When I Need To Escape

Last week I read about daily blogging prompts WordPress sends out via Twitter and I immediately joined the feed. As many of my blog readers know, finding something to write about the past year has been a bit of a struggle, so any help I can get is greatly appreciated.

today’s prompt is: “Tell us about your oasis. Where do you go when you need a break from life.”

When I’m feeling stressed and need to escape, I go to the internet and begin browsing the websites of golden retriever breeders. Even though I cannot see the pictures, I find it relaxing to read about the various dogs, about their accomplishments and about the current and planned litters.

Huib says that even though he doesn’t always see what I am looking at on the computer, he usually knows from the expression on my face. He says that I seem to always be smiling when I’m looking at a dog-related website lol!

In related news. Huib and I have started filtering through the various Ontario golden breeder websites in order to shorten the list for our potential golden female. Once we’ve eliminated all of the breeders who breed dogs that do not fit our ideal type, then I will begin e-mailing the ones that are left, for information. With the information I receive back, we’ll be able to further eliminate breeders from our huge list.

Now it’s your turn to tell me about your oasis. Where do you go when you need to get away from life?

Books #13 & #14 Of 2012

Boy, I could really get used to reading eBooks with Huib’s iPad.

I’m not sure why, but I really don’t mind listening to Voice Over (the screen reading program on Apple products) read books. By reading this way, I don’t have to wait years to get an opportunity to read newly released books, like I had to with braille.

Since the last time I wrote, I’ve finished two more books and am currently working on another.

“Water For Elephants” by Sara Gruen, was an absolutely amazing book! If you liked “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks, then you’ll love this one. I honestly can’t think of how to write a review on this book that will actually serve it well, so I’ll just direct you to this link.

“A Is For Alibi” by Sue Grafton was another really good book. I actually read this one in one night. “A Is For Alibi” is the first book in Grafton’s Detective Kinsey Millhone series. Kinsey is a private security detective who has been asked to reopen a murder case and discover the identity of the murderer of Nicki Fife’s husband, whom Nicki was accused and convicted of killing.

If I keep reading books this way, I’m going to be able to finish more than a book per month.

General News

Again, sorry for the lack of blogging everyone. Hopefully this phase will pass soon.

Tomorrow, I will be starting another online course through the University of Guelph.

This will be the third course I have taken with them since moving to Northeastern Ontario.

This semester I have chosen to take Economics of Food Usage, through the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

I’ve never taken a course through this department, but from the course description and list of assignments, I think it should be a good one.

Next…

In just over a week, Rogue will be 17 months old.

Over the past couple of months, we have been trying to proof Rogue’s obedience outside the house, but have run into some difficulties. After some discussion, we’ve decided to try working on basic obedience in the house wearing a leash and her vest. We are beginning to wonder if maybe Rogue is having trouble associating the various obedience commands she knows so well at home with also being able to be done while wearing a leash and her vest. It sounds silly, but from what I’ve learned, dogs are really horrible at generalizing.

Another area which we have been having some troubles, is with Rogue putting on her collar, Easy Walk Harness and vest. Rogue seems to have a big issue with things going over her head, so we have decided to start making everyone wear their collars all the time. I used to have collars on my dogs at all times, but started leaving them off when Canyon was little and would use the collars to drag the other dogs around the house. Then, Rogue almost snapped her neck from falling off the bed when she was around six months of age. It didn’t happen, obviously, but if Huib had not been there when her collar looped itself around our bed post and she lost her balance, I really don’t know what would have become of our little Hurricane.

Now that she is older, and to try and combat the problems with having things go over her head, we have started leaving the collars on everyone. It has been about a month now, and I think it may be helping, but we’ll wait a bit longer to see if she’s really gotten over the problem.

Lately, we have been noticing our little Hurricane maturing. People are starting to see her less as a cute little puppy, and more as a service dog who should not be bothered. We are still encouraging people to approach her and pet, but we have also started truly teaching rogue to stop and wait at curbs, steps and any other sort of surface change I may need to be warned of. Huib and I seem to be on different pages with consistency in this portion of her training, but I am hoping that maybe I can start taking a little more of a role in her public access training – which will in turn, increase consistency.

In addition to learning to stop at surface changes, Rogue is starting to hear some of the directional commands she will need to know for guiding and in time, I hope to start teaching her their meanings in harness.

