How has Your dog Motivated You?

Welcome to the new site.

With all of the unknowns surrounding Blogger’s possible changes and accessibility concerns, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone, and create my own site.

I hope everyone enjoys our new internet home.

Now for the real purpose of this post.

A few weeks ago on Twitter I saw this question “How has your dog motivated you?”, and thought it was the perfect topic for my first entry on our new site.

As everyone knows, from reading previous entries, my dogs are a huge part of my life.

They go almost everywhere with us, and they provide us with hours of entertainment.

Thinking back to the days when I didn’t have a dog, I can honestly say, life was pretty regular and lacking in the excitement category.

If I wanted to spend the weekend in bed watching movies…then that is what I did.

If I wanted to drop everything and go out with friends…then that is what I did.

Before getting a dog, I never had to think about someone else’s feelings or needs, I just did what I wanted to do.

Now, things are different.

If I want to spend the day in bed, watching movies, I have to take breaks between scenes to take out the dogs…check that there is water…and make sure everyone is fed.

If I want to go out with friends at the last minute…I have to find out where we are going…whether they will allow dogs…and whether it is even advisable that I bring them along.

If I choose to leave my dogs at home, I have to make sure someone is able to come check on them if i am going to be away for longer than a few hours, and I can’t just decide to stay out for the weekend.

Yes, having dogs has made life a little less spontaneous and I can’t be as lazy, but having dogs has also made life more interesting.

For example, if it weren’t for Canyon, I wouldn’t be learning about the various dog sports, and how to teach them to him..

I wouldn’t be stepping outside of my comfort zone to find others with similar interests, willing to help me learn.

I also wouldn’t be spending long weekends away, in cities and towns I have never heard of, in crowded conference centres, waiting for our turn to strut our stuff alongside other people and their dogs.

Having Canyon has not only made my life more interesting, but has also motivated me to get out and learn new things, while meeting new people.

I could go on and on, giving examples of how each of my dogs have individually motivated me, but I think I’ll leave that for future posts.

In the meantime, please take some time and tell me in the comments, how your dog has motivated you.

It Does Exist

For some reason, I haven’t really had the desire to keep up with the various blogs I follow. I regularly read some, but put others off to the side for another day.

Today, I was casually reading through, Rolling Around In My Head, trying to catch up, and saw this entry.

The entry really hit a cord with me because not only have I felt this way, but I remember thinking similar thoughts while in my social work classes.

During my two years in the social work program at McMaster University, I learned about sexism, racism and the importance of child welfare. In total, I took about ten different courses, and even though each one was supposed to prepare us for our future careers in the field of social work, not one looked at disability.

As a person with a visible disability, I tried to voice my feelings and bring forth the fact that people with disabilities also experience discrimination and should be given a voice, like those who experience sexism, racism and homophobia. Unfortunately, my words went unheard, and my voice was drowned out by yet another student bringing up a situation they witnessed where a woman or person of colour was discriminated against.

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. And, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned. But, I feel that it is time for people to help us, people with disabilities, have a voice.

Maybe Dave is right, and the able bodied people of the world just think we should be quiet, and thankful for the generosity they are bestowing upon us, but like Dave, I don’t agree.

Just because someone holds a door for someone in a wheelchair, or moves something out of the way for me and Cessna to get by more easily, doesn’t give them the right to feel good about themselves. If I saw someone approaching, I would do the exact same thing, does that mean I should feel good about myself?

Just like there is sexism, racism and homophobia in the world, there is also discrimination happening towards people with disabilities.

and, just like sexism, racism and homophobia needs to stop, so does discrimination against people with disabilities.

Random News

I’ve got a lot of random news to share with everyone.

