Friday, July 29, 2011

Victory Will Be Mine...Again?!!

Tenie's aunt really was a life saver. I have a funny feeling that the website that she gave me and I posted earlier is going to come in handy. That makes me a bit nervous about moving to Scotland because it makes me wonder how much fighting we're going to have to do just in order to enjoy basic daily living. You're probably confused-let me explain.
Remember how I had explored the avenue of personal trainer? One of the schools emailed me back today-the one I told was blind-and they basically told me they couldn't take me on because of it. They didn't ask any questions as to my skills or my needs. They just decided that because I said I may need a bit more hands-on training that they were not equipped to take me on. It really shouldn't matter what my skills are or how capable I am in the sporting/fitness/personal training arena, there should be an equal opportunity available to learn; regardless of able-bodiedness or disability.
So, I sent the company that link and explained that a new law was past in October of 2010 that stated it is illegal to deny a person access to learning facilities based on disability. I was polite and said that I wasn't trying to be confrontational. I'm really not trying to be. Maybe they just don't know, but something needs to be done about that. Are these two experiences indicative of the life Mr. K and I are going to be living in Edinburgh? If so, this is going to become exhausting really quickly. On the other hand, we'll have a good support network and it would seem that some people need to be made aware of the abilities of disabled people. I have mixed views on educating the public. Some days I am all ready to go and other days I resent the fact that I can't eat the sandwich without having to explain to someone that "yes, in fact, I can shave my own legs." You should hear some of the questions I get! But that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is, I have had to use the Equality and Human Rights website twice in a ten hour period. All I can say is that I am just grateful that I have it; it changes everything.
Thank you Tenie's Aunt. :)

Victory Will Be Mine!!!

And it's all thanks to Tenie's Aunt.
After reading my blog post from yesterday, she took it upon herself to do some digging and found what I have been looking for...Access   Laws!!! I have been searching for Access Laws basically since we decided to move to Scotland, but they have been so difficult to find. But not anymore! Access Laws can be found
Based on the law that was implemented in October 2010, the letting agency is committing "direct discrimination" against a person based on sed person having a disability. A person with a disability cannot be denied access to goods/services/facilities because they have a disability, which is exactly what this letting agency was doing. I never thought I'd have to fight for access to my best friend's "flat," but I will if I have to!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three Weeks To Go

It is three weeks from today that we leave for Scotland. We have run into another small, or rather a quite large glitch, in that Tenie's landlord has stated that we can't stay with them while we're trying to find a "flat." He said it was because of the guide dogs and the "flat" being a "no pet" rental unit. I never would have thought that would be a problem. In Canada and the United States, if you are renting and you want your friends or family members over they can come, regardless of them having a service dog. I'm not really certain what the laws are, but I'm going to do some digging because if we can't stay with them, we may not be able to go. Staying in a hotel while trying to find a place to stay would wipe out our savings completely. We have started requesting further information from letting agents on flats to see if we can't have somewhere to move instantly into upon arrival. If it were me, I'd sneak us in and if the landlord showed up for an inspection I would do one of two things:
1. Hide the dogs and I in a bedroom and when they come to investigate I'll scream I'm naked and that I'll charge them with sexual harassment...or
2. Tell them that we are just visiting for the day until we find a place, but staying in a hotel at night.
but that is just me. I have a "stick it to the man" bone in me. It's not as strong as it was when I was in university, but it's still there. If we went with plan B, how could they prove any different? I won't push it with the girls as I know they don't want to lose their lease, but I really don't know what we're going to do. We do still have three weeks and when the ladies return from the Highlands where they are on an archaeological dig-because my friends are that cool-they will start looking for flats for us.
Besides the giant flat problem, things are moving right along. The potential employer I mentioned has confirmed that they received my job application, which I filled out yesterday morning. I'm really hoping something comes of it as it will take a lot of stress off of both of  us. I'll keep digging around for other jobs in the mean time though. I also have an idea for a small business that I am in the process of getting started, but I'll let you know more about it once it's up and running. Mr. K and I had a good chat last night and he is helping me design the website, which means it's going to be awesome!
I do have a question for you wonderful people with regards to the website. What colour schemes do you think are inviting when you visit a site? Pastels, bold and bright...any suggestions? Even though I'm blind I have a strange awareness of colours and which ones should go together, but since I can't see any of the websites I visit, I don't really know what is visually pleasing and welcoming to visitors. Wouldn't that be an interesting study? Set up three websites with identical content, but with different colour schemes and see which ones get the higher volume? Anyway, that's not the point. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Think I Need More Coffee

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you've been run over by a truck? I may be having one of those today. What I think is happening is that I'm so excited/worried/doing a million things/going crazy about this move to Scotland that I think I'm getting a bit worn out. Notice how I did list "excited" first? I am excited-super excited. I wish we were leaving now! Wait, I think I've said that before. There are a few reasons for that and one of them being that if I could just hit a huge fast forward button, we'd be there and we could skip this stressful stage of moving.
Last night I hauled two jam packed garbage bags full of mine and Mr. K's stuff downstairs and stacked them with the other two bags and one box sitting in our dining room. We've already sent three or four bags to Good Will and these, and I'm sure a few more, will join them. We're selling some things, but other unsellable items are getting donated.
We also filled our first vaccuum pack bag with linens that we're taking and it made me realise how much we're going to have to leave here. It's just too expensive to either ship the stuff or to take extra bags. Mr. K looked up  costs for extra baggage last night and we both had a bit of a freak out. It basically means we're taking less stuff, including my bass which we need to sell. We still have a few other things up for sale, but with the move getting closer and closer, we're running out of time to sell them and that is nerve wracking in itself. Here is a small list of things we have up for sale:
-my electric bass guitar complete with travel case
-Mr. K's car
-our dryer
-our Queen sized bed
-Matilda (my road bike),
-my hot stone set (for massage),
-a bed frame (double sized)
and who knows what else. We also have a bunch of kitchen stuff we're giving away, like plate sets, flatware, pots, baking tools Etc.
Then, on top of all this, I had received an email from the woman who helped me fill out my application to Queen Margaret University back in january. She had noticed that my name wasn't in the acceptance letters and wondered what had happened. I told her and she offered to check and make sure that my aplication was up for consideration for 2012. I had been told that it was, but it doesn't hurt to have things triple checked right? By the sounds of her response, things still weren't organised properly, but she assures me that my application is now in for consideration. Wait, what? I thought it already was. Either these people are completely disorganised or lack communication skills. I've decided that a visit to the QMU campus is in order once we're settled in. I may decide after visiting that perhaps attending QMU is not an option. If their acceptance process is any indication of how the program is run, I don't think I want to be going there...but we'll see.
I've also been freaking about getting Glacier and Roscoe's paperwork worked out. We have to have the seven page document stamped for each dog. Originally, we were going to get that done early, but the USDA dude told me that we couldn't do that until the six month period had expired. I think I have since figured out that that is incorrect. I wish people who had no idea what they were talking about would keep their misinformation to themselves. I have contacted the Animal Reception people to make sure I'm correct and if I am, we'll be making a visit to Mr. USDA guy sooner than later. I have read that if animals go  over to the UK without the six month period being finished, they can finish it in a kennel. If that is the case, the documentation can be stamped before the expiration of the time because that stamp needs to be on the paperwork before the animal leaves its country of origin. Did I lose you yet?
Oh yeah and then I had to dig through the DEFRA website to find out what kind of flea/tick/tape worm treatments are acceptable. I copy and pasted that to our vet. All we need is to show up 24 hours before we're to leave and have them tell us that they don't have the correct treatments. I think I've mentioned this before, but we have to get the dogs "flea dipped" (AKA treated for fleas/ticks/tape worms) no more than 48 hours before departure, but no less than 24 hours. Fun, fun.
I've also been job searching like a maniac. I did get a reply from one potential employer and I filled out a job application this morning. I'm really hoping something comes of it. It seems like a really neat organisation, but I'll keep that to myself until I know more.
I've also been doing more research into dog training. It's a notion that won't go away. I've emailed a few rescue  organisations and trainers with not much luck. One breed specific organisation did email me back, but just to tell me that they only need experienced handlers and people familiar with that breed. Please tell me how that is good for your RESCUE organisation?! I had told her that I wanted to know more about the breed and that I would love to help out any way possible, including administration duties. Her response shocked me. She wasn't rude, but quite elitist. It's like because I don't know anything about that breed, then I'm not invited into the club. Erm, how are people supposed to get to know that breed? How are people supposed to know if that breed is right for them? Wouldn't it cut down on rehomings and such things if people were actually allowed to get to know the breed of dog they are thinking of buying/adopting?
Out of the six trainers I emailed, one responded, but I think I may come on a bit strong or a little over enthusiastic. I haven't heard back from him. Then again, he could be busy, but I think I was a bit over zealous in responding. I was just so excited someone actually replied and gave me useful information.
The personal training courses seem to have hit a wall. A few of the places I have contacted have not responded and the one that did, dropped off the face of the planet once I told him I was blind; slightly suspicious. It's fine. I think it would have been too expensive for me to pursue that avenue anyway.
So, really, that has been it in a nut shell but when you are living it it is very easy to get emotionally frazzled for no reason. I just really need to step back and get some perspective. Maybe a massage would be nice...or I'll just have another cup of coffee-it's cheaper. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Boys

WARNING: Sappy post ensues!!!!

