dogs for Autistic children when listing the “tasks” or things their dogs are trained to do, they fail to list any legitimate tasks. Instead they opt to talk about how the dog helps the kid to learn to read, or discusses the fact that the kids often become more social with the dog around, which I have already said to be general benefits of having a dog. Or they will list tethering, finding the child, stim and meltdown interruption.

Let me break down my issues with the four “tasks” I listed above.

Tethering: Is the act of tying the dog to the child to prevent them from running off. This is a dangerous practice that I tend to call abusive because of the dangers to both the dog and the child. For one, the child will quickly out grow the dog and could seriously injure the dog when they bolt. Secondly, for any reason another dog goes to attack the dog the child is tethered to and gets in a fight the kid could get seriously injured. I am aware of a case where a dog fight broke out and the kid was hospitalized and nearly died. Either way this is not a task and could just as easily be done by the parent by attaching the tether to the parent rather than the dog.

Finding the Child: I would argue if you are in public and the child really needs the dog than the dog should be with the child, so how would it be useful. But either way I have no real issue with this outside of the fact that it is not a task by any definition I am aware of, in the end it is really to help the parent keep track of their child which could be a mute point if they took other action to insure the child was being adequately supervised, but what do I know. I can see the benefit for this at the home as sometimes a parent simply cannot keep 100% attention on the kid, and I am aware of one child that knew how to unlock the door and escaped on more than one occasion so a search and rescue dog would have been handy. Alternatively having the dog bark when the kid is playing with the locks could also help, but then again not a task.

Stim Interruption: I don’t know about other Autistics, but for me stimming was a way to deal with things that I could not fully comprehend at the time and was a warning so to speak of a coming meltdown. If I was made to stop I went into a meltdown, and if something was done about the source of my distress then I stopped without further difficulties. I know it can be very frustrating for some Autistic children to not be allowed to stim, so I feel unless the child is hurting themselves or somebody else then let them do it as sometimes it is a sign of happy. And if the child is causing harm then it is too dangerous for the dog to get involved.

Meltdown Interruption: I will start this by saying that this task should only be considered only if you are 210% that the child is not violent during a meltdown, even then I would strongly advise the dog instead be trained to give the child space for its own safety. A child in meltdown is not necessarily in control of their body, and very easily could accidentally harm the dog.

Additionally, the main reason to get a service dog is to regain some form of independence weather that be through life saving tasks or other tasks or work. I seriously wonder how much independent a young child really needs, that requires the resources be used to manage a demand that I personally feel requires the assistance of a service dog less than the older population. This in my head would be less of a pet peeve if the organizations actually trained tasks to these dogs, or advertised them as companion animals for Autistic children that do not have public access. I would argue that adults with Autism require these dogs more, as they are trying to contribute to society but their disability is preventing that. Many of us do not have the foggiest notion as to how to train a working dog, and having an organization to help would be hugely beneficial.

Weekend at Grandma’s (and Grandpa’s)

This weekend I went to my Grandparents for a visit, and of course I brought my dog because it seemed unfair to expect my brother to care for the nut and my parents were out of town on a vacation. To put it simply, I am too anxious to handle being home without my Mom for that long. Either way the reasoning is unimportant.

Well that first evening, my Grandpa decided that we should go to the Chinese place downtown. I will be the first to admit that it is entirely my fault for not putting more effort into beating Saria’s separation anxiety, considering she has only been able to handle about half an hour on her own so far out of her crate in a place she is familiar. Remember that dogs do not generalize well, and that it was our first night away from home. Dinner was estimated to take about an hour, and due to the fact that my Grandparent’s had not puppy proofed yet(they are getting a puppy in the near future) meant Saria absolutely needed  to be crated for her own safety, and to save their furnishing and belongings. So my anxiety was through the roof, Saria had tried to help but she does not fully grasp her job just yet and she was obviously stressed as well. I predicted that she was going to bark and cry the entire time we were gone; annoying the neighbors, that she would cut her paws and nose trying to escape.

Leaving the house I was on the edge of having a panic attack. It is a good thing that they are understanding of me, as I feel bad for not really engaging in the conversation at dinner. But the food was good and we had a pretty good time all things considered.

Anyways upon our return, the house was quiet. My frazzled brain went straight to somebody came in and dog-knapped her or shot her, especially considering my Grandparent’s don’t lock their door. I mean they live in the safest neighborhood I know, but these things are still a possibility. Or that she spontaneously died. But much to my relief she was just sitting there in the crate, her eyes a mixture of betrayal and relief and excitement. I have got to give this more credit than I do. Despite obvious signs of stress she still wanted to help me, she managed to the longest home alone to date and was reasonably well behaved in the barking at random noises department. Like seriously, how did I get so lucky to find her?

Though we did learn that squirrels are her worst enemy and birds are okay. Honestly it was so cute watching stand at the window watching the birds at the bird feeder, and then eventually in an attempt to play pawed at the window. She looked so distraught when they flew away, like her best friend just left her.