First, last week I wrote about our trip to Guelph and the Toronto area. While there, I had a chance to see my family doctor and was given several different migraine medications to try out. She gave me a few different daily preventatives, a daily nerve blocker and one to take when I feel a migraine coming. A lot of these medications were suggested by a pain clinic doctor I saw back in March, but she also added a couple that she feels might help. Back in the early 2000’s I tried out a bunch of different preventative medications without much success, but I’m hoping that these new medications might have a better outcome.

On Monday night, I took my first Gavapentin (just a low dose right now) and woke up tuesday with barely any signs of a migraine that I’m sure I should have had (the weather is quite rainy and humid right now, which is a huge trigger for me). I took my first Atenolol (again a very low dose right now) Tuesday morning and my migraine really didn’t move much past a pain level of 1-3 out of 10, so a big win for me. It could just be a fluke, but I did the same last night and this morning, and so far my migraine isn’t getting any worse than the 1-3 out of 10 pain range. In a week, I will increase the Atenolol to a full tablet and leave the Gavapentin at just one 300mg capsule and reassess in a month’s time. If my migraine does begin increasing then I will try the medication my doctor gave me for break threw pain, but I’m not sure what it is called at the moment and I’m hoping that I won’t have to resort to it. In a month’s time, if we feel the Atenolol is not working well enough, then I will stop it and try one of the other two preventatives my family doctor and the pain clinic doctor suggested.

Next, Rogue and I have begun to use her “touch” cue to press a button. About a year ago, I bought a button that when pressed, plays various types of laughs. It is like the Staples Easy Button, but when I saw this one on sale for less than $10 at Halllmark, I snatched it up for training. rogue has an amazingly firm “touch”, and my visual impairment has made it tough to teach her to “touch” a stick or a spot on a wall or the floor, so I decided to put some navy blue electrical tape onto the laughing button and then start teaching Rogue to press it when I point and say “touch”.

I first had Rogue do some practice touches with the palm of my hand. then, I held the button, so it was facing her and waited. I wanted to see what she would do without giving her any hints as to what I wanted. She had an idea of what I wanted, so started moving towards the button, I clicked and gave her a treat for each movement towards the button. Then, I upped my requirements for a click and waited for her to even lightly touch the button with her nose. each time, I’d click and give her either one treat for just a light touch, or a jackpot of treats and a party for actually making the button laugh. She quickly caught on to how she could get more treats and began bumping the button as hard as she could – I then named the behaviour “touch”.

Once we had the pressing the button while I held it at her nose level perfect, I decided to start moving my hand around. I held it low, she pressed. I held it so she had to take a few steps, she pressed it again. Then I started holding it up so she had to jump up a bit to press and of course, she did it flawlessly.

I then put the button onto the floor and pointed and said “touch”. she bumped my hand with her nose. I waited, she bumped my hand with her nose several more times and then started to get frustrated. I couldn’t see where we were misunderstanding one another, so we stopped the lesson and both slept on it.

The following morning I figured it out, I had been lumping (or moving too fast). I got out the button and started practising what we had done the day before. Since we were doing it in a new place, I began by just holding the button and not saying a word. She knew exactly what we were doing and hit the button hard, making it laugh every single time, so we named it again – “touch”.

I then placed the button on the floor, but instead of just pointing I kept holding it and waited. It only took her a second before she was moving towards the button and I clicked and gave her a bunch of treats. After several perfect “touches”, I named the behaviour again “touch” and then started saying “Rogue, touch” and she came over and pressed the button.

Instead of completely removing my hand from the button at this point, I began holding the button with less and less of my hand. even when I was just touching the side of it with my index finger, rogue came over and pressed it when I said “touch”.

By the end, she was pressing the button when I pointed and said “Rogue, touch”. She is such a smart and forgiving puppy. Even when I make a mistake, she tells me what she needs and we start learning again together. I’m not sure what we’ll do next, but for now we’ll keep practicing our palm touches and button pressing. Rogue’s favourite behaviour is “touch”, so even though we are not further in the new levels books, I decided it was okay to move further with her “touch” cue because unlike other behaviours we’re learning, “touch” is fun to her and gets her brain moving.