There are three of them; two furry, one not; two four legged, one not; two short, one not. But they all have something in common, they're my boys and they make my day.
Right now, Glacier, Roscoe and I are sprawled out on the mattress we have on our living room floor since we are minus a couch. Both dogs are snoring away, but I feel secure with them squashing my feet. Mr. K is upstairs  fast asleep, but if I were to be up there tucked in beside him, I would feel just as secure. I don't mean "secure" in the "a robber  may break in and I have two big dogs and one big husband to protect me" kind of secure. I mean the "I am loved" kind of secure. I think sometimes it is easy to forget that feeling with all of the craziness that living life brings, but in the quiet of this morning as I slipped out of bed and out the bedroom door with the two dogs following behind wagging their tails and Mr. K waking briefly to make sure I was fine, that secure feeling washed over me. It stayed with me as I poured cereal and ate it with Glacier warming my feet under the kitchen table, which by the way, is a lopsided card table that is a stand in for our actual dining room table that I sent back with my parents. It stayed with me as I read through early morning blogs while Glacier twitched and grumbled in his sleep and Roscoe snored. Here are these three beings who care about me and I care about them. This is what living should be about in its simplest state; people caring for one another. Well, perhaps that should be expanded to  people and animals caring for one another.
I wish everyone could find that feeling today, or maybe tomorrow, but either way look for it. If you can't find it, it'll find you; especially when you least expect it. I can't tell you how many times I have sat in this exact same spot, in this exact position and not realised just how really loved I am.
My boys may come in different varieties and they may show their love in different ways, but I got the message this morning. And I hope, they get the message back. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ode To The "Square"

Oh, dear Square, how have you come into our lives and changed them forever. Until you, there was not a soft, plush toy that could stand up to the massive jaws of Mr. G. With your reinforced seams and your funny shape, you could provide hours and hours of entertainment. At first, everyone ignored you and you lay alone on the living room floor while five dogs ran around with other toys, but one day Glacier realised how much fun you were and he never left you alone again.
 I would throw you and the boys would chase you. I would hold you and the boys would pull you. I would bounce you off of a wall because I am a horrible shot and because you are soft, you would not break anything. You are the first toy I could chuck around the living room and feel safe that crashing glass would not  ensue. You were a tireless companion and when Glacier was worn out from wrestling you from Roscoe's jaws, you let him use you as a pillow while he took a nap.
Oh, dear Square although you have not left us yet, I found the tiniest of holes in your seam and it is only a matter of time before Glacier realises you no longer want to be square, but that you wish to be flat. It will be a sad, sad day when I have to throw you in the garbage because you were the best twenty bucks I ever spent on a dog toy. You were looking a bit frayed as of late and I was hoping you would last until August 18th, but if you feel you are tired of being tossed, tugged, chomped and slobbered on, then I guess we'll just have to find a way to go on without you...either that or I'll have to buy a new one because Glacier will be so heart broken.

The Square Ball from the Toughies toy line has been one of the best investments we have made with regards to dog toys. It has lasted over four months in our house, which is a miracle and is the first plush toy Glacier has ever been able to play with. I bought him a Skinny once, thinking that the lack of stuffing would keep him from wanting to tear it up; boy was I wrong. He ripped it up in less than five minutes and then I removed it because I did not want him swallowing the squeaker. In all seriousness though, if you have a dog with a heavy mouth, the Square Ball is for you.

All of Our Ducks In a Row

Okay, so perhaps I'm not lining up ducks, but I am trying to get things ready for when we arrive in Edinburgh. Mr. K starts class three days after we land and I really want things to go as smoothly as possible. I'm not under any illusions, as I've stated before, that there won't be any glitches, but I'm trying to eliminate as many as I can. The "duck" I am working on is finding employment. Since I may or may not get into Queen Margaret this fall, finding a job is necessary. The problem is, there aren't many jobs in the field I can work in and I sort of feel unemployable. I know that I am, but there are a few things that make think someone else may get the job over me.
I think the biggest factor is that I am not from the UK. My qualifications are not the same as the ones that the job descriptions are looking for. Actually, my qualifications are more advanced in some ways-my massage program was a 2200 hour program whereas massage courses take place on weekends in most cases in Scotland-but I don't have the letters behind my name that they are looking for. I have applied anyway. You will never know until you try. I know I have to be patient and I think that is my biggest problem right now.
I hate waiting. I've never been good at it. Dog training still calls to me, but the cost of the courses is just not something we can afford right now. Part of me just wants to say, "screw it" and open up a pet store/bakery, but again, that isn't very realistic. That would be a pricy venture too.
There seem to be a lot of jobs available for Personal Trainers and I've actually sent out a few requests for more information. Becoming a Personal Trainer would actually suit Physiotherapy quite well and I could complete the course in as little as  six weeks. I'm really trying to keep my options open. I just wish I had some responses back, whether yay or nay, so that I knew we had a bit of a more concrete plan upon arrival. Then again, it probably wouldn't kill me to take a few weeks to settle in. With the move getting closer and closer, I think I'm just being a worry wart. A pet store does sound good though doesn't it? A bakery, an spot for canine massage, training services...I can just see it now. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Things to Be Considered

Everyone who has been reading for a while, knows that I can be a bit fanatical about what my dogs eat. I think it partly stems from my own awareness about human nutrition and trying to eat healthily. Today I come back to dog nutrition. I have really been researching what it would take to feed my dogs a raw diet, but I've gotten a   lot of mixed information and thus mixed feelings about it. Let me explain where this all came from first. *Side note: you may want to grab a snack. This is a long post*.
Roscoe, Mr. K's 68 pound Leader dog, has always had funky smelling breath and extraordinarily slimy slobber. He was a kissy monster from day one, but no one wanted his lovings because they stayed stuck to your arm/face/hand after the kissing was done. Very gross, but it was just something Mr. K decided to accept about him. From there his grain allergies, which we did not know existed then, just became worst. Besides the stinky and gloppy slobber, Roscoe started developing ear infections and it wasn't because he was swimming in a swamp. He would get them even in the winter, despite not playing out in the snow. There was no reason for them, but a little light went off in the back of my mind, telling me that I had seen this before. I thought perhaps that he was allergic to chicken as Jetta had grown to be, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't entirely sure. Then, Roscoe blew his entire coat; well, almost all of his entire coat. and he has a very thick, wavy coat. Why do you think we call him "Shaggy Dog?" It came out in chunks and it wasn't just the under coat. His top coat flew off too and the very thin layer of fur still covering him was coarse and wiry to the touch. It felt brittle and dry. I told Mr. K what I thought was going on and  Mr. K took Roscoe off of the chicken based food and switched him to a food that had salmon as its protein source. Roscoe did well on this for a while. His breath improved drastically, his ears cleared up, his coat grew back in thick and shiny  and his slobber wasn't as thick. Oh yes, and his poop was much smaller; all signs that we had found a good food for him. The problem is that it didn't stay that way. Roscoe seems to get used to the food he is on. At least, that is the conclusion I have come to.
Roscoe is just over four years old and I can't tell you how many different brands of food he has been on and it's not because we like screwing with our dogs' digestive tracts. If my count is right, Roscoe has been on four to five different brands of dog food. He does well on them at the start, but within six to eight months, his allergic symptoms come back; and it's started with the food we have them on now. I think Mr. K might think I'm nuts, but it's true.
Last night we asked Roscoe to come up on the bed. It's a treat and neither Glacier nor Roscoe are allowed to be up there without us asking them. He was being his usual goofy Roscoe self, rolling around, snorting and wagging his tail vigorously. That's when I noticed his breath. It was horrible. I haven't smelled it this bad in a very long time; it nearly made me gag. While he was flailing about on his back, his ears flapped open and I could smell them and they did not smell good. They kind of smelled like a warm potato-and not one with sour cream, bacon and cheese on it. More like a warm potato that is close to the rotting stage; a starchy smell. Roscoe had an ear infection when he was up visiting Glacier and I in Ontario and he got another one when he got back to SC, both of which I was able to clear up with a home made ear cleanser. Since those ear infections-one in May and one at the beginning of July-I've kept a pretty steady regiment of cleaning his ears once a week. With that in mind, his ears should not have smelled like that. I wiped them out this morning and was horrified at the amount of wax that came out on the tissue. So, the ears and the breath are definitely a problem.
On top of those two issues, Roscoe's coat has  been flying off in clouds of black fur. He'll shake and a huge puff comes off of him. If you rub him enthusiastically, wads of fur come flying off and small furballs are left in your hands. It almost makes me not want  to pet him. I could "Furminate" him for hours and it still wouldn't be enough. He's also started chewing on his paws, which we originally thought was him trimming his own claws-because he does that-but upon inspection, I realised that he was nibbling away at the pads. This is another indication that there is something wrong in his diet. Last night we bought a bag of treats and I made sure they were grain free, but even if the previous treats had grains, they weren't getting them enough for him to be reacting so severely.
This brings me back to feeding our dogs a raw diet. I know it works. I know a few people who feed their dogs this way and it has been successful for them. I'm not disputing the validity or the goodness of feeding your dog raw, but I have a few concerns.
1. First of all, some of the people who have designed websites around feeding your dogs raw, do not make you feel welcome. They are abrasive and almost seem like you are joining a cult. They make a lot of big claims without backing them up and one site wanted me to feed my dog a dead animal carcass as a part of their regular meals. The person writing this particular website made you feel like a sinner for not feeding your dog properly and for supporting commercial dog foods. I don't think this attitude is going to get people to switch. She tore vets a new one for being sponsored by commercial dog food companies, but it was an attack more than anything. I think to some degree, raw feeding is not for everyone and being forceful about it is not the way to get people to do it. If I didn't already know about it, I definitely would have been turned off.
2. It is hard to figure out how exactly you should be feeding your dog. Our dogs are working dogs and I am hesitant to switch them to something that could potentially under feed them; we can't have it impacting their working capability. One website told me to just feed my dog "a salmon filet with some organ meat." That is all it said. No mention of organ meats, especially liver, being high in vitamin A and having to watch your dog's intake. They also said that your dogs don't need fruits or vegetables. Okay, perhaps they don't need fruits, but don't they need some kind of ruffage to keep things moving and to clear out bad cholesterol? Your dogs eat grass for a reason and it's not because their stomachs are upset. I think raw feeding could be done incorrectly and these websites could potentially contribute to that. I did find one good website that talks about the "basics of raw feeding" and it was much more informative and friendly. It decreased some of my anxiety over raw feeding Glacier and Roscoe, but it just seems like there is not enough information out there for me to feel comfortable making the switch.
3. What if it's a change I can't maintain either for financial reasons or time restrictions? Doing most things as a blind person usually takes twice as long as doing the same task as a sighted person. What if I get into Physiotherapy school and do not have the time to prepare their meals properly? Also, how the crap do you feed raw if you're in class? Kibbles are more sanitary and easier to dump into a collapsable bowl, have your dog gobble them up and then carry on. Glacier has to be fed on a regular schedule for two reasons. First, he throws up if he has an empty stomach; something fairly common in Labs. Second, a schedule keeps his poop regular and I know when he's going to go; most of the time. That means, I know when he needs a bathroom break or if he's going to go in the morning or before bed. There aren't any surprises in the mall or grocery store. Some websites claim that feeding raw is cheaper than comercial foods, but I'm not entirely sure how that is possible.
4. I am also concerned with keeping things sanitary. It's difficult cleaning when you can't see, and feeding your dogs raw meat and things could get disastrous very quickly.
5. Guide dogs are not supposed to eat human food as it causes begging behaviors and that is completely unacceptible when out in public. Not to mention, I do not want a begging dog in my house. I'm not sure if raw feeding would interfere with Glacier and Roscoe's training. Could we go to a butcher without them salivating a river? Dogs are smarter than we think and they learn very quickly what is theirs and what is not, or what they think should be theirs.
It's something that I  would really like to be able to do for Roscoe's sake, but I think I need to do some more research. I am just not comfortable with my dogs gnawing on raw rabbit or chicken carcasses in my living room. I know it would be beneficial for both dogs and if it's something we decide to do, we'll just have to get creative and find ways to feed them efficiently and safely.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Fact Friday: The Man Behind the Girl