It’s honestly hard to believe that Cessna was almost fully trained at this age, and would begin working with me in just a month’s time.

I hope to sit down, and start really putting together a solid training plan for Rogue, so that Cessna can retire from service in the spring/summer. I’m just so nervous and worried about doing things wrong, that I guess I’ve really delayed things I probably didn’t have to.

Hmmm, what else have we been up to…

Just over six weeks ago, we went down to Guelph for a few days and took Aspen to see a doggie chiropractor. I honestly never thought I’d ever be taking my dog to a chiropractor, but after seeing how much of a difference the adjustments have made for Aspen, I am definitely a fan.

On Monday, Aspen will go for another treatment and we’ll get to see if the adjustments are sticking long-term or if we will need to continue going on a semi-regular basis (which, if they are helping, then I will do for her lifetime if needed).

I think I’ll stop here, but please come back tomorrow for some Canyon news 🙂

Stop Complaining

**This post has been edited after a problem with wording was brought to my attention**

Sorry for the long stretches of time without entries. Over the past couple of months, I really haven’t had a lot of inspiration to write. I have pictures to share, but I am still learning to use this blogging software, so haven’t had a chance to post any, but hopefully that little problem will be remedied soon.

So, now for the purpose of my post.

Maybe it’s just me. or maybe it’s just the blogs I read and Twitter feeds I follow, but I’ve been noticing a bit of a troubling pattern.

This is going to sound odd coming from someone who, herself, has a disability, but I need to say it, because it is really beginning to get under my skin.

So here’s the problem I’m having.

It seems as though an uncomfortable number of people with disabilities, at least that I’ve noticed, find it necessary to complain about every little thing.

I understand that the world is not made equal, and that people with disabilities face an uphill battle for inclusion, but is it really necessary to turn every little interaction that didn’t go the way you thought it should, into an access challenge, intentional snub of a non-disabled person or violation of basic rights situation?

could the incident have been something as simple as just someone in a rush, not really taking in the people around them, so not seeing that they blocked your pathway?

Could it be possible that not every person has seen a person in a wheelchair, or someone with a guide dog, so genuinely doesn’t understand your access needs, or proper etiquette?

Could it be possible that the restaurant you are trying to enter was built before the needs of disabled patrons was truly understood as being important?

As someone with a disability, who uses a guide dog, I would like to first, make it clear to my non-disabled readers, that not every person with a disability carries a chip on their shoulder, and not every person with a disability sees the world as a place of negativity.

Second, I’d like to ask my disabled readers to listen closely, and to thoroughly consider my next set of statements.

The world does not revolve around any one person. In order to make the world a better place for all, we need to get along. We need to remember that just because someone does not have a visible disability, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own concerns, worries or problems, that are just as important.

I know that it gets tiring to have to explain your needs several times throughout the day, and I know it gets frustrating to have to stop and answer questions and educate the public on things such as guide dogs, using a wheelchair, and why you don’t look like the other disabled person they know or saw last week, but it’s part of life, so deal with it. if you don’t like answering questions about your guide dog, then don’t choose to have one. If you don’t have time or patience to answer questions, then politely explain to the person that you are in a rush. There is absolutely no need to be rude, how else are people supposed to learn?

Finally, the non-disabled people of the world, are not out to get us, or going out of their way to make our lives difficult.

Older buildings were not equipped with ramps or elevators when they were designed because the need for this sort of stuff, wasn’t widely known at the time. If it’s possible for the store or restaurant owner to retrofit their establishment with such equipment, then they will do so, it might just take time for it to happen, or they may need someone to politely bring the need to their attention.

Also, not every individual knows someone with a disability, so not all people know what is required for equal access. Plus, they may know someone in a wheelchair, but not someone who’s blind or uses a communicating device, so wouldn’t be familiar with the difference in needs. Instead of immediately seeing this problem as an intentional attempt at barring participation, try to politely explain your needs, and try working with the other person to best accommodate your needs. There are very few people in the world who set out to intentionally hurt another, so try keeping this in mind.

I apologize for the rant, but feel it was needed. there are way too many negative people out there, so let’s try not to add to the numbers. I too have my bad days, but I try hard not to make myself or other people with a disability look bad by being rude to people who stop me with questions, or block my path, because as I said before, just because it isn’t obvious, doesn’t mean the person beside you isn’t fighting their own battle.

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.