Yesterday we got a call from the adoption worker. her case load is quite busy right now, so she has decided to move the adoption training to late fall. This is okay with us because right now it looks as though my step-dad will need to come stay for a bit, but it’s also frustrating because it seems as though each time we get somewhere with the adoption process, we’re left waiting again without any sight of the finish line. Hopefully in the fall things will begin moving full steam ahead.

Finally, today is our calico, Logan’s 10th birthday. Here on ruled by paws, the cats don’t tend to get much written about them, but I thought it was a milestone worth mentioning. We got Logan from the Guelph Humane Society when she was just 10 weeks old. She had been part of a family, but was surrendered to the shelter just hours before Huib and I went to see the cats. Huib lived in a bachelor apartment and for his birthday, I decided to buy him a cat, since I thought he needed a friend while he studied. We had planned to pick out an adult cat, but when we saw Logan, it was almost love at first sight. She was so cuddly and purred so loud that we thought for sure there was a little boat motor inside her. We told the shelter staff that she was the one, and after filling out some paperwork, we were told that we could come back in a week for our new kitten. She needed to be spayed and given her vaccines before we could bring her home. even though Huib likes to joke about giving Logan away to anyone who will take her, I know he loves her and that she’s going to continue providing us with years of entertainment.

Happy 10th Birthday Logie, you are one comical little calico!

The Questions

May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Please check out the submissions here.

About two years ago, Huib and I decided to embark upon the journey towards adopting a child through our local Child & Family Services. We called our local CAS office and an intake worker came to our home for a preliminary interview. She took down all of our basic information and told us that given our backgrounds in nursing (my husband is a registered nurse) and social work (I am a licensed social worker), she didn’t see any reason for the agency to refuse our application. She then told us that in the spring they would be holding a 10 week class for all potential fostering and adoption families to attend if we were interested. Huib and I attended the classes and then began our wait for the home study to begin.

Fast forward two years…

Huib and I had pretty much given up on our efforts to adopt a child. We had not heard anything from our local CAS since our initial worker had left the agency. I had called her supervisor a few months after we completed the 10 week course, but nothing happened.

Then we got a call.

The agency had assigned a worker to perform home studies and they were wondering if we were still interested. Both Huib and I weren’t sure what to say, but decided to start the process.

The worker came out and we discussed the home study process. She told us about the background checks that would be done and the interviews that would take place. She told us about the things that we would need to decide – whether we wanted to foster, foster to adopt or just adopt.

Then the questions about my disability began.

How are you going to handle having an infant or toddler around the house?
Are there organizations you can contact to help you?
How will you keep track of the child?
How will you feed them?
What if they get sick?
What if they get injured?
Do you have a specialist who might write a letter to say that your disability will not affect your ability to be a parent?

The questions went on and on.

All I could think of while our worker asked these questions was:

Do you ask sighted people these questions?
What would you do if your child was sick?
How do you feed your children?
How will my eye doctor know what kind of parent I will be?
Do you really think I am that stupid?

The expression on my face must have given my thoughts away because before I could open my mouth to answer, the worker explained that she needed to ask these questions because I was the first visually impaired person they had ever had experience with.

Before actually getting to the answers she wanted, I made my feelings clear. I was offended by the questions. I didn’t see how such questions could still be asked in this day and age. I told her there were blind people out there having children and raising them successfully every day. I told her that I’m sure there are blind people out there that should not be raising children, but that there were probably more fully sighted people out there who shouldn’t be raising children. I told her that if I could have a child of my own then going through this discriminatory process wouldn’t be worthwhile, but that since having a child of my own doesn’t seem possible, that I guess I will just have to suck it up and answer the offensive questions.

Our worker seemed sympathetic, but said she still needed me to research how I was going to do things, and even suggested talking to friends who are blind and raising children for advice.