Since yesterday was mine and Mr. K's anniversary, I thought I'd introduce him a bit more formerly

Fifteen Fun Facts: Mr. K

1. I have already mentioned this before, but since it is so obvious...Mr. K is six foot five inches tall, which makes him almost exactly a foot taller than me. Almost!
2. Mr. K wears his hair fashioned into a mohawk...or squished under a hat; depending on his mood.
3. Mr. K hates vegetables! It is impossible to get that man to get near anything that grew in the ground, on a vine, from a get the point.
4. Mr. K was a cat person all of his life and wasn't a huge fan of dogs. The funny thing is he is incredibly allergic to cats and now he loves dogs. Hmmm, I wonder whose fault that was? ;)
5. Mr. K has way more tattoos than I do. Both arms have at least half sleeves that are Japanese inspired and his leg has a gigantic Jack Skellington  from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie. He also hasa Green Lantern symbol on his forearm...did I mention my husband's a nerd? (He's been on a Star Wars kick lately).
6. Despite being a very big man, Mr. K is a very good dancer; much better than me.
7. Mr. K loves electronics and electronics love him. I can have a problem with my cell phone, do everything that I know he'll do and it still not work; then hand it over to Mr. K, he do the things I did and the stinking thing works.
8. Mr. K has a contagious laugh. If he gets going I can't help but to start laughing right along with him.
9. Mr. K lost his vision at the age of 25 to a neurological condition, but had terrible vision in his left eye previous to that; he was practically blind out of it.
10. Mr. K loves Coke-it is his cryptinite (LOL. Oh, I crack myself up).
11. He loves music and was in a Christian, Death Metal band in high school. He still plays the guitar from time to time, but his latest passion has been the banjo.
12. Mr. K thinks that he lacks patience, and perhaps for some things he does, but for others such as my crazy ideas he is quite patient. I mean, come on. He's moving to Scotland because I got it in my head that it would be a good place to go.
13. Mr. K really should go on a trivia game where he could win a lot of money because...he'd win. The man is full of what some people would call "useless knowledge..." But I wouldn't call it useless facts because most of it is interesting and kind of useful.
14. Mr. K will talk to anyone. I'm not kidding. He'll call his university to get his classes set up for next semester and he suddenly has a new best friend. I'll hear him talking and think he's chatting to someone he knows  really well and it turns out it's the sales person from AT and T.
15. Mr. K's name is interchangeable between the sexes and when I first met him I blurted out:
"You're like the boy named Sue!"
Somehow, he married me anyway.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Time Flies When You're Having Fun"

It's been 1 whole year; 52 weeks or  365 days. No matter how you look at it it's a day to be celebrated. This has been spent laughing, sharing, loving, crying, talking, arguing but never fighting, supporting, disagreeing, trusting, discussing, experiencing, holding, goofing around, relaxing, stressing, moving, planning, changing, growing and much much more. It was a year ago today that I signed a piece of paper and jammed a ring on Mr. K's left finger and said "I do." Confused yet?
Mr. K and I were legally married last year, but had our wedding on May 28th of this year. We did it that way for a couple of reasons. The main reason was because  we knew we needed time to plan our wedding, but also wanted to stop having to travel back and forth across the borders to see each other. So, we were married and had the wedding later. I actually would not have done it any other way. At first, I was a bit resistant because I was worried that no one would come to our wedding and wouldn't think it was important because we were already married, but I was wrong. There were a select few who took this attitude, but the people who were guests at our wedding made the celebration what it was. It also made our wedding ceremony even that much more special; there I stood almost eleven months later and I was excited to be married to this man again. What does that tell you?
So much has happened in the last year and considering we're moving to Edinburgh Scotland in less than a month, I'm pretty sure the adventures aren't about to slow down. The best part of it all is that I get to do it with one of my best friends. I think that is the key to our relationship; we became friends quickly and even though there was a definite attraction going on, the time we spent doing things together was just as important as anything else. We're still like that. We just enjoy spending time together. We can both be on our respective computers, doing our thing, but be sitting in the same room and that is enough. Mr. K always says,
"life is too short to have people around that you really don't like," and so I know he's not keeping me around for my fantastic cooking ability. Oh, right-I can't cook.
So it is with one very interesting year under our belts that we move forward into another chapter of our lives and like I said above, I'm glad it can be with you Mr. K. Oh, and Glacier and Roscoe too of course-without those two fuzzy fools, we never would have met. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Roscoe: The Wonder Dog

People often imply that our dogs are "wonder" dogs because of the jobs that they perform. If looked at simply, I suppose they could be considered "wonder" dogs, but there is so much more that goes into a   good guide dog and a a good working team. With that in mind, I am still going to call Roscoe a "wonder" dog, just for this post; read on and you'll see why.
It's not often that Roscoe gets a post dedicated to him. There are a few reasons, but the main one being that he's not my guide dog and even though I love him like crazy, I keep a certain amount of healthy distance from in order to ensure he and Mr. K are a cohesive working unit. That said, he's a pretty amazing dog and isn't disturbed  by much. He knows his job and does it well. Monday was a prime example of that.
Monday evening Mr. K and I  walked over to one of the only places we can walk to from our townhouse. We thought a nice meal out would be a good change of environment not only for us, but for Glacier and Roscoe too. They are both well behaved dogs, but you can tell when they are needing some stimulation because they both sort of mope around
We were settled at a table in a comfortably roomy corner where Glacier and Roscoe would be safe from customers' unsuspecting feet. The restaurant was not terribly busy,  so it wasn't a big deal for us to be taking up a bit more room than usual. Normally, Glacier would tuck under the booth or right up against my chair and Roscoe would do the same. Glacier assumed his regular position at my left side, his face pointing out into the restaurant so he could watch everything going on. Roscoe flopped down in typical Roscoe fashion and Mr. K and I settled into a nice supper and good conversation.
Thankfully the menu was in braille and we were able to pick our meals without having to have  the server read the menu items to us. We sat through delicious, warm biscuits, our main dish, a shared  very chocolatey dessert and I drank half of a cup of de-caf coffee: the coffee was too watery for my liking so I told Mr. K we could head out  if he was ready. The two dogs we incredibly behaved during all of this time, despite the restaurant managing thinking he could pet them. He was polite though when we explained that they were not to be interacted with and he left us to our meal. I'm not sure how he missed the gigantic "Do not pet me, I am working" sign on Roscoe's back, but you know.
Mr. K grabbed the cheque, I hooked my purse over my shoulder and we stood to leave. Glacier climbed to his paws, shook hard and performed his signature front paw then back paw stretch. As I was praising him for a good "stay" I heard Mr. K exclaim from behind me. It turns out that when settling in he had let Roscoe's leash out to give him a bit more room to stretch and apparently he had accidentally  unclipped the leash completely. Through the unwanted attention from the restaurant manager, the server coming and going, food on the floor and  a wailing  child Roscoe had remained in his "down stay" without even wearing a leash.
You know you have a seasoned and healthy working team when your dog doesn't even have to wear a leash to keep it in the correct spot. I'm not suggesting guide dog handlers should try this, that could have some disastrous consequences, but it's still pretty cool that he behaved so well. Due to these actions, I think it's appropriate that Roscoe be deemed "the wonder dog" even for one day. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Oh Where Oh Where Could My Little Dog(s) Be?"