It has now been about a month and a half since we started the home study and even though all of our background checks came through fine, the questions regarding my disability are still present. I’m hopeful that the agency will maintain an open mind and that the process will continue to go smoothly, but I still find the questions surrounding my capabilities as a visually impaired parent to be offensive.

How can a profession such as social work, whose mission is to help vulnerable populations, be so judgmental and discriminatory?

Message To A Younger Me

Yesterday on Twitter I saw a tweet asking what you’d say in a message to your younger self, and thought this would make an awesome blog post.

Dear 13 Year Old Brooke,
Despite what everyone says, the world is not a perfect place. Even if you follow the “rules”, you will still have to struggle for independence and prosperity. The world is not made for people who are “different”, but instead, caters to those who fit into the mould of “perfection” and “normal”.

You will find out through trial and error, who is worth making an effort to keep in your circle of friends. You will be surprised at the outcome. You will feel guilty for cutting ties with some, but you will quickly learn that it is necessary in order to live a stress-free life.

You will find it difficult to watch your friends date in high school and university, and wonder if you will ever find someone to love you as more than just a friend. It will happen though. You will meet him in your second year at the University of Guelph, and your friends and family will wish they could clone him. He will treat you like a queen, and stand by your side through the good times and bad. He will never make you feel inferior to him, and even though others outside of your relationship will try to come between you, he will stay true to you. Together, you will build a life full of love, compassion and adventure.

Life will not be easy. You will get frustrated by the limitations you encounter, and you will become discouraged by all of the closing doors around you, but you are strong. You will move beyond the disappointments and find a way to make a difference through your love of dogs, and your desire to help others.

No matter how often you are told by family members and friends that you need to change, you won’t. You know who you are, and know you are meant to become more than just another statistic. Your passion and determination for life is what will keep you going. You will never accept the status quo, and you will never stop marching to your own beat.

As Dr Seuss once wrote: “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive, who is youer than you”.

No matter what life throws at you, just keep on swimming.

The 32 Year Old Brooke

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

This past week Huib and I watched a movie on television called the Memory Keeper’s Daughter. It’s about a doctor and his wife who have fraternal twins, a “healthy” son and a daughter who has Downs Syndrome. The doctor had a sister with Downs Syndrome that only lived to be twelve years of age, so remembering the agony his mother went through after her death, he decides to tell his wife that their daughter did not survive. He asks one of the nurses in the delivery room to take the infant to a home for the mentally ill, but the nurse ends up keeping the child, and raising her.

I was so angry watching the movie. To think that such practices existed troubled me. I am not naive. I know this happened and still happens today. But, it really bothered me.

Huib and I are in the process of completing a home study to adopt through Child and Family Services. We began this process almost two years ago with the goal of first fostering and then adopting, but given the obstacles of my visual impairment, we’ve decided to just adopt.

The worker who is doing our home study is great. She asks a lot of questions about how I will do this or that with my visual limitations, but she’s honest about the reasons for her questions and is quite willing and eager to learn.

It’s exasperating to know that people still think individuals with disabilities cannot successfully raise children, but I also recognize that there are people out there who should not be doing so and understand why the questions are asked.

Huib and I are close to finishing our home study and should know by May whether or not we are accepted. We are hoping to adopt a young child around three years of age or younger, so know that it will take time for the right child to enter our lives. From what the worker has said, it is quite rare for children as young as we’d like, to come into care and go up for adoption in this area (which is a good thing), but she has said that other agencies will also have our information on hand.

Now that all of our background checks, reference checks and basic interviews are done, Huib and I need to start child-proofing our home so the worker can give the agency the all-clear. It’s kind of strange to know that we have to spend the time child-proofing before we even know whether or not we are officially accepted, but then I’m sure the worker would have told us by now whether or not it’s not going to happen.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter angered me so much because Huib and I would love to have a child of our own, but due to unforeseen circumstances this is not going to happen, so to see someone give up their child because of idiocy is just infuriating.

Huib and I would never consider such a heartless act, and would love to adopt a child with special needs.

Book #1 Of 2012

I’ve observed a lot of people posting summaries and thoughts on books they’re reading, so I thought I’d do the same.

Almost a week ago now, I finished reading my first book of 2012!

I read all of my books in Braille and I am not a fast reader so, I probably won’t get even close to the numbers of books read this year that others do, but I still think it’s a neat idea to keep track and share the good and the bad points of books I’m reading.

In 2011, I read about seven books. This year I’m hoping to try doubling that, but we’ll see how things go.

The first book I read this year was “Birthright” by Nora Roberts.

This is my second book by Nora Roberts, and I really liked “Birthright” as much as I enjoyed her book “Blue Smoke”.

The book starts out with a young mother (Suzanne Cullen) and her two children (3 month old Jessica and 3 year old Douglas) lined up to see Santa. Doug really has to go to the washroom, but also really wants to see Santa so decides to wait until he’s done. As they approach Santa, Doug begins to feel nervous about the jolly man in red, but goes up and allows himself to be picked up and placed on Santa’s lap. Then, Santa lets out a loud, jolly “Ho, Ho, Ho” and Doug tries to get away, falling on the floor and wetting himself. Suzanne runs to comfort her son, leaving Jessica fast asleep in her stroller. Second later, Suzanne begins screaming because Jessica is gone.

The book then moves to a construction site where ancient bones are discovered.

Callie Dunbrooke, a successful, young archeologist is called in to head the excavation with her ex-husband Jacob Graystone, an accomplished anthropologist.

At first it seems as though the book will be similar to one by Kathy Reichs, but then there’s a twist. Callie is approached by Suzanne Cullen, who has seen her on television and believes she is her long-lost daughter, Jessica.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of science, mystery and romance, this book offered. I’m not usually one to appreciate romance novels, but felt Nora Roberts did an excellent job at blending the personal lives of each character into the twists and turns of the journey Callie embarks upon to solve the mystery of her past.

I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if I were in Callie’s position.

Would I have the same burning desire to know the truth, even though it would almost certainly change every relationship I had ever known…?

Would I want to have a relationship with my biological family?

Would I be able to trust again?

The next book I’ve decided to tackle for 2012 is 4th Of July by James Patterson. I’ll post a summary and my thoughts when it’s complete.

A new Semester

On Monday, I started another online course through the University of Guelph. There weren’t too many options for winter semester, so I chose Business & Consumer Law, through the Department of Marketing and Commerce Studies.

From reading the course outline, it looks as though this course will be a little tougher than I had hoped. In addition to my online participation, there will be an assignment, a midterm and final examination. I’m not too worried about the online participation or assignment portions of the course, but am not too excited about the midterm or final because both will be multiple choice.

I’m hoping that as long as I study hard, that maybe I can defy the odds and for once, actually do well on a multiple choice exam.

Please wish me luck!

Birthday

Yesterday, November 29th, was my 32nd birthday.

It’s hard to believe that I’m already two years into my thirties. I don’t really feel like I’m older than 25 to be honest. I remember feeling older when I reached my 26th birthday, but since then I really haven’t felt much different.

When you are a young child, you can’t wait to be a teenager. Then when you are a teenager, you can’t wait to be an adult. Once you hit 25, you are no longer considered to be even a young adult – you’re just an adult.

Adulthood comes with so many responsibilities. So many regrets. And so many dreams for a better life.

When I was a young child, I dreamed of being a veterinarian, with a husband who wanted to stay home with the kids and dogs, in our beautiful, huge home, while I brought home the paycheck. When I was a teenager, I still wanted the husband, kids, dogs and huge home, but I now fantasized about being a successful lawyer.

Now that I am an adult and the world is real, not just a fantasy, my dreams are different. I already have the amazing husband and dogs, but instead of fantasizing about the huge home and high paying job, I think about realistic things.