It's been over a month since Aria and Doc were rehomed and about three since Baloo found his new Mama. It's been quiet around here without those little monsters running around and I miss them like crazy, but they are all doing great in their new homes. The best part is that all three Dachshunds went to family members or friends, so we are able to get updates every once in a while. Here is an update on each pup.

Aria: Aria went to live with Mr. K's mom and is the Princess of the house. She had her first birthday on June 10th, just a few days after she moved into her new home. She has the run of the house and is a good girl while Mr. K's mom is at work. She doesn't need to be crated anymore and uses the puppy pads during the day while she waits for her new Mama to come home. She loves to go out on the front porch, attached to her little doggie leash, and watch the neighbourhood kids playing. Mr. K's mom takes her for car rides, to her son-inlaw's baseball games and wherever else she knows she can get Aria into. Aria also has her own spot on the couch and Mr. K's mom put a blanket there for her.  Sometimes Mr. K's sisters will stop by the house and check on Aria while their mom is at work. Aria also gets to go over to the ball diamond that is just around the corner, when it is not occupied, and run around like a little maniac. Aria loves when the grandkids come to visit because she gets to play with them. The girls like to take her for walks and brush her. She holds still for them and is patient with their efforts to beautify her. Whenever she is given a bone, she runs about the living room and hides it. She later goes looking for it and has to check all of her hiding spots until she finds the one she left it in. True to her nature, she did escape from the house one day. Mr. K's mom left the window open for Aria so she could have some fresh air. Miss Aria, being the escape artist that she is, figured out how to open the screen, squeeze her little butt through and took herself for a romp. Thankfully, a neighbour saw her and put her back on her doggie leash where she safely waited for her Mama to come home. She sleeps in her crate at night and will go straight in when her Mama opens the door and says, "go nigh' nigh'." We were worried she'd be lonely without having other dogs, since she was always with other animals, but she seems to have adjusted to being the only one getting attention just fine. She has adopted a giant stuffed, cat hand puppet as her "baby" and carries it around with  her; despite it being waaaaaaay bigger than her. All in all, she is doing well and loving her new home and she also seems to be good for Mr. K's mom who was living alone.

Baloo: The little Kissie Monster is still his kissie self and is happily kissing the crap out of my friend Lindsay. The quiet, shy puppy that used to live with us has become a crazy, energetic dog. He will be 1 on August 22nd and has grown exponentially since he moved out. He has gone from 8 pounds to about 12 of good solid dog. He barks now, which he never used to do, but I think it's good since Lindsay lives alone. He is still confused as to why Lindsay's two cats, Zelda and Articia, won't play with him and he tries every day to engage them in playful battle: they just powder puff him in the face  and he moves on. He too gets to have a lot of outings and if Lindsay can't be with him, her dad gladly takes over; bringing Baloo everywhere. Baloo's interests now include yard saling and long, walks/runs on the beach. He sleeps with his Mama and insists on bringing toys to bed, like his favourite stuffed duck. This duck happened to be bigger than him and he decided putting a hole in it and de-stuffing it was a good idea. He looked very upset when Lindsay removed it. If he is upset, Baloo will sit down and put his nose on the ground and pout. Whoever says that dogs don't have emotions, has never had one, or has never gotten to  know one. Baloo is a joyful little guy who loves going for car rides and outings with his new Mama. He too adjusted well to being the only dog and feels that it is his sworn  duty to aerate Lindsay's lawn. He loves sticks and going to the dog park and thinks he's a big dog. Again, another happy pup in a good home.

Doc: Doc was the one who was with us the shortest time and he has gone to live with my uncle, his wife and her kids. They also have a rescue dog named Beatrice and Doc and B have become the best of friends. They play wrestle and run zoomies out in the fenced yard. Doc gets to go for walks and to the dog park. At first, he was afraid at the dog park, but he has since opened up and has a great time. B had some dog sensitivity issues, but since Doc came around, she is doing much better. They play a game where Doc will attack her face, she'll swat him with her paw and if she can't pin him down that way, she'll lay her chest on top of him. This game goes on forever. Doc also likes to chew the knotted ends off of the rawhide bones and chase them around the house. He also thinks that the big bones belong to him and B thinks the little bones belong to her. They are a tag team. One day their Mama came home to find Doc on the table eating dog cookies and B on the floor eating the ones Doc had pushed down to her. There was an incident where Doc sunk his little teeth into my uncle's hand, but he accidentally did the two things we told him not to do-don't corner him or grab him if you've cornered him. His Mama had called him to go out before bed and being the stubborn Dachshund that he is, Doc ran the opposite direction. My uncle went after him and went to catch him to take him out and Doc bit him, drawing blood. After a good talk, my uncle understood why Doc had bitten him and everything was good. Both B and Doc are rescues in a sense, since we got Doc when he was 9 months old and had been living in a kennel from birth. That experience left him a bit skiddish at first and a bit defensive. When you take on rescue dogs, you accept that they may have certain behaviors due to their past.  Another time his Mama and Dad came home and could not find him. They searched everywhere and were very worried. They finally checked the basement where they found Doc lying still: they were convinced he was dead. My uncle approached him and realised he was not only breathing, but that he was wearing a chip bag on his head. Once they removed the chip bag, Doc hopped around happily, probably thankful to be rid of the torturous contraption. They figure he hopped on the kitchen table via a chair, stole the chip bag, emptied its contents and then got stuck in it. He then probably tried to get out by walking farther into the chip bag and not being able to see where he was going, he crashed down the basement stairs. He then got stuck in the corner where they found him and gave up until someone came home to rescue him. This story proves that he is still the crazy, silly little Doc man that lived with us. He too is a happy guy with a lot of people to love him, take him for walks, feed him treats and a big sister, Beatrice, to play with.

As you can see, all of our rehomed little guys are doing very well. They are all eating good food-especially Doc who is eating some crazy healthy  thing that I would feed them-and living in very loving homes. All of their new owners always say how much they love having them and it makes Mr. K and I feel better about having to give them up. Sometimes rehoming really is the better option. I'm just really thankful to the people who took our dogs and made them an important part of their families.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paws Off!

You have all heard me rant about people petting Glacier without permission and my feelings on people needing to ask rather than just assume they have the right, but have I ever told you how irritating people are  when they think it's okay to touch me? Not everyone does, and thank goodness they don't, but a select few seem to think that is all right to just touch me without warning. First of all, for a blind person that can be startling and not to mention quite offensive-I'm sure it's offensive for most people. I'm not talking a little pat on the arm or a touch on the shoulder to let me know a server is placing something in front of me, I am talking a full on frisking; at least that is what it feels like. It is quite invasive and very disrespectful. I don't think these people understand that what they are doing is dehumanising and makes me feel like a child. When did people stop thinking and just doing?
Today a friend and I went out for lunch and then I indulged in a fancy coffee from Starbucks. I don't do that often since my coffee cost just as much as   my sandwich. We sat and chatted and just generally caught up as we have not seen each other since I left SC back in April. It was quite pleasant and Glacier was being incredibly good, just lying at my feet watching people pass us by. I commented to her how it was nice that I hadn't had to reprimand anyone for trying to pet him during this outing and incredibly, I didn't have to say "please don't pet him. He's working" once. What I did need to say was,  "please don't pet me. I'm shopping." Well, I thought about saying it.
After our chat we headed to a store that I thoroughly enjoy. The clothes are so fun to look at. They are very tactile, which makes for an interesting combination of really nice, cool things and some very horrifying things. There was one top that had little fluffy material all over it. I asked my friend if she wanted to look like a turkey. Then she showed me a full body leotard. Are people really wearing those in public? I asked her if she was planning on doing gymnastics and both she and another customer burst out laughing. Oops, perhaps I should keep my commentary to myself. ;)
We moved through the store, friend handing me things to look at me manhandling clothes hanging on hangers. There were a few very nice dresses and we stopped to check them out. As my friend was describing a dress to me that I was holding in one hand and looking at with the other, the sales clerk came up and started talking to us. She was a bit pushy, but some sales clerks just are and so we just ignored the interruption. As my friend finished up explaining, which she did a great job I might add, the sales clerk said,
"let me help describe" and proceeded to touch my chest and side to demonstrate her point.
As I've said, I am sure she didn't realise that petting a stranger is not okay, but would she have described a piece to a sighted person by stroking their side or chest? I highly doubt it. What if I were a person who was extremely ticklish? What if I had a traumatic event in my life that made me uncomfortable with other people touching me? Even though I do not fall into either of these categories, it is still not okay for her to touch me without my permission. I'm actually quite a touchy feely kind of person and if she had asked to show me how the dress hung I would have probably said yes. When someone touches you without your permission, regardless of the intentions, it takes your power away and devalues  you as  a decision-making adult.  So not cool.
I know some people may be thinking,
"whoa. A very strong reaction for such a small action,"
but it's not that easy.
If you were being touched all of the time without your permission, it would make you mad too. This happens more often than one would think. Once when out working with Jetta, I had someone come up, grab me by the arm, drag me across the street and say they were helping me cross. Turns out they deposited me on the wrong corner and I would have been lost if I didn't know the area well.
I understand that touching happens. For example, if someone is talking to me and to get my attention they touch my arm or shoulder. That is not stroking/petting/basic groping. When I refer to stroking/petting/groping, I am not referring to these touches as forms of inappropriate touching with regards to sexuality. They are inappropriate because the person touching seems to think there are no consequence to putting their hands on my body. It makes a person feel like their body is not their own. I have experienced many of my friends who are wheelchair users be patted on the head and even one person had the handles of their chair snatched up and start getting pushed down the street. These sorts of behaviors are not okay, but I do not think they will go away until disability is not regarded as negative/undesirable/inferior.
Whether we use mobility aids to get around or not, we do not desire to be touched just willy-nilly. If I walked up to some random person and started tapping their kid on the head or smearing my fingers on their glasses, it would be frowned upon. If I grabbed the steering wheel while someone was driving and jerked it, that would be frowned upon. If I ran my hand down a complete stranger's side and drew lines over their sternum, that would be frowned upon. If you wouldn't do it to an able-bodied person, don't do it to a disabled person and if you're unsure, ask! If you don't know, ask! There is nothing wrong with asking. It usually saves a lot of embarrassment for both parties. Please, just ask.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Betty Crocker Can Kiss My...

I have never once claimed to be a good housekeeper/cook/housewife/whatever you want to call it. In fact, when I met Mr. K I was very upfront with my lack of desire/ability to be a good housewife. I don't know what it is, but I think the House Gods hate me and today's events are a testament to that.
I woke up today with motivation to play Susie Home maker. I'm not saying anything against men or women who choose to do this; they are brave souls and stronger people than I. I  started with turning the dish washer on and unloading it when it was done. This activity went fine and I really don't mind doing it. Everything sort of started going downhill from there. I went out to pick up poop and managed to get it smeared on my wrist somehow. I don't know about you, but picking up poop in 100 degree weather is bad enough, never mind smearing the hot, stinky stuff on yourself.
After poop pick up and washed hands/arms, I decided it was a good time to put a roast on in the crockpot. I usually love cooking with the crockpot since it is quite simple; or so I thought. I managed to get the roast in with my spices and liquid, but I haven't used it in  so long I forgot how to turn it on. Not being able to read the buttons didn't help either.  Mr. K was not available to turn it on, so I left the roast to sit in the juices until he returned and turned it on for me. Dinner is going to be much later than planned. Oh, did I mention that I broke the lid of the crockpot back in Novemberish so we have to cover the top with tin foil. That is a job in itself. Just know that it's not pretty-me, tin foil, get the point.
While my roast marinated, I hauled the laundry hamper out to our little laundry shed and whacked my elbow on the brick outer wall of our townhouse. I think the elbow is the worst place to hit off of things. After hopping around in pain for a minute, I made it to the shed  only to discover that we hardly had enough soap left to do one load. I have enough laundry to do three or four loads. I put the one load on anyway and although the washing process went fine, when I went back out to check after it should have been dry, the whole load was still soaking wet. Apparently, I didn't set the dryer properly and thus I had wet clothes. Go me!
Back inside for me where I vaccuumed like a maniac. Even with only having the two dogs as opposed to five, a lot of fur accumulates. My first problem was that I couldn't get the vaccuum out of its upright and locked position. After ten minutes or so of fussing with it, it finally came unlocked and I was able to vaccuum. I can't tell you how many times I ran over my own foot or whacked my ankles with the heavy machine.  And let me tell you, it would not matter if I could see: I am just clumsy. Somehow in the process of sucking up fur, I may have managed to suck up my Olympic ring from my first trip to the Paralympics. It was in my pocket and when I looked after my vigorous vaccuuming session, it was no longer there. I can't find it anywhere on the floor, but I'll have to wait and get someone else to check for it before I tear the vaccuum cleaner apart looking for it.
I amazingly  got through cleaning the two bathrooms and kitchen without incident, but it was time to put the potatoes into the crockpot so they could cook. Oopsy number one occurred when I decided to chop the potatoes up on the counter instead of the chopping board I had gotten out and laid on the counter top. So much for my nice clean counter. I'm not sure what happened, but half way through cutting the second, large potato I realised that I was not using the chopping bard, but was hacking the starchy things up on my nice shiny counter. Getting the potatoes into the crockpot was fun too. I had to peel the tin foil back to get them in and I kept burning my fingers. Once I finally got the tin foil pulled away and started chucking  potato pieces into the pot, it was apparent that I had torn my so carefully crafted fake lid. I got more tin foil out and did the best I could to seal the top of the crockpot so that the heat that is supposed to be cooking our dinner does not escape. More finger burning, more tin foil wrestling.
So, you see? I should not be left alone with a vaccuum cleaner, crockpot and a dryer for any length of time. I may have good intentions, but my results leave a bit to be desired. Put me on a bike and tell me to pedal for 45 minutes; give me a misbehaving dog; throw me in a pool and tell me to swim 2 kilometres; ask me to make you a necklace; babysit your dog for the weekend; but please don't ask me to be a housewife because I suck at it.
Maybe one day when I'm rich and famous, I will buy a crockpot with a lid. Actually, scratch that: I'll just hire someone to cook/clean for us. No more finger burning, ankle slamming, elbow whacking. Well, perhaps no more elbow whacking is wishful thinking: I don't think hiring someone to be our chef will fix my clumsiness. :)

Getting Closer

A month from tomorrow Mr. K, Glacier, Roscoe and I will be boarding a plane to the UK. About a week ago it seemed kind of far off, but upon thinking about it last night, I realised that a month really isn't that much time. This time next week will mean that we will have just over three weeks and that in itself is just amazing. Time has definitely flown since Mr. K and I made the decision to move to another continent. In some ways there is so much to do and in others there isn't anything to do but to wait. The couple of days leading up to our flight are going to be crazy with having a few vet visits and such to get all of our paper work in order.
It really hit me last night that we were really moving and soon when I gave the boys' Kong Wobbler and Busy Buddy treat dispensing toy to our friends. She just got a mini pig for her birthday and it would appear that they need a lot of stimulation. We haven't met him yet-his name is Jethro-but I am hoping we get to before we leave; very cool little animals. We've also promised our gigantic elk antler to them as they have a yellow Lab, a Fox Hound and a Weimerraner. Earlier in the week, Kyo's old crate was given to a friend with a Bull Mastiff and a bunch of our doggie supplies and office supplies were donated to PAALS. It's weird giving the dogs' toys and things away, but it just means I get to go dog shopping when we arrive in the UK.
Technically we could have shipped some things over, but the cost of shipping is hardly worth the price of the goods that we would have shipped. Putting all of the dogs' toys in our suitcases would have weighed them down significantly and since the Kong Wobbler did not cost fifty dollars, the price of an over weight bag, we'll be replacing it upon arrival in Edinburgh. We still have the Toughies Square Ball that is one of the boys' favourites and since that is soft, squishy   and light I'm sure it could make the trip. Besides that, I think their toys will go to other dogs.
The toys are not the only thing of the dogs' that we'll be leaving behind. I haven't quite figured out their food situation yet. I thought I may contact Orijen and ask them if there is any way we would be able to get samples as they would fit better in carry on luggage and the food would then be sealed in its original packaging. I'm not sure how picky the UK is about dog food coming in, but when crossing the Canada US border the food must be sealed in its original packaging and I believe lamb is not allowed. I figure since we'll probably run into some other weird issues once we arrive, having the dogs' food sealed may just avoid extra conflicts.
The dogs are also required to wear seat belts during take off and landing, according to DEFRA,, which is fine, but no one seems to know what style of seat belt is required. I haven't even figured out how we're supposed to fasten the dogs in. We've asked the Airline and they have no idea, so come tomorrow, I'll be phoning the UK to get a straight answer. All we need is to be kicked off of our flight just because we don't have or have the wrong doggie seat belt. Whenever I flew with Jetta into Europe the seat belt was never required, but then again, we never flew into London England; mostly because of the crazy strict restrictions they have placed on incoming animals.
Of course we have human preparations to consider as well: vaccuum packing some of our clothes/linens, selling/giving away the rest of our stuff, making sure we have rides to all of our appointments and to the airport Etc. Some of this stuff we'll get moving on this week, but other things cannot happen until the actual week we leave. It's all very exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time, but as I've said a million times before, it is going to be so worth it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More Progress

It seems as though this move to Scotland was the one thing Mr. K and I were supposed to do all along. We definitely have hit a few hiccups in our plans, but for the most part, things are working out really well; particularly in the triathlon arena.
Yesterday I received an email from Triathlon Scotland
informing me that they may have found a temporary solution to my lack of tandem bike problem. There is an organisation in Scotland that I believe is called "Scotland Disability Sport" and these fabulous people had been in contact with yet another organisation called Visibility. Visibility seems to be involved with blind children and teaching them the importance of activity. I am sure the group does much more, but I haven't found a website for them yet. Visibility has four tandem bikes that they allow the children to use and they said that if I can find someone to transport the bike for me, then I could use it to train on. I would have been a bit worried about transport, but two of the athletes of the Edinburgh Triathlon club have already said that they could assist with transport. At first, I was like,
"transport? Why are we transporting?" Now I understand.  The bikes are just over a year old, which means that they won't be crazy heavy like the one I have here is.
Scotland Disability Sport also said that they would be willing to look for other bikes I could borrow, as a back up plan. Having access to more than one bike from different sources may make training and racing a lot more feasible. That way, if the bikes are not available from Visibility, I would have another place to get a bike from. Also, if the second organisation is closer to where I will be living, actually getting the bike may be easier on both myself and my pilot and/or person who has volunteered to transport it.
Remember how I talked about "wow" moments the other day? I seem to have had another one. Triathlon Scotland is the governing body for the sport of triathlon in Scotland. They are very busy people and here they are helping me find a tandem bike. I had emailed one of the men I was in contact with and explained my situation, asking if he knew of anyone else I could contact. The result was another man I had been in contact with a few months back and the information about Visibility and SDS. I am not used to this kind of assistance from a sport's governing body; especially considering I am a disabled athlete. Also, I am just getting started in the sport of triathlon. It's not like I am coming in an established World Record holder in the women's able-bodied event. Their enthusiasm and assistance is so encouraging. I have said this before, but I'll say it again: I have been trying to get training in  for just a sprint triathlon for over a year and up until dealing with these people, I have run into very negative attitudes and people just not willing to help. J from Won With 1 had made initial contact with the Edinburgh Triathlon club for me and without her help, I am not sure these communications would be going as well as they have been. So, I guess I can't say that it's only been Scotland who has been great, but they definitely have exceeded my expectation.
I am used to fighting, not only for what I want, but what I need and these people are dedicating their time to finding what I want. It's a very big change; a huge breath of fresh air. If I had known SDS or Visibility existed I would have contacted them myself, but since I obviously don't know what organisations are up and running in Scotland, I am extremely grateful that Triathlon Scotland is so willing to make an effort on my behalf.
Knowing that I have that kind of support, is incredibly motivating. Knowing that I won't have to fight just to get a coach or some training time, makes me want to get to Edinburgh in the best shape possible considering the circumstances and prove to them that I am ready to train. All sporting organisations should model themselves after Triathlon Scotland and make their athletes new and old, disabled and able-bodied and everything in between, feel welcome and important. It's all very exciting and I can't wait to hop on that plane in 33 days. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Little Things That Count

Do you ever get those moments when someone does something that  makes you pause and say to yourself,
"Wow, that was so nice."?
I had one of those moments the other day and I am still benefitting from it today.
Monday morning I woke up and set about my normal routine: feed dogs, give dogs water, start coffee, take dogs out...Etc, but when I went to fill the coffee pot I realised that I was running incredibly low on coffee grounds. Knowing that Mr. K and I would need to get someone to get us to the grocery store since it is inaccessible from where we live, I mentioned it to him. We threw around the idea that if we didn't get to the grocery store before I ran out, we'd try CVS, a pharmacy across the street that we can actually get to.
Tuesday morning rolled around and I was getting a bit antsy because with each passing day the coffee was getting lower and lower. I am fully aware that this is just coffee I am talking about and that it's not like we ran out of food, but dude, mornings would just not be the same without the deliciousness of coffee. That night we wandered up to a gas station that is just around the corner. It's another of the very few places we can actually access without someone driving us. We both wanted snacks, unhealthy ones I might add, and so asked the woman at the counter to help us find chips and dip. She was very nice and Mr. K informed me she was one of the owners. I guess while I've been gone he's become familiar with the people working at the various locations in this area. We chatted a bit with her and when she asked if there was anything else I asked if she sold coffee. She said yes and I became very excited: if she sold coffee, I would never have to worry about running out again. Then, she asked me what size of cup I wanted. My heart plummeted; they sold it by the cup. I would not be able to brew the nectar of life in the morning. There would be no delicious aroma, no dark liquid filling my favourite Tinkerbell mug, no way to prod my sleepy brain from a state of slumber to wakefulness. What would I do?
I politely declined and explained what I was looking for and that she should not worry about it. I just figured Mr. K and I would try CVS like we had originally planned to. The woman laughed and said,
"a gift from the store to you," and handed us a little packet of coffee; and not just any coffee, Premium Roast Hazel Nut! And right there and then standing  in the Circle K with Glacier lying at my feet and a complete stranger handing me a packet of coffee, , I had a 
"wow that was so nice" moment.
Sure it was a small package and sure it's just coffee, but it's not very often that you see people just giving things away nowadays. Giving me that package was thoughtful in ways that she probably could never imagine. It meant that Mr. K and I didn't have to get to the grocery store Pronto and that meant we didn't have to find someone to run us there. It also meant that my mornings were complete with a good cup of coffee and that the dogs didn't have to deal with me stumbling around in a Zombie-like state, groaning and moaning about a caffeine withdrawal headache. Then  again, perhaps she is acutely  aware of the necessity of a solid cup of coffee in the morning herself and didn't wish that withdrawal headache on her worst enemies. Honestly though, I just think she's a nice person doing a nice thing for someone and it's those 
"wow that was so  nice"
moments  like that that  give me  hope for the human race.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Power of a Good Book

A while back I had it in my head that I wanted to be a dog trainer. All right, so perhaps that notion hasn't quite disappeared, but I have come to the conclusion that due to our move, it is not financially feasible for me to take a course right now. So, I found the next best thing; a book. Well, actually, I found a few books and have been deeply engrossed in one of them. I can't quite remember the title, I'm horrible with book titles, but it is basically about the applied behavior and psychology of dogs. It is a very good, but heavy read. There is so much information that I have to read it in little sections, put the book away and digest what I've just read. It started by outlining the history of the domesticated dog and moved into puppy learning and behavior. It was published in 2000 and a lot of the references are quite old-dating back to 1949-but I think some of the information is still relevant and the stuff that is not will give me a base of knowledge that I can apply to my style of training. If someone asks me "why" or "why not" I will be better equipped to answer those questions.
I personally like Operant Conditioning, which basically means you teach the dog to make decisions and to problem solve. This is the type of learning that service dogs-police dogs, guide dogs-under go. This book seems to promote Classical Conditioning, which means you teach your dog a bunch of things and just expect it to perform them. This works for some people, but I enjoy challenging my dogs and having them make decisions and do the right thing because they want to. For example, when Glacier and I approach a car parked across a sidewalk, he will pause letting me know there is something there. I praise him and then ask him to "forward?" Glacier uses his little doggie brain and eyes to select the safest path and takes me around the vehicle safely. Dogs who are classically trained wouldn't have the ability to determine what was safest and would need me to tell them which direction to go. This is problematic if you can't see anything and don't know which is the safest route. That said, I am only on Chapter two and may be wrong on the book's take on Classical Conditioning as there is another section labelled Instrumental Learning.
The psychology behind a puppy's learning has been absolutely amazing to read about. Even though I don't know much about Kyo's history, reading some of the psychological responses to being weaned too early and isolation from human or other dog contact makes me think that Kyo's behavioral issues were caused by these two things. Separation anxiety, excessive mouthing/lack of bite inhibition and hyper activity are all behavioral issues that can be caused by taking a puppy from its litter too early and/or not socialising it properly.
From what I do know of Kyo's past, his family crated him at least  eight hours a day while they were away at work. If this was done during his puppy development stages, it could have contributed to his crazy behaviors. I always knew that his issues stemmed from his past, and perhaps poor breeding, but it's interesting to actually read about it and have my inklings confirmed.
Taking a course would have been good in that it would provide structured learning, but just reading books can also be just as beneficial. I can read differing opinions, training methods and theories and draw my own conclusions. I can take different training practices and put them together to create a training method I am comfortable with. Some of the training programs I was reading insist that you do everything their way and some of the things that they teach I do not agree with. Eventually, when finances are a bit more stable, I will definitely enroll in an actual course, but for now I'll stick with my books and learn as much as I can on my own. I know that type of learning can be problematic in that anyone can read a book and think that they are an expert when really they are a moron and are not qualified to teach an ant to find a sugar bowl, but I'm hoping I'm not a moron and I am not attempting to train anyone's dog until I have an actual qualification under my belt. Reading just gives me a platform to build up from. Another route I thought I may try is to apprentice with a trainer once in the UK. I'm not sure if anyone would be willing to teach me or if this would be a financially viable option either, but it's worth exploring.
For now, I'll keep reading and learning as much as I can through that method. Mr. K is an internet Ninja and can find me practically any book I could want in an accessible format. So, thank you Mr. K. :) And as for my Blog, be prepared for me to yammer on about dog behavior/psychology/training at length because aside from training for the triathlon, it's the thing that is under my skin the most right now. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"My Hip Bone's Connected to My Leg Bone, My Leg Bone's Connected to My Knee Bone..." Etc

Did you ever sing that song when you were a kid? The Elephant Show was a favourite of mine and they always sang that song during the Halloween episodes. Anyway, a walk down "kids' shows" memory lane wasn't the point of today's post, but I suppose that could be good material for another day. :)
Nope, we are not talking Thunder Cats and My Little Ponies today: today we are talking my muscular system and how sore it is.
I've been a competitive athlete for most of my life. I went into retirement at the ripe old age of 25, but as I am sure you are aware, the flame has not quite gone out. Knowing that, I have taken a few years to figure out what sport would suit me and what would be something I could dedicate myself to. I thought about rowing and cross country skiing and explored each avenue a bit, but I always came back to the triathlon. Since Mr. K and I are moving to Scotland and we will have better access to things-because the city has sidewalks and a public transit system, what a novelty-I have started making the necessary arrangements for a disabled athlete to train with the local triathlon club. As many of you know, the club has been more than helpful and even a member of the governing body of Triathlon Scotland has agreed to have a meeting with me once we arrive and get settled in Edinburgh. All of this is fine and dandy, but trying to train up until our departure has been interesting.
While I was staying with my parents I was able to use the pool about twice a week. To me, that wasn't enough water time, but it was a good start. I had contacted a local running club in the hopes of finding a guide to run with, but no one returned my emails. So, I did the next best thing and trained on an elliptical. There is a slight problem with the elliptical as it does not exactly emulate running and not all muscle groups used for running were targeted in these workouts.  I did not have access to a bike stationary or otherwise, so that aspect of the triathlon was neglected.  I felt like I was making some progress with my fitness and was starting to feel good about getting to Scotland and really training.
Now that I'm back in SC I've had to become quite creative. I no longer have any way to get to lane swimming since this city is completely and utterly inaccessible-no sidewalks, limited bus routes Etc. I also definitely do not have anyone to run with either and with it being 100 D.G F outside, I'm not sure outdoor running is safe. Despite this set backs, I refuse to let the work I've done in the last three months go to waste. I do have a bike mounted on a trainer in the house, whom I have named Matilda since she and I spend a lot of time together, and a few other pieces of workout equipment, such as a chin-up bar, that I have begun to utilize. There is also a steep set of 14 stairs that goes from the downstairs of the house to the second floor and these have also come in handy.
I did not intend to ramble on and on about the difficulties of training for a triathlon as a disabled person: you have heard that already. I have already gone on and on about the problems of training when you need a guide and can't find one, the extra expenses and attitudinal barriers that I have come across and will continue to run into. My point today was to go on and on about working out and how amazing it is to be able to swim 2 kilometres and not be sore, but run the stairs in your house and do 30 push-ups and have your arms feel like they are going to fall off. Okay, maybe "fall off" is a bit over dramatic, but they are quite sore.
I've talked a lot to friends and family about exercising. A lot of them would ask me questions, which made sense I suppose since it was my job for eight years. People want to know how to lose weight and I think that in itself is the problem. Being skinny does not automatically equal healthy. I know a few people who are incredibly skinny, but are definitely not healthy. Sure weight loss helps and I'm not diminishing  the importance of weight loss if that is something that a person or his/her doctor thinks is necessary, but just having the scale say the right numbers is not an indication of a person's health. I think the most important element to weight loss is changing a person's mindset. Think of it as a lifestyle change to be healthier. Drinking more water, exercising and eating more nutritional foods is the best way to go; and when you're exercising, don't feel like you have to run a marathon. Taking the stairs up to work every day or walking to the grocery store  or taking your dog for a walk every morning would be a good start. When I was a competitive swimmer, the goal was not weight loss, it was being healthy. An athlete cannot perform at his/her peak if they are under nourished, dehydrated or under weight. But again I am digressing.
Sunday was the first day of my new creative workouts. I set out a workout of running the stairs eight times-up/down was considered once-10 push-ups and 20 crunches and repeat stair running followed by 20 squats and a plank held for 30 seconds times two.  My goal was to go through this workout twice. I figured the stair running would simulate hill running in a triathlon and the other activities would assist with core stability and strength. I was shocked when I reached number eight of the first set of stair runs and my heart was pounding and sweat was pouring down my face. I couldn't believe it; it was like I had been sedentary for the last three months. I continued through my workout, knocking back two of the stair runs to five times instead of eight. I wanted to push myself, but needed to be able to walk the next day. Here I was winded from running stairs for less than two minutes when I had been able to go for half an hour or more on the elliptical with the tension cranked way up. If I didn't know anything about exercising I would have thought that I had lost all of my fitness on the trip down and that I was in horrible shape, but I know that is not the case.
One of the largest mistakes that some inexperienced  athletes, or people just working out for fitness sake, make is that they do the same activities over and over again, utilizing the same muscle groups every workout. This basically causes your body to get used to that activity and requires you to go farther and farther to get the same results.  This would be good for athletes who are building up a fitness base. You want to be able to go further each time so that you are in better shape and can sustain yourself in races or during games. If you are exercising strictly for weight loss purposes, then a lot of workout programs will suggest a technique called Muscle Confusion. P90X is a good example of this type of exercise, but a person could do this on their own without needing to purchase expensive exercise DVDs. This is pretty much what I did when running up/down the stairs as well as with the push-ups and crunches. I had been using a specific set of muscles on the elliptical and even though those muscles were fit, the muscle groups I employed to run up the stairs or to perform the push-ups were different and not fit.  Thus, my sore Pec muscles (AKA your chest).
This Muscle Confusion is not a new concept to me as it was something we used in swim practices in order to maximize our workouts, but I became acutely aware of it after my workout on Sunday. Our practices would be mostly conducted in the water, but various "sets" were designed to use different muscles to make the entire body fit. Plus, we were supposed to do core workouts and some cross training running and lifting weights. Some of us did Yoga as well to increase flexibility  and to  keep our bodies from becoming injured.  The muscle soreness I experienced on Monday  reminded me of the importance of working out all systems. For example, your core muscles are important for support and stability and even though they do get a small workout while you are running/swimming and/or cycling, you need to dedicate a workout at least three times a week to this specific muscle group to ensure they are as strong as they can be. Having strong core muscles, for example, could be the difference from fatiguing on the bike and losing form. With the loss of good positioning, your other muscles will begin to tire and you will not be maintaining an aero dynamic position anymore; hence, making you go slower. I had not done core specific workouts when I was up at my parents' and after Sunday's little reminder, I will be making sure that it is a part of my routine. In fact, I changed today's workout from a bike ride to a half an hour of core. Besides, I rode Matilda yesterday and  my bum hurts. :)
I guess the point of this very long and slightly convoluted ramble is that, the human body never ceases to amaze me. As an athlete I was taught to be aware of my body  and as a massage therapist I was given the opportunity to delve even deeper into the workings of the body and yet I am still learning about it and continually being amazed at the intricacies of these physical shells we have been given and use every day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy Belated Anniversary

July third was a very special day or me and a very important furry friend. I wasn't able to write about it as I was in the process of clearing my house out, so I thought today would be a  good day as any to celebrate my nine year anniversary with Miss Jetta.
It was on July third 2002 that my life changed forever. Fresh out of high school, I was looking forward to my upcoming move away from home to attend university. I wasn't worried or nervous really. I knew that I wouldn't be alone: I just didn't know who my companion/partner/friend would be. I don't remember what time I met Jetta exactly, it must have been between  two and threeish, but my fate was sealed when a blur of black fur came bounding into my shared room.
The Leader Dogs for the Blind campus has since changed, with clients having their own private rooms, complete with television sets and exits that lead directly to the dogs' park areas, but back in 2002 I shared the double room with a very special person whom I still consider to be a fantastic person and friend. In fact, it's because of L^2 that I even started blogging. (You can find a link to her blog under "Very Impawtant Places"). She was the one who patiently walked me through a lot of Blogger's functions and taught me what it is like to write quality posts. It was funny because when I first met L^2, she had told e she wanted a black lab and I had said I wanted a yellow. We both had experience with those colours of dogs and I believe L^2 felt she would be able to see the darker coloured dog better. We spent the first couple of days at LDB talking about our lives thus far and what we thought of guide dog school in general. I was impressed with L^2 who was in the middle of going to university and was a part of the school's marching band. We bonded over loving the colour purple, dogs and Disney movies. I'm still not sure why to this day, but everyone thought we were twins or would get us confused-even the completely sighted trainers would mix us up. At one point we had a Lions group come through to see where their donations went to and people made comments on how nice it was that two sisters/twins were going through the program together. We had a lot of fun and I'm glad L^2 and I were able to experience getting our first guides together.
I don't remember who got their dog first-I think it was L^2 because I distinctly remember sitting on my bed while she was on the floor being covered in kisses by a little Liver Nosed Yellow Lab named Willow. It wasn't until my black fireball came charging into the room that I laughed at the irony. It turns out that Jetta was the only Black Lab in a class of 22 students and I got her. She was a little wild thing, dashing about on the end of the leash as her trainer Jeorge tried to tell me about her. I recall people telling me about meeting their first dogs and how touching it was. There was nothing touching about mine and Jetta's first interaction. She was so excited to be out in this strange place that she  went skittering right past me and on her way back  she completely ignored me to sniff about excitedly. L^2 and Willow's meeting went much more like what I had heard a guide dog handler and their dog's first meeting is supposed to be like. They sat on the floor getting to know each other and even though Willow became interested in either me, Jetta or noises out in the hall, she always returned to L^2's side. Jetta on the other hand, was having nothing to do with me.
After Jeorge left, I tried to sit on the floor with her so that we could bond. Jetta was having none of that. She went to the very end of her three foot leash and stood as still as a statue and stared intently at the closed  door. When I petted her or talked to her, she did not respond. She planted all four paws, dropped her tail so that it pointed straight to the floor and would not turn her face away from the door. I sat beside her, talking to and petting her and yet she still refused to give me any attention. For at least an hour and a half we stayed in this position, Jetta stubbornly ignoring me and me stubbornly paying attention to her. I was determined to make this work and if it meant sitting on a cold floor for over an hour without response from my new set of eyes then I was going to do it.
I should have known then that our first meeting was an indication of the rest of our working relationship. We had a rocky start, with Jetta being hard headed and refusing to do anything I asked her to and me being just as strong willed convinced that we could make it work. I knew she did great work and she kept me safe, she just thought that when I said "right" she could go "left." At one point during training Jeorge and I talked about switching her because she was walking way too slow for me. We had just gotten back from a working session and I can remember going back into the down town training centre and crying my eyes out. Even though she had done back flips on the end of her  leash the first morning we lined up for "park time" and had peed on the floor, we were making progress and I loved her enthusiasm for life. I also loved that little stubborn streak she had and I loved her little sassy trot she had going on when she knew she was doing a good job guiding. Here was a small 53 pound dog with 'tude big enough for a Great Dane. She was small, she was cute and she was feisty. I wanted to keep her.
That afternoon we went out to train on a bike trail to give the dogs some wildlife distraction, bike traffic and jogger work. It also gave the dog and handler the opportunity  to just walk without having to worry about curb work or vehicles threatening to run you over. It was here that Jetta and I really clicked. She was practically running down the trail, expertly guiding me around people, other working teams and ignoring squirrels and birds. She was walking almost too fast and even though my shins hurt from trying to keep up, I did not want to slow her down. I wanted her to know that fast was good.  It was after this trip that I knew the speed thing was fixed and that she would pick up the pace once she was confident and comfortable. It was from that point on that we never slowed down.
Upon getting home we struggled of course because we are both stubborn. I think it took us a year and a half before we actually bonded, whereas it usually takes six months to a year. I think part of it was me getting comfortable in my own skin. I was a nineteen year old kid who had just moved nine hours away from home to go to university. I grew up a lot that year and I think Jetta helped me along the way. That first year flew by and so did the next five.
As I said before, we never slowed down or looked back. Jetta travelled the world with me, attending training camps and swimming competitions in Denmark, Belgium, Greece and many other places. She successfully guided me at a weekend long  Athletes' conference that I attended on my own. She accompanied me to swim practices sometimes twice a day, six days a week. Every once in a while when it was just my coach and I in the pool, we would take Jetta off of "tie down" and she would run up and down the pool side, waiting for me at each end. If I swam four kilometres, she ran four kilometres and then some. She never once tried to get in. I had a boy in Greece mutter something to me in Greek and try to take Jetta's leash right out of my hand. I've never been so close to fighting someone, but once I barked sharply at him in English swear words he backed off. Jetta's been whale watching; stuffed on to  a peddle boat between Tenie and I; camping in the Rocky Mountains; snuck around in  ancient Greek ruins where we weren't supposed to be; dressed up as my evil minion for Halloween when I was a vampire; and so much more.
In 2008, at the ripe old age of seven and a  half, she told me in her own little way that  she had enough. She was tired of being flown all over the place and the pool was hot and stuffy. She would walk faster to get home than when we left, which was the opposite to what she used to do. Once, on the way to swim practice, she made like she had to "park" and when I let her go, she just sat down. She also started crossing at angles, not dangerously so that I would wander out into traffic, but instead of cleanly stepping up on to the opposite curb she would take me into the grass and meander her way over to the sidewalk. I knew in about April that she was not interested anymore. I begged her to give me until August since that was when I would be heading off to Japan and then China for my third and final Paralympic Games. She held on for me. I tried not to work her  if I didn't have to and the three week training camp we had in Victoria British Columbia, she spent most of her time hanging out with the team's massage therapist going for walks and playing in the nearby lake.
In August of 2008 my parents came to get a bunch of my stuff since I had just graduated from university and would be no longer living in the house that I shared with Carmen, Tenie, Jetta and our two cats. They also took Jetta with them. I think I may have gotten a bit misty, but I did not grieve our relationship. It had been everything and more than I could have asked for and I knew that Jetta had made her decision. I asked my parents about how she was settling in all of the time and although I missed the independence she brought me and her little trot, I knew she was much happier being retired. I had thought of keeping her, but knew that I couldn't give her the attention she was used to getting and that even though she retired herself, seeing me going out with another dog may be too hard for her. I knew it would have been hard for me.
Nine years later, she is still my little firecracker, doing what she wants when she wants. At the dog park she still outruns most dogs and goes off to sniff things by herself. She swims now, which she did not do when she was working and is quite happy to lie on her chair in front of my parents' front windows. If anyone sits in her chair, she will stare them down until they get off. She still does not like to be snuggled and would only hop up on my bed while I was home visiting if she thought I was asleep; very typical Jetta. The six years she worked for me went by so fast and sometimes I miss her trotting along, leading the way, but she's happy and I have been given the opportunity to work with another great dog.
So, here's to you Jetta the Jitter Bug: may you always be happy and do things your own way. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life Sort of Things

So, here I am back in SC and it is stinking hot! Coming from Northern Ontario into this area was a bit of a shock to the system. We can't really go out unless it is early in the morning or late at night because it is way too hot for humans and dogs alike. It is due to this heat, and a few other things, that I look forward to our move to Scotland in 39 days. I'm not counting...really I'm not. :)
My parents, Glacier and I arrived back in SC last Friday night after an extremely long trip. I won't bore you with the details; just know it was long because we had to make a detour to Toronto for Portuguese passport stuff. We've spent the last week going through mine and Mr. K's stuff and pitching things we don't want/need or can't sell. We also packed up some things for my parents to bring back home with them, such as the Hope chest and roll top desk my grandpa made for me. They left this morning bright and early and the house seems very empty now. It is a fairly large place with only two people and two dogs and hardly any furniture. We don't even have a couch anymore. Mr. K managed to find someone who wanted it and it was whisked out the door even before I got back home. So, here I sit on a double mattress  on the floor in our living room with Glacier, Roscoe, a lamp, a small table and my coffee mug for company.
Surprisingly, it doesn't really bother me. I thought I may be sad getting rid of everything, but it really doesn't. The only thing that does bug me is that it seems like we have wasted a lot of money. We have a Queen sized bed that we purchased last summer and we won't even get half of what we paid for it, if we can sell it at all. That sort of thing makes me shudder, but the prospect of leaving here and getting to Scotland is incredibly exciting. We've definitely run into a few road blocks and I am sure there will be a few more, but we've also had a lot of help and fantastic things happen in order to help this process along. I've even found a "flat" (AKA apartment) online that is available August 24th, just five days after we arrive. It sounds like it is what we are looking for and it's in the right area. So, I am hoping that will work out for us.
Besides throwing items out, sorting through paper work, selling possessions and searching for employment/housing there isn't much to report from this end. I did donate a bunch of our dog stuff-leashes, dishes, wet food, toys and office supplies-to PAALS the service dog organisation that is currently training Kyo. When Miss A stopped by to pick up the stuff, she reported that Kyo is in advanced training and is doing well. Everyone loves him and wants him to succeed. There are even people lined up to take him if he fails out of the program. One couple in particular live on a farm and the man has already started building a seat just for Kyo on the back of his golf cart. The counter surfing is still a problem, as he managed to open a door and steal hot dogs just last weekend and it may be his downfall. I would love him to go on to be a service dog and work, but if he doesn't make it this couple sound like the right people for the now 85 pound Moose.
As you can see, things are coming together and the next little while is going to be a lot of waiting. My bike, who I have named Matilda, has not sold yet and I will be doing some indoor training for my triathlon goals, which I am about to do right now. First, seek and destroy apple and peanut butter, then cycle for half an hour. So, for now, I will leave you.