I no longer dream, I hope.

I hope for a better future. I hope for a time when Huib no longer has to support me. I hope for the opportunity to do more than just take care of the dogs and go through the motions of being a happy stay-at-home wife.

I hope for realistic things.

Gone are the days when I fantasized about the wonderful world out there, that would give me everything I needed, as long as I put in the effort. The fantasies are now replaced with dashed hopes and the sad reality of a world that only rewards those people who are “normal”. A world that closes doors in the faces of people who cannot meet its expectations. A world that places undo hardship on those who choose to open the door for the “different”.

My first 32 years were filled with ups and downs. I would never trade my life for anyone else’s, but I hope the next 32 years will include a few more ups and a little fewer downs.

November 29th, 2011 was a good day though. I woke up beside my smiling soul mate and rambunctious retrievers. I opened my e-mail to find messages upon messages from friends wishing me a happy birthday. The Rogue puppy allowed me to finish off the second last assignment of my course. Then it ended with a delicious spaghetti dinner The promise of new clothes!

Thirty two may no longer be the age of dreams and childish fantasies, but if yesterday was any hint of what is to come, I don’t care…I’m ready for thirty three.

Independent Woman

I’ve never taken part in the Disability Blog Carnival, but after reading this round’s topic, I was inspired.

I lost my sight in the summer of 1993. I had just finished grade 8 and was excited to begin grade 9 at a new school. It was a total shock. My parents weren’t sure where to turn. I spent my summer indoors, trying to adapt to a life without 20/20 vision.

September arrived and students returned to school. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. She kept me home the first day, and called our region’s Board of Education. She talked to a woman in charge of organizing special services and was relieved to learn that there was a department of sorts designed to help visually impaired and blind students.

That afternoon, I met a woman who would forever change my life.

Stephanie Sommer arrived around noon. She sat with my mom and I, at the kitchen table and asked questions. She had come to assess whether I truly required her assistance. The phone rang at some point during our meeting and after watching me reach past the phone, she took my hand and placed it onto the receiver with a smile.

After mom was finished with the call, Stephanie told us she would start working with me the following day.

Over the next five years, Stephanie would teach me not only the usual lessons of Braille and getting around safely with a cane, but she would inspire me to be an independent woman.

Stephanie never once treated me like I had a disability.

She expected me to act appropriately and study just as hard as every other student in my high school.

She always expected me to give eye contact.

She wouldn’t help me unless I said please or thank you.

And if I got frustrated and attempted to give up, she’d walk away and wait for me to get over it.

Stephanie and I developed more than just a student-teacher bond, we became friends. She told me about her own vision problems and told me how she embarked on an educational journey that led her to working with students like me.

I remember the feeling of comfort that would come over me each time I smelled her perfume, and the smile that would sprout on my face, no matter how bad the day, when I heard her voice. Stephanie was my navigator, guiding me through a world I now found scary and full of unknowns.

She taught me how to read Braille and how to fully utilize the vision I still had.

She showed me how to travel safely throughout my community with a cane, and then when I told her I wanted to apply for a guide dog, she challenged me to first move outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend movies and shop alone in their mall. Then, she gave me the biggest test of all, she asked me to learn how to take the bus to Toronto and then learn to take the subway to the largest mall of all (at the time) – the Eatons Centre.

Once I entered my final year of high school, Stephanie was there to help me reach my goal of attending university. She read through university brochures and program descriptions. Then she helped me fill out application, after application because I couldn’t decide on which one to attend. She was there when I received each of my letters of acceptance and then took it upon herself to arrange campus tours so that I could better decide upon the school for me.

After I began university, Stephanie and I talked a couple times a year, but after she attended my wedding in 2006, we sadly lost touch.

I still think about the lessons she taught me. She inspired me how to be the woman I am today, because when no one else did, she believed I could